It’s been a banner year for Keith Foster. He’s riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave of adulation for his brilliant restoration/renovation of Philly Cricket’s fabled Wissahickon course, an indisputable Tillinghast masterpiece now better than even Tillie himself was able to make it while he was alive and calling it his home course.
Wissahickon was downright joyful. Hell’s Half Acres, Hell’s ¼ Acre, diagonal angles off the tee, marvelous green contours, a wondrous routing, Philly Cricket Club is back in the U.S. Open discussion after over a century when it was held at the old St. Martins course.
Foster had a murderously tough job: read Tillinghasts’s mind. He not only had to put back what had vanished over time through shrinking greens and bunkers and the like, bit he also had to introduce arrows in Tillinghast’s architectural quiver that A.W. never got the chance to design at Wisaahickon.
“I said that to myself going in – ‘Don’t mess this up!’ Foster explained. “But there wasn’t much to go on, just an old aerial,” he confided. “So to figure out what Tillie might have put where was like solving a puzzle. I looked closely at the ground and the terrain, they were the keys. Of Tillie’s original work, we still had the routing and most of the greens. Number three green was a complete redo, and another six were either extended or reshaped into a style that wasn’t Tillie. We simply extracted what was added, and added what was meant to be there all along, like the Great Hazard at seven and Hell’s Quarter-Acre a 14.”
Then there’s River Bend in Maryland. Foster redesigned his own work over the original routing of a sixties-era Ed Ault and Al Jamison course. Always difficult, River Bend, is now a regional power, likely to host some important regional tournaments as well as smaller USGA or PGA of America events.
“The redesign makes the entire course much more cohesive. Finally all the holes match in terms of concept and presentation,” agreed nationally renowned sports broadcaster Steve Czaban, who played River Bend ever since he was a high school golfer. “Some holes that were among the worst on the course are now among the best….as a golf course, it’s now every bit as good as any layout in the greater DC area.”
Indeed, Foster maybe even more accomplished than Coore and Crenshaw – or anyone else for that matter – when it comes to the sheer magnitude of his restoration practice. Just look at this list of venerable clubs at which he’s worked: Baltimore Country Club, Southern Hills, Colonial, Wissahickon, Sands Point, River Bend, Eastward Ho!, Country Club of Detroit, and Pittsburgh Field Club to name a few.
Foster has become one of the few short-listed go-to guys in the restoration industry: on time, and under budget, protecting, preserving, and promoting both the unique portions of the property, those are his hallmarks and stock in trade…And that long list of blue-chip clients all seem deliriously happy, as are the myriad golfers who call his courses home.