Crace creates bunkerless layout for Jackson Parish redesign

  • Smuggler
    Nathan Crace

    Nathan Crace has created a master plan to transform the nine-hole Jackson Parish golf course

  • Smuggler
    Nathan Crace

    The project includes new practice facilities including a junior golf area, driving range and putting green

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Nathan Crace has created a master plan for an 18-hole layout with no bunkers to replace the existing nine-hole Jackson Parish golf course in Jonesboro, Louisiana. The new facility will be called Smuggler’s Run.

“The committee recently approved the purchase of an additional 80 acres of land adjacent to the existing nine-hole course,” said Crace. “Once the final project is given the green light, the plan is for the new nine will be built in year one and the renovation of the existing nine will be in year two. This enables the course to remain open with at least nine holes playable throughout the process.

“I have been wanting to do a bunkerless golf course for more than 20 years. I thought I had a client who wanted to give it a go about ten years ago in New Mexico where it was so windy that sand wouldn’t stay in the bunkers, but that project fell through. I wanted the challenge of creating a golf course that was fun and exciting to play without sand. The idea is to have a lot of rolling and rollicking shaping throughout the fairways and around greens – but not necessarily crazy contours on the greens themselves – with collection areas, run-offs, rolls, mounds, banks and slopes to give each hole a unique look and be fun to play. I think it really opens up creativity not only around the green, but also from tee to green.

“When I pitched the idea to the committee, they loved it. They know you have to do something unique to attract golfers and the reduced construction and maintenance costs were just icing on the cake.”

Crace’s routing will stretch from 3,800 yards to 7,200. In addition, par-three tees will be built on the par fours and fives, so golfers have the option to play the entire course as a par-three layout.

“The ground game will be used much more than we typically see in the United States because there will be many more options than just hitting over hazards,” said Crace. “Players will have to be more creative. That can be a challenge for people who are used to grabbing a sand wedge for every shot around the green, but it can also make the game more enjoyable for higher handicappers who can now putt, or bump and run, instead of trying to hit a flop shot every time. There will be rolls and collection areas that bleed into greens and grab errant or borderline shots from time to time, as well as shelves and unique shaping in fairways to provide a fun aesthetic and create different types of challenges.

“The key to making this work is to create a lot of fun and unique shaping with movement to provide an aesthetic without looking like a sea of green grass – especially at noon with no shadows. There will be naturalised areas and specimen trees throughout the property.”

The property for the new back nine has significant elevation changes that will add to the aesthetic and the front nine also has some elevation change, but centres around a large lake. That lake doesn’t currently come into play, but will be brought into play on five holes as part of the redesign, which essentially reverses the order of the existing holes and creates a few new holes to pull it all together.

The project also includes new practice facilities, a junior course called The Bandit, walking trails and planned amenities such as overnight and long-term RV parking, cabins, a splash pad for kids and pickleball.