Design duo seize opportunity for total rebuild of Kentucky course

  • Park Mammoth
    Ross Golf Design

    A 4,235-square-foot hazard separates the second and fourth greens at Park Mammoth in Kentucky

  • Park Mammoth
    Ross Golf Design

    The new routing from Brian Ross and Colton Craig has seen the two nines switched and 12 greens moved

  • Park Mammoth
    Ross Golf Design

    The renovation project has improved sightlines on several holes, including the ninth

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Brian Ross and Colton Craig have completed a redesign of the 18-hole course at the former Cave Valley Golf Club in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Now named Park Mammoth Golf Club, the layout will open on 28 April.

The course was purchased in late 2019 at a bankruptcy auction and in January 2020 the owners appointed Ross and Craig to oversee a small renovation project, which included adding the first bunkers to the layout.

A plan was approved in February 2020. “They began clearing trees the next day, but it was not long before the project scope grew,” said Ross. “By mid-March, the project had evolved from a small renovation into a total rebuild. It can’t be overstated how big of an opportunity this turned out to be for two architects whose respective businesses were, at the time, both less than one year old!

“The decision to rebuild all the greens gave us the opportunity to make the course markedly better so we took the ball and ran with it. As we were already under construction, every design decision from that point forward was made in the field, on the fly. I personally shaped the golf course features – with an assist from Jay Smith early on – and we finished many of them by hand, along with our two interns, Scott and Lawson.

“The client allowed us to build whatever we felt was best for the golf course. Our only instructions were that it had to be fun to play and that it would keep people coming back again and again. It remains to be seen whether we achieved those goals, but I believe we did!”

The major aspect of the project has been the rerouting, which has included the nines being switched. The architects have also extended the course from 5,884 to 6,165 yards.

The original opening three holes have now become holes ten to twelve. “I really disliked the old first, a 299-yard par four with a 100-degree dogleg that required you to thread your tee shot through a 17-yard gap between two large trees,” said Ross. “I came up with a proposed routing that would completely alter the layout of these three holes, and we pitched the idea at a site visit in early February 2021. Fortunately, the owners unanimously agreed to make the changes on the spot! This was, in part, what eventually led to the dramatic increase in the overall project scope, too.

“I believe the changes we made vastly improved this section of the course. While it’s not the opener anymore, the new tenth hole is now a 336-yard par four with a great risk reward tee shot that plays straight ahead to a 14,500-square-foot double green we created by combining the new green with the old fourth green – now the thirteenth.”

Ross and Craig were able to create a 109-yard par three at the eleventh that plays across a valley to the original first hole’s green. “This change allowed us to dramatically increase the variety in the par threes,” said Ross. “Previously, there was only a 23-yard difference between the longest and shortest par threes. Now, there’s a 131-yard difference!

“The last puzzle piece required clearing a large section of forest to create an epic downhill tee shot for the long par-four twelfth hole, which continues out to the original green site for this hole. This allowed us to gain 50 yards while also opening up one of the best views on the course and providing the golfer with the chance to really let one rip!”

Twelve greens are in new locations, while the other six remain where they are but have been substantially renovated, apart from the ninth. A couple of the biggest changes to greens include moving the fifteenth’s 50 yards right across a deep valley and lengthening the seventeenth’s by 60 yards.

“The greens we inherited were 3,700-square-foot ovals with five-to seven per cent back-to-front slopes, and thatch so thick you could bounce on them like a trampoline,” said Ross. “Having the opportunity to rebuild all the greens was a gamechanger for this project. It turned what would’ve been a nice story about a solid, low-budget renovation into a golf course that I believe can challenge for the title of best public course in Kentucky.”

The new greens are on average about 70 per cent larger than what existed before. “They are full of internal contour, sneaky false fronts, and tucked pin positions,” said Ross. “Most slope off in multiple directions which will provide great variety in the day to-day setup.”

The project has seen 25 bunkers added to the course (10 fairway and 15 greenside). Ross says his highlight bunkers are the 168-square-foot pot bunker fronting the eleventh green, the 4,235-square-foot hazard that separates the second and fourth greens, and the 12-foot-deep pit that guards the left side of the fifteenth green.

Fifty new tees have also been added. “We were able to improve the flow and sightlines on the course by making simple, slight adjustments to the angles of the holes,” said Ross. “This was accomplished most notably on holes nine and seventeen. There are also a few alternate tees located throughout that will give some flexibility in course setup.”

This article first appeared in the April 2022 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.