Golf course architect Nathan Crace has been hired to lead a renovation and redesign project at The Refuge golf course in Flowood, Mississippi.
Though the public course is held in high regard, The Refuge is generally felt to be too tight and short. The course’s ‘nine out, nine back’ layout also makes it difficult for golfers to play just nine holes.
“When the course opened in 1998, the game was played differently,” said Crace. “In the two decades since, the ball travels further, the trees have grown bigger, and players’ time is more constrained. Those are a few of the factors contributing to the renovation.”
Crace will oversee the creation of new greens featuring TifEagle hybrid bermudagrass, the development of new and renovated bunkers, and upgrades to the course’s irrigation.
Invasive tree species will be removed, helping to open up playing corridors on the course and enhance turf quality. Selected water hazards will also be removed.
As well as the renovations, two new holes will be created, and others realigned. This means that two sets of nine holes will return to the clubhouse.
“That’s going to be a big shot in the arm to the operation of the course,” Crace explained. “Our golf professional Randy Tupper can tell you that it’s a daily occurrence for golfers to walk in asking to play nine and it’s currently not a popular option because the tenth tee is on the opposite end of the property. They can play nine, but then they have to walk or ride all the way back. The discussion of having returning nines after the renovation has already stirred up a lot of excitement.”
Crace believes that the final four holes of the new layout – which will include a 191-yard par three, a drivable par four with a water feature in front of the green, a par five that plays in excess of 600 yards, and a new mid-length par-four 18th hole with a new 12-acre lake – will be one of the most enjoyed stretches on the course.
One interesting aspect of the project is the introduction of the Longleaf Tee System, a joint initiative of the American Society of Golf Course Architects Foundation and the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation. This system aims to meet the abilities of all players and ensure they enjoy the course they play. At The Refuge, players will be able to play from 4,000 to more than 7,000 yards, and select tees accordingly depending on their skill level.
“As a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, we recently adopted the Longleaf Tee System to help grow the game and offer options for more players of all skill levels,” Crace said. “It’s more than just adding more tees – there’s a lot of hard data involved. Rees Jones is currently putting it into place at Medinah No.2 and we are thrilled that The Refuge will be among the first to adopt it!”
Crace added that the Longleaf Tee System will help solve a tricky current situation on the course, whereby high handicappers find it to be too tight and low handicappers find it to be too short.
“Players can expect the same great course conditioning plus TifEagle greens, but every hole will be drastically better with wider corridors and a different look,” Crace said. “When golfers walk off the eighteenth green, I want them to immediately call their friends and say ‘You’ve got to come play this course!’ For us, that’s the ultimate goal.”