Reimagining The International: Coore & Crenshaw’s Plans for Country’s Former Longest Course

When news broke in early 2021 that Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and other key members of the Coore & Crenshaw design team, would be redesigning the Pines Course at The International in Bolton, Mass., it was unclear at that time how much, if any, of the existing course would be repurposed in those efforts. Coore & Crenshaw approached their early site visits with a strategy to evaluate the land independently of the existing golf course—all 8,300 yards of it—which covered the ground at the time.

“It was just looking at the landforms and trying to forget there was a golf course here,” Coore says, adding that he imagined the existing playing corridors weren’t fairways but instead organically created pastures.

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Ben Crenshaw (left) and Bill Coore on a site visit to The International (photo by Arden Dwyer/Escalante Golf)

To fully grasp the magnitude of this Coore & Crenshaw project, you must first understand what was already there. With origins that date to 1901, the original Pines Course began as a 9-hole layout that spanned 66 acres of open farmland. In its infancy, the course was “short and tricky,” according to the club, but it was expanded to a full 18 by Geoffrey Cornish—with input from Francis Ouimet—in 1954. Over time, the course evolved thanks to renovations conducted by Robert Trent Jones Sr., yet the course soon became famous—or infamous, depending on your perspective—with the introduction of the Tiger Tees, which made the Pines the longest course in the United States.

As challengers for that title emerged over the years, The International repositioned the Tiger Tees farther and farther back. It was a tactic that allowed the course to maintain its record, but it came at a cost. “It looked like it had struggled so much,” Coore says, reflecting on the state of the Pines Course near the end of its existence. “They had tried so hard to just add length that the angles changed. The whole thing just felt really forced.”

The forthcoming Coore & Crenshaw design—its name still to be determined—will hardly measure up in total distance to the course that it’s replacing. As of this summer, the layout’s length was expected to peak around 7,000 yards. “I think we’re the only people who re-do a golf course and chop at least 1,300 yards off of it,” Coore says with a chuckle.

(photo by Arden Dwyer/Escalante Golf)

From the onset, the architecture duo had to determine how they could piece together a routing that, according to Coore, maximized the land’s tremendous potential. The resulting layout reimagined the site, occasionally utilizing existing playing corridors for new holes, though not always playing in the same direction as what had previously existed. Most of the new design, however, moves across the land in entirely new directions.

There were aspects of the old course that provided Coore & Crenshaw with notable inspiration, namely squat, mogul-like hills and mounding, covered with native vegetation, that were scattered along the perimeter of some of the holes, many with trees growing out of them. As Coore explains, those mounds provide an authentic sense of place. They’re the byproducts of early course construction during the late 19th and early 20th century when a lack of heavy-duty equipment meant that large boulders couldn’t be moved, but instead needed to be covered with earth to create ridges and mounds.

“These aren’t necessarily full of rocks—well, some of them are,” he laughs, pointing to mounds that he and his team have recently created along the edges of the 6th hole’s green complex. “But for the most part this is more trying to create an aesthetic and a style and a character.”

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(photo by Arden Dwyer/Escalante Golf)

Those mounds may be less utilitarian in nature, but another course feature—a vast quarry that separates the tee boxes from the fairway on the 13th hole—serves as a dramatic element that was born from utilitarian purposes. Extensive site testing revealed a broad deposit of sand beneath the surface in the area, so excavation began to provide locally sourced sand for green capping and other jobs around the course. In a stroke of good fortune, as the team dug the hole deeper and bigger, they realized it was becoming an exciting course feature.

“You can go out there and say, ‘Hey, we’re just going to make this great big feature just for the sake of making it,’” Coore says. “But in this case, it served a purpose. It supplied sand. And the bigger he [shaper Ryan Farrow] made it, the better it looked!”

Stamped with that unique quarry feature, the new 13th hole will be unlike anything club members would have played on the old Pines layout. For that reason, it’s the hole that Michael Galvin, director of agronomy at The International, is most excited to see in action once the course opens. As for when that will be, well… neither the club, nor Coore & Crenshaw, are putting any deadlines on the project.

“It’ll open,” says Farrow, “when it’s ready.”

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(photo by Arden Dwyer/Escalante Golf)

Have you played golf at The International in Massachusetts?