The spectacular Speidel Golf Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. opened in the early 1970s after five years of planning and construction. It was the first public course undertaken by the prestigious golf course architect and he was enthusiastic about the challenge. On one of his visits to Oglebay, Jones described the proposed layout as “a fair test of golf, with no tricks, but an easy bogey, hard par course.”
Ron Kirby was a young apprentice for Jones when the Speidel Course was being built and now Kirby has returned to Oglebay to direct the restoration of the sand bunkers. Kirby said that Jones studied the natural topography and was challenged by the hills on the course location. “This was Mr. Jones’ first attempt at such a hilly site,” said Kirby. “Jones’ design included bunkers that directed play and gave the course a very distinct character.”
Over the years many of the original bunkers have been lost or altered due to wear and weather, and according to Kirby, mechanical raking. “My goal is to make the bunkers easier and less costly to maintain while restoring the character that Jones had envisioned.”
Nick Janovich, Superintendent of the Jones Course at Oglebay, said the new bunkers will be smaller and deeper, and filled with better quality sand. “We plan to match the sand to what is used at the newer Palmer Course at Oglebay,” said Janovich. “This sand not only looks good but it also drains better.”
Kirby served as an apprentice with Jones for seven years and then spent the next 15 years on his own. In 1986 Kirby joined the Jack Nicklaus Golf Design company, overseeing the European projects. He has designed more than 35 courses in the United States, the Caribbean, Japan, and Europe.
Although the front nine opened in 1970 and the back nine in late ’71, there would be several more years of development and landscaping at the course. Jones said that the rolling terrain offers “natural gallery amphitheaters unsurpassed anywhere” and those natural amphitheaters provided thrills for spectators for the LPGA West Virginia Classic for 11 years.