A project to restore the course following extensive hurricane damage at Corales Golf Club in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, is close to completion.
The course was originally designed by Tom Fazio and opened for play in 2010. Featuring six oceanside holes, the course hosted Web.com Tour events in 2016 and 2017.
The club had signed a four-year contract to host a brand-new PGA Tour event, the first of which would take place in March 2018. However, Hurricane Irma struck the Dominican Republic in early September 2017, followed later that month by Hurricane Maria.
The Corales course suffered significant damage on its seventh, eighth, ninth and eighteenth holes due to rising ocean water.
“Holes eight and nine were a total loss, as the ocean water storm surge pushed waves inland,” said Tom Marzolf, ASGCA, a senior design associate at Fazio Design. “All grass was gone after the storm surge water receded. Greens and Tees were demolished. The irrigation system was pulled up out of the ground. The pipe and irrigation heads were pulled back into the ocean, as was much of the soil that formed these golf holes. All this six months before the course was set to host an event on the PGA Tour!”
Golf course superintendent Julio Diaz – who oversaw the construction of the Corales course originally and is a turf graduate from Rutgers University – worked with his on-site team –
consisting of more than 75 staff – to start to the reconstruct the course.
“Julio ordered all the necessary materials and rented the construction equipment to rebuild the golf holes,” said Marzolf. “Barges shipped materials from Florida to get the irrigation parts onto the island. Shapers and finish operators were brought to the Dominican Republic from Mexico to begin the restoration. Trucks started hauling new soil back out to the holes, in an attempt to lift the holes up after the dirt was washed into the Ocean.”
With the full backing of owners Punta Cana Group, work to restore the course was carried out at a quick pace. A 20-acre turf nursery built when the course was first created meant that turf and grass was ready and available to be used to regrass the holes. The owners also decided to build a new sea wall measuring six feet in height.
“This runs down the length of holes eight and nine to protect these holes from future storm surges,” Marzolf said. “This concrete wall was anchored into the existing rock base, and then hand formed in wood walls, and poured in place with re-bar reinforcement. The walls included a footer drain, with pass-through drainage built into the design. This wall is strong and massive, and has been veneered in local rock to match the shoreline edges and blend in. It fits seamlessly into the setting and looks like it was always there, and it took less than four weeks to design and build.”
Fazio Design supported the project by helping to stake out the golf holes and was on site to shoot grades and supervise the redesign work. Marzolf drew new green plans for Diaz to stake and build, and the pair frequently walked the site to oversee the work of the project team.
“The project team worked in shifts, seven days a week, to push the construction to completion,” said Marzolf. “I have never seen so many people working on one golf hole in all my life.”
Subtle changes to the course have also been made, and Marzolf has been pleased with the feedback he has received.
“While these holes are similar to the existing layout, everyone at the Corales agrees that these new holes are more dramatic and bolder,” he said. “The greens were built to USGA guidelines and were turfed with greens grade paspalum to shorten the grow-in time. The golf holes were turfed wall-to-wall in less than two weeks once the irrigation was back in place.”
The grow-in of the turf is going well, with Diaz currently working to lower the height of cut and topdressing of the turf.
“These holes will blend in well with the other holes on the course, and nobody will ever know that a hurricane, let alone two hurricanes, just wiped these holes away,” Marzolf said
Thanks to the efforts of the project team and all involved, Corales Golf Club is well on course to be able to host the PGA Tour event next March.