The start of a new year is a time for optimism and an opportunity to look forward to what’s to come in the months ahead.
Within the golf world, the reality is that the facility side of the industry continues to undergo a correction. Due to the building of more than 4,000 golf courses from 1986 through 2005 — a boom that boosted U.S. supply by more than 40% — course closures are far more commonplace today than new construction.
Yet the NGF’s construction report and comprehensive facility database shows at least 18 U.S. facilities are scheduled to open either 9- or 18-hole courses this year. The courses cover a wide range, from an 18-hole public venue designed by one of the game’s winningest players to a private project spearheaded by perhaps the greatest professional athlete of his generation. There are also new par-3 or short courses, a trend that can present less-intimidating opportunities for beginners and a fun, relaxed environment for existing golfers seeking something different.
To kick off the new year, The Q highlights some of the more notable openings scheduled for 2019:
Payne’s Valley (Ridgedale, Missouri)
Since Tiger Woods launched his course design business in 2006, his name draws just as much interest when he’s designing 18 holes as when he’s playing 18.
Woods’s latest creation in the Ozark Mountains of Ridgedale, Missouri, is notable for several reasons. Payne’s Valley, a collaboration between Woods, Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris and the family of the late Payne Stewart, will be the first public-access course designed by Woods. The course is set to open in late 2019, becoming the fifth golf course at Big Cedar Lodge, and will host the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf event in coming years.
“Johnny’s incredible passion for connecting people of all ages and walks of life to nature is truly inspiring,” Woods said of the project. “Together, we’re tremendously excited to create a publicly accessible world-class golf experience in the center of America.”
While Woods hasn’t shared many details about the walking-friendly course, it will feature large fairways and greens, picturesque water features, short walks between greens and tee boxes, and a spectacular 19th hole, called “The Rock” at Payne’s Valley.
The dramatic extra hole can be used to settle friendly match wagers, Morris said. Once finished with their rounds, players at Payne’s Valley will traverse a natural cavern system to return to the course’s clubhouse.
The partnership between Woods and Morris began when Woods bought a Bass Pro Shops fishing boat shortly after winning the 1997 Masters. Morris and his son personally delivered the boat and then spent the day bass fishing with the now 14-time major winner.
The Payne’s Valley property will also include a par-3 “short course” to be designed by Woods in the coming years.
Seven – Desert Mountain (Scottsdale, Arizona)
Another project that will draw plenty of attention this year is located in the golf mecca of Scottsdale, Arizona. The Desert Mountain Club is a private community that features six Jack Nicklaus Signature courses and is now opening an 18-hole, par-3 layout fittingly called “Seven.” The club broke ground on the unique course in December 2017 and plans to open early this year.
The short course, designed by Desert Mountain members Bill Brownlee and Wendell Pickett rather than Nicklaus, will serve as the focal point of a new development featuring 190 modern, luxury homes — most built right on the course. It features a design that will appeal to both beginners and highly-skilled players, the club said. The course will have three tees on each hole and measure more than 3,000 yards, a yardage that will enable Seven to obtain a course rating and handicap from the Arizona Golf Association.
Practice elements have been incorporated within the course, including a practice tee on each hole. Players will be able to practice flop shots, chip-and-runs, and putting in a variety of areas. A recirculating water feature meanders throughout the course, including four holes in which it becomes part of the playing strategy.
When it opens, Seven will become only the second private par-54 course in the U.S. to have an official course rating, joining the Hurdzan and Fry-designed Hickory Course at New Jersey’s Hamilton Farm Golf Club. The Desert Mountain Club, which serves more than 1,900 golf club members, said the Seven course addresses the sport’s “ongoing evolution to build more user-friendly courses to make golf more inclusive and fun, but still challenging.”
Beyond golf, Seven’s gastropub clubhouse will feature collapsible glass walls and outdoor space for activities, such as bocce ball courts and fire pits. There will also be a lighted putting green, seating areas and music extending from the clubhouse, creating what the club describes as a “lively, entertaining and interactive experience.”
Copper Rock – (Hurricane, Utah)
Like the 19th hole of Woods’ course in the Ozarks, this new 18-hole daily-fee facility in the southwest corner of Utah — near Zion National Park and Sand Hollow State Park – is nicknamed “The Rock.” A Dale Beddo design, Copper Rock is planning a soft opening in April with a full opening in September.
The course will wind through a grassy valley for the front nine before moving to hillier terrain for the back nine. It will feature a double green for the 9th and 18th holes, with a large lake between the fairways, as well as a 5th hole with a green that’s 210-feet long (the longest in Utah).
Old Toccoa Back 9 – Old Toccoa Farm (Mineral Bluff, Georgia)
The scenery around the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia is not quite the same as the mountain ranges surrounding the Copper Rock course in Utah, but the views can be equally as impressive. The back nine of Old Toccoa Farm is set to open amidst those Blue Ridge Mountains in April, giving this community a full 18 holes.
Ancient Cherokee called the area “The Enchanted Land,” and the course has over 280 feet of elevation change as it winds through 125 acres of ridges and meadows. When complete, the par-70 course will measure 6,850 yards and offer spectacular views of the Chattahoochee and Cherokee Nation Forests.
Millcreek Golf & Learning Center (Erie, Pennsylvania)
Everybody loves a good comeback story, and that’s exactly what Millcreek is.
The municipal facility has been closed since 2011 when a roadway was shifted across part of the course to accommodate a runway extension at Erie International Airport. Technically considered a new project, it has been delayed repeatedly, with township supervisors seeking state funding to reconfigure and reopen the course. The facility’s driving range reopened in 2014, breathing life back into the project. Then, a $77,500 Keystone Community Grant along with $155,000 in matching funds from Millcreek Township were secured to pay for reconstruction of the lost holes.
The result is a reconfigured course with six greens that’s built on the site of a former hazardous waste dump. Additional teeing areas at three holes will allow those holes to be played twice, for a total of nine holes — the longest of which is 388 yards. Millcreek was designed to follow the Longleaf Tee system, which gives multiple tee options that properly scales the course for players of all ages and ability levels.
“Under the new design, it is a six-hole course with the emphasis on learning the game of golf,” says John Groh, Supervisor of the Millcreek Township Board of Supervisors. “There will be programs and instruction for novices and those with intermediate skills. It is a great place to not only work on driving balls at the range and putting on the practice green but an opportunity to take those skills to the course and actually play some holes.”
Palamino Nine – Wildhorse Golf Club of Robson Ranch (Denton, Texas)
When an existing public golf facility builds an additional nine holes, it’s a good indication of the positive support for the game in the surrounding area. That’s what is happening at the Robson Ranch community in Denton, Texas, which has 2,300 home sites.
The Wildhorse Golf Club’s new Palamino 9 is scheduled to open in October, joining the Wildhorse Nine and Mustang Nine. Like the current 18 holes, which were designed by Texas architect Gary Stephenson, the new Palamino 9 promises to present an enjoyable challenge for both novices and avid golfers. The community, which is less than an hour northwest of Dallas, has plans to eventually build another 18 holes as it expands to 7,000 home sites.
Heath Golf & Yacht Club (Heath, Texas)
The Heath Golf & Yacht Club, located 20 miles east of downtown Dallas on scenic Lake Ray Hubbard, is scheduled to open a new 27-hole facility in September as part of a sprawling 787-acre lakefront master-planned community.
The club will have an 18-hole resort-style course in the rolling hills of Heath as well as a 9-hole layout that has a more residential feel. Beyond golf, the 1,200-home community will have a private country club, pool, tennis courts, hotel and retail stores, trails, parks and an elementary school.
The Grove XXIII (Hobe Sound, Florida)
Michael Jordan’s long-time love of golf will take a huge leap in late 2019 when he opens The Grove XXIII, a high-end, exclusive club built on the site of a former citrus grove in Hobe Sound, Florida.
Architect Bobby Weed, who has collaborated with top designers, including Pete Dye on the nearby Medalist Golf Club, said Jordan’s club will be designed as a “course for tomorrow.”
But what does that mean? “Knowing the caliber of the membership and Michael’s passion for golf, we are designing a forward-thinking, progressive layout,” Weed said.
Another way to describe it is a layout that sets up well for match-play and on-course betting, one of Jordan’s favorite pastimes. The course will feature crossover routing at the 5th and 14th tees, allowing golfers to switch from one nine to the next—a feature that will allow for four 9-hole permutations.
The course will be routed with the south Florida trade winds in mind. “The two nines wrap around each other while traversing the site in opposing directions,” Weed said. “This dynamic layout ensures that golfers will feel the breeze from every quarter.”
Mike is a former senior golf business writer for Bloomberg News, where he focused on the most significant companies, organizations, people and trends in the industry. He still writes about the game as an Atlanta-based communications specialist.