Golf course architect Andrew Green is approaching completion of a project to restore Donald Ross features at Cape Fear Country Club in Wilmington, North Carolina.
“Cape Fear is thought to be the oldest private country club in the southern United States,” said Green. “They have deep roots with Donald Ross, as he worked on the property at least three times over the years.
“The existing greens were struggling to drain and had bentgrass on them. In order to switch to Ultradwarf bermuda putting surfaces and solve the drainage problems, it was determined that the greens needed to be rebuilt.”
Planning started over three years ago, and the project broke ground in December 2018.
“I love the fact that we are bringing the ground game back – all greens are being lowered 18 inches or more to get them back to a Ross-like elevation and allowing players that don’t spin the ball to be successful,” said Green.
“The greens have been shaped in a way to pick up a lot of the Ross-inspired character in their shape and surface. Using the interesting shapes on Ross’s plans as a guide, we have putting surfaces with a wide variety of hole locations.”
McDonald & Sons is the contractor for the project. Greens construction is about 60 per cent complete and grassing is now under way.
Bunkers are also being rebuilt. “The bunker style is inspired by Ross, which I feel is unique and fun without being penal,” said Green. “The bunkers are of a modest depth in accordance with the Ross notes. Most are 3.5-4 feet deep, but they look intimidating and have tremendous character.
“The property is a great rolling piece of ground and once held encampments and batteries from the Civil War – we have tried to accentuate those landforms left by time.”
Work is expected to be complete by July 2019, with the course reopening in September.
Green felt that the practice facilities were also underutilised for the space that was available, so he looked to expand the ‘short’ golf experience at the club, while also solving chronic drainage problems and widening the playing corridors.
“We are using four double greens and one solo green to create a nine-hole short par three experience,” said Green. “The idea is to carry a few clubs and enjoy every possible shot inside 130 yards in a quick and fun golf experience.”
The par-three course is being built in a similar style to the main course. “We tried to use a number of Ross features to create fun and inspired shots,” said Green. “All of the holes can be played from a range of yardages and angles as there will be no set tees. You can play from almost anywhere – a great deal of the facility will be fairway height turf. The contours are a bit bolder in places and we used ridges and valleys in differing ways to connect and separate the double green hole locations.
“We liked the idea of paying homage to the Old course and thrifty use of land – we also wanted to make for a unique place to play the game,” said Green. “With this concept, we fit nine holes in the space that once occupied a par four and a par three – 1980s holes that had been abandoned. I am very proud of the differing shots and change of directions we were able to develop in such a small space.”