Golf course renovations and restorations are much more common these days than brand new golf courses opening. Golf club owners and operators are realizing that in order to keep customers happy and the business healthy, they need to reinvest. Greens, bunkers and tees that are more than 25 years old are probably overdue for upgrades.
Private clubs often have more disposable income to handle these types of projects. For example, the Desert Mountain Club, home to six Jack Nicklaus courses in Scottsdale, Ariz., is not only wrapping up a major renovation of its first course, Renegade, but it will welcome No. 7, an entirely new facility with an 18-hole par-3 course, a putting course and a new clubhouse that will be a much more casual "hang" than its other five clubhouses. Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa and the South course at Oakland Hills Country Club in metro Detroit are two major championship venues that will go under the knife this year.
For public courses, scraping up the money to pay for upgrades can be much tougher. But, in the name of progress, many still do. Here's a cross-section of 19 resort, semi-private and public courses scheduled for major renovations that will be completed in 2019:
Reynolds Lake Oconee (Great Waters), Greensboro, Ga.
One of the top draws at six-course Reynolds Lake Oconee in Georgia, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Great Waters Course, featuring nine holes along the lake, will reopen this fall after a year-plus under the knife at the hands of the Nicklaus firm. The course originally opened in 1992 and will receive infrastructure enhancements as well as new bunkers, TifEagle greens and Zoysia fairways and tees. For playability, trees will be pruned back and a new set of 4,500-yard tees will be added. - Brandon Tucker
Potomac Shores Golf Club, Dumfries, Va.
This scenic, Jack Nicklaus Signature daily-fee design overlooking the Potomac River some 35 miles south of Washington, D.C. switched its fairway grass from bentgrass to Latitude 36 Bermuda grass last summer. Phase two of the renovation, which commenced in mid-October, is a re-do of the bunkers. Though play has continued (weather permitting) on weekends, the course has been closing Mondays through Thursdays as all of the bunkers are being reshaped. Due to delays caused by early winter storms, the project is now expected to be completed sometime before spring at this Troon Golf managed facility. - Bill Irwin
Chambers Bay, University Place, Wash.
Chambers Bay is halfway through a six-month-long process that will see its original fescue-grass putting surfaces converted to Poa annua. The municipal course, owned by Pierce County and operated by KemperSports, was heralded upon its opening in 2006 for its links-like playing conditions. But the fescue greens famously gave way, as was evident during the 2015 U.S. Open. The conversion to Poa annua, a grass more suited to the cooler, coastal setting of the course, will mean a greener look, marginally slower speeds, and a little more maintenance than before – but with the likelihood of a more consistent, sustainable putting surface over the long haul. The course remains closed until mid-March, though golfers should check with the pro shop. - Bradley S. Klein
Kapalua Resort (Plantation Course), Maui, Hawaii
Kapalua, another Troon Golf property, is among golf’s most dramatic settings. With 460 feet of elevation change and holes overlooking the Lahaina Roads (separating northwest Maui from Molokai), the 1991 design by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw is a popular resort layout that is also familiar to TV viewers as home to the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions each January. The course is now closed for a major overhaul of its playing surface, with new, high-performance Bermuda-grass strains to be installed on its greens, fairways, roughs and tees. Along the way, the bunkering will be tweaked to undo some of the cleaner, bowl-like look that has developed. And a few tees will be adjusted, with greater attention paid to more diverse yardages for resort guests who don’t play the par-73 layout at 7,411 yards. One big change for the pros is the simultaneous lengthening of two short, relatively easy uphill holes: the 362-yard, par-4 third and the 507-yard, par-5 ninth. They’ll get a new, shared V-shaped tee to add about 30 yards to each. The course will reopen in time for the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Champions. - BSK
Schaumburg Golf Club, Schaumburg, Ill.
The firm of Lohmann Quitno has been renovating this 27-hole public course outside Chicago nine holes at a time. Phase I from 2017 reopened last summer, and the second nine will be ready this summer. The work includes complete reconstruction of the greens, tees and bunkers; re-grassing of the fairways; upgrades to irrigation; re-routing of two holes to fix flooding problems and to extend the driving range; landscaping enhancements (cart paths, etc.) and a better practice area, such as a new short-game area and a larger putting green. The Park District, which will spend $7 million on the project, also incorporated a forward teeing system dubbed the “Life Tees” to enhance offerings for beginners, juniors and families. - Jason Scott Deegan
Union League National Golf Club, Swainton, N.J.
This is the latest golf acquisition of the Union League of Philadelphia. The venerable downtown club, opened in 1862, was looking to expand recreational opportunities for members, and after securing rights in 2014 to the Donald Ross-designed, renamed Union League at Torresdale in town it ventured out, 70 miles to the southeast, to buy the popular daily-fee layout Sand Barrens Golf Club. Dana Fry, who had partnered with Michael Hurdzan in the original design of the club back in 1997, was called back in, this time with his new design partner, Jason Straka, to clear out trees, open up corridors of play and transform the layout. The course will sport a more naturalized, sandy landscape feel, with the bunkering melding with native waste areas. The gradual transformation, underway for more than a year now, is being undertaken without major disruption of play. The course, a mile inland of the south Jersey shore, is open to Union League members and their accompanied guests. - BSK
In the podcast below, Dana Fry discusses his work at Sand Barrens, as well as the new Arcadia South design.
Sea Island Resort (Plantation Course) – St. Simons Island, Ga.
The PGA Tour’s “Sea Island Mafia,” includes capos like Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson and Brian Harman, with longtime Sea Island resident Davis Love III at the head. The don has had a steadily increasing influence over the resort’s golf, first by redesigning the Retreat course, and now taking on the task of updating the Plantation Course, which hosts the Tour’s annual RSM Classic along with the neighboring Seaside layout. Architect Scot Sherman is the point man for Love’s firm, and is looking to follow up his creation of the successful Driftwood Putting Course with a classic refresh at the Plantation, which was last touched by Rees Jones more than 20 years ago. The course is set to open ahead of the 2019 tournament this fall. - Tim Gavrich
The Refuge – Flowood, Miss.
This public course outside Jackson had been popular enough since opening in 1998, but golfers wanting to play nine holes were deterred by the course’s out-and-back routing, and higher-handicap players were intimidated by the narrow corridors. Over the past year-plus, architect Nathan Crace has been addressing both issues, including building two new holes and shifting several others, so that the new Refuge course will have returning nines and a friendlier feel. "I've been playing the course for 20 years and knew what changes needed to be made, so I jumped at the chance to do the re-design," said Crace. Also under construction at The Refuge is a 10-story hotel resort. Though that may not open until 2020, the course's reopening is planned for this fall. - TG
Royal New Kent Golf Club – Providence Forge, Va.
Among students of golf course architecture, Mike Strantz is a cult figure. Despite a relatively limited body of work, his dramatic designs have captured the imaginations of most of the players who have visited them. Strantz died of cancer at 50 in 2005, leaving a unique legacy in the game. It was a big blow for fans of his when Royal New Kent, just east of Williamsburg, closed in late 2017, seemingly never to reopen. But the owners of the nearby Club at Viniterra, Wingfield Golf Management Services, bought the course last year and stated a commitment to restoring it to its original design. Royal New Kent is expected to reopen this spring. - TG
Ticonderoga Golf Course – Ticonderoga, N.Y.
Not all courses have the budget to close for the better part of a season to perform renovations. Ticonderoga, like many facilities, has done the work piecemeal, with the project largely centered on addressing flooding issues on certain parts of the course. The layout dates back to 1926, but come this summer, the Seymour Dunn design should be back up to full strength, even in spite of the distraction caused by a fire that burned down the historic clubhouse in 2018. - TG
Texas Rangers Golf Club, Arlington, Texas
Another muni in the Dallas area gets a makeover with the opening this year of Texas Rangers Golf Club. Like Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, this is themed after one of the local pro sports teams, this one being MLB's Rangers in Arlington, where the course is located. This remake of the old Ditto Course is a whole new design by Colligan Golf, which has done terrific work reworking a number of muni facilities in the DFW area. The new course was completely rerouted with 80 feet of elevation change, complete with a new 23-acre practice facility and clubhouse. One signature aspect of this course that you won't find anywhere else is something called the "On-Deck" Circle. This is a 30-foot diameter warm up area next to the no. 1 tee. It will allow the group that is on-deck an opportunity to hit a few drivers into the driving range, which will surely be a talking point. The course is set to open most likely in April. - Mike Bailey
Palmilla Beach Golf Club, Port Aransas, Texas
Palmilla Beach Resort was close to ground zero when Hurricane Harvey hit in August 2017 with winds upwards of 140 mph. The course has been closed ever since, not so much because McCombs Properties, which owns the resort community, couldn't get it back online, but because they used the opportunity to radically change what used to be an 18-hole coastal links-style course by Arnold Palmer Design. With the help of Troon Golf's agronomy team, the course will retain nine holes as well the driving range, while an 18-hole putting course and three-hole short course are added. The idea is to better cater to the residents and 100,000 visitors to Mustang Island, creating a more diverse golf experience to appeal to all levels of players. Construction on the new courses began last July with the courses expected to open in stages this spring and fall. - MB
Legion Memorial Golf Course, Everett, Wash.
City course Legion Memorial has remained open with some temporary holes while some new stormwater retention ponds are being built as well as three new holes. The temporary holes and greens have allowed the city to keep the golf course open while golf course architect Todd Schroeder works to complete three new holes on the course – two new par 3s and a new par 4. Two existing ponds will be expanded and a new pond added, along with three new sets of tees and three new greens. When the project is complete later this fall, the current back nine will become the front nine, and the current front nine (with three redesigned holes) will become the back nine. The new back nine will have a significant amount of water in play on five out of the last six holes. The course will play to a par 71 and some 300 yards shorter, with both nines ending with par-5 holes. - MB
Memorial Park Golf Course, Houston, Texas
The news at Memorial is two-fold. First there's a plan to move the Houston Open back to Memorial Park (starting in 2020) in the center of Houston, 55 years after it last played host to the PGA Tour event. And secondly, that move comes with a renovation that's scheduled to be completed in October if all goes as planned. For the renovation, the Astros Golf Foundation, which is now running the Houston Open, hired Tom Doak to renovate the course. Though the routing will remain the same, the course will undoubtedly look much different. There will be more movement both in the fairways and the greens, fewer bunkers and some water hazards removed. Doak also plans to open the course up a bit, especially on the back nine, taking better advantage of the natural features like ravines that aren't that apparent because of overgrowth. (Read more about Doak's plan for Memorial Park) - MB
Club at Lac La Belle, Oconomowoc, Wis.
The redesigned Club at Lac La Belle Golf Course is expected to open at least nine holes this summer and possibly all 18 sometime this fall after inclement weather last year delayed progress. The club, established in 1896 (the fifth oldest in the state), was purchased last year by the Prestwick Group, which plans to move its corporate headquarters there. Officials said the delay in the course gave them a chance to re-evaluate some of the design aspects and make improvements on the fly. In addition to the course, the club is also getting a new clubhouse, golf shop and restaurant, which is expected to open in June. An 18-hole putting course, which will wrap around the restaurant, is also in the works. - MB
Two of the largest resorts in Central Texas are continuing to up the ante by both investing big into their properties and are nearing the finish line with their enhancements in 2019. At Horseshoe Bay Resort, Apple Rock, the newest (and arguably most scenic) of three Robert Trent Jones Sr. designs at this Hill Country resort and community on the shores of Lake L.B.J., shut down for renovation shortly after Ram Rock reopened in 2018. The course, originally opened in 1985, had suffered from seriously shrunken greens over the years. The RTJ II design team is overseeing restoration of Sr.'s original design and is expected to reopen by late-spring. Also of note is the Cap Rock clubhouse for the side-by-side Apple Rock and Ram Rock courses is scheduled to reopen this year. Since being destroyed by a fire in 2011, the courses have operated out of a temporary trailer. It's all part of a $60-million property upgrade.
Closer to Austin, Omni Barton Creek Resort is inching closer to the finish line of its $150 million update. The Fazio Canyons course, located at a separate facility about a mile from the two courses at the main hotel, is sporting a new clubhouse, and the course is up to bat for its own renovation following the Cliffside and Foothills courses. It will reopen in October. The hotel closed in May of 2018 and will reopen in May of this year. - BT
San Vicente Golf Resort, Ramona, Calif.
Fresh off a turf reduction program several years ago to save on water costs, San Vicente, located inland from San Diego, has turned to Andy Staples to renovate its greens and bunkers. Construction beginning April 1 should be completed by August 15 on a classic layout by Ted Robinson Sr. that hasn’t been touched since originally opening in 1971. "I’m excited about this one," Staples wrote in an e-mail. - JSD
Wynn Golf Course, Las Vegas
The original Wynn Golf Course closed in December of 2017 to make room for an ambitious expansion plan of a water park and new tower that was later scaled back. Original architect Tom Fazio has returned to bring the course back to life, but no details have been shared about the changes that will take place. The course will likely reopen this fall. - JSD