Billy Fuller Golf Design is nearing completion of a renovation project at Dothan Country Club in Alabama, with the course scheduled to reopen in mid-November.
The club has been home to the Press Thornton Future Masters since 1950, one of the oldest junior golf tournaments in the world. Numerous PGA Tour and Major winners played in the Future Masters as a youth, including Scottie Scheffler, Bubba Watson, David Duval, Jerry Pate, Stewart Cink and Larry Mize to name a few.
Dothan was founded in 1923 with a course built a year later, originally designed by Hugh Moore. The aim of Fuller’s project, carried out during the club’s centenary year, has been to transform the design back to a Golden Age strategy and aesthetics, while enhancing foundation infrastructure, including greens, tees, bunkers, irrigation, drainage, and introducing the latest grass varieties.
“The Dothan property offers excellent topography for golf and, overall, has a sound routing,” said Fuller. “My work is for a complete transformation in design strategy and aesthetics. I felt strongly the course should go back to the Golden Age design philosophy and appearance, so our goal was to offer as much Golden Age strategy and aesthetics as possible, while maintaining the parkland style that is indicative of this property.
“I’ve played and studied many courses in Scotland over the years and I’m a huge fan of the ground game, which has disappeared from many American courses. My focus on all our design projects is to offer options for every level of player to be challenged, but always offer the opportunity for higher handicap players to avoid hazards if desired. In this design, every green offers a variety of pin locations, from easy to difficult.”
It has been over 20 years since the course’s last major renovation. “Turf on greens, tees and fairways had aged and become contaminated, and organic build-up in the greens was particularly excessive,” said Fuller. “We have removed hundreds of large trees that obstructed tee shots and long views, shifted some green complexes, and reshaped all tee complexes, and incorporated several template green designs, including a Biarritz, Redan, Thumbprint and Punchbowl.
“Our design offers a new fairway bunker strategy, incorporating cross bunkers on a couple holes. We moved the par-three eleventh to create a challenging short hole with a meandering creek alongside the green.
“The par-five fourth green complex now has many similarities to the eighth at Augusta National, and the par-three fifth offers the aesthetics and strategic angle of the twelfth at Augusta. The course also now offers Seth Raynor-style bunkers with grass slopes and sand below the putting surface elevation.”
Construction by contractor Mid-America Golf began in November 2022. “We lost over 50 days due to rain during this project,” said Fuller. “But we finally experienced a nice stretch of sunshine, so the last sod has been installed, and we plan to reopen the course for member play by mid-November. We will also replant some trees where strategically important, ensuring they’re placed in such a way that 50 years from now they will not interfere with playing corridors.”
Fuller and his design associate Erik Belgum also designed a 20,000-square-foot putting course, a new short-game area, a new practice range and putting green.