Ground broken for new Tom Watson Junior Golf Course in Missouri

Ground broken for new Tom Watson Junior Golf Course in Missouri
By Sean Dudley

Ground has been broken for a new nine-hole junior course in Maryville, Missouri. 

The Tom Watson Junior Golf Course is being built on the same site as the Mozingo Lake Golf Course, which opened in 1995 and was designed by Donald Sechrest.

“The inspiration for building a short course came during a trip to the Open Championship at Royal St. Georges in 2011,” explained Bruce Twaddle, the chairman of the Tom Watson Designed Junior Course at Mozingo Lake committee, speaking to GCA. “We found the opportunity to play North Berwick on Tuesday before the Open. My caddie pointed out the youth course at North Berwick and its importance in the future of the game of golf. A sign at the entrance to the youth course said something to the effect: ‘No adults allowed unless under the direct supervision of a child’. Upon my return home to Maryville, a group of friends joined me in conversation exploring the possibilities of building a junior course at our local public course, Mozingo Lake Golf Course.”

Twaddle said that the plan was to raise the money for the project through private donations, and build a course that would serve as a challenge for young players with greens built to USGA specifications, similar in size to the parent course.  

Tom Watson on site at Mozingo Lake

The committee also wanted ‘something different from other short courses’, with a range of par-3, par-4 and par-5 holes of varying lengths. Tom Watson and his firm were quickly identified as a potential collaborator, and as a native Missourian and advocate of the First Tee programme, Twaddle was delighted to secure Watson’s services. 

“All of our plans have been realised and we now anticipate opening the Tom Watson Designed Junior Course at Mozingo Lake in May 2015,” confirmed Twaddle. “The success of fundraising has been possible through the generous donations of local individuals, businesses and industry. In addition, a local charitable trust has made a very nice contribution. The Wadsworth Golf Charities Foundation and their Links Across America initiative has been the greatest contributor to our fundraising efforts. The Wadsworth Foundation has a vision to promote golf through the construction of short courses and has enlisted many partners in the golf industry; this in an effort to keep cost to a minimum.”

 Bob Gibbons of the Tom Watson design firm has drawn up the design for the course. The architect spoke to GCA about the work.

“What really sold Tom was meeting with Bruce Twaddle and his board and the volunteers and to see their enthusiasm,” said Gibbons. “From a design perspective, when I first visited the site I thought the lay of the land was good, and that we wouldn’t have to move a lot of dirt. We’re stripping off the topsoil and doing enough shaping to get the project to drain – drainage is key to everything in golf. We were very fortunate that most of the site had good topsoil and it’s pretty rock free.”

From a design perspective, Gibbons said that designing a course that will be played by golfers of varying ages and abilities provides a series of challenges and considerations. 

“For me, it’s difficult to determine what is the landing area, because it’s so different for every child and their skill level,” he said. “So it’s not like building a regular course, where you might put the bunkers 250 or 290 yards out. How do you shape this for a beginner, or a 7 or 8 year old, or a 13 or 14 year old? I honestly can’t tell you what par is out there. It’s going to have to be one of those flexible things to meet a kid’s ability. It’s certainly different in that respect.”

Both Twaddle and Gibbons are hopeful that projects such as the one at Mozingo Lake will be seen more and more frequently. 

“What started as an idea to bring affordable golf to the youth of our community looks to serve as a beacon for others around the U.S,” said Twaddle. “The youth golf programme we have started at Mozingo will provide golf opportunities for all interested children between the ages of 7 and 17, irrespective of their social or economic position. Golf equipment will be provided for those who cannot afford to purchase their own and scholarships will be given to all interested in the program who are unable to afford the activity.”

“The big push everywhere is to get more people involved,” concluded Gibbons. “You’ve got to find a comfortable way to get kids, and in particular girls and women, started in the game. This course is not just for kids, it’s going to be for anybody that wants to take up the game.”

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