Vestavia Country Club in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, has reopened following the completion of a comprehensive renovation project by golf course architect Lester George of George Golf Design.
The club has renovated tees, greens, fairways, bunkers and cart paths on all 18 holes, 10 of which were entirely rebuilt, added water features, created a new driving range and introduced a new irrigation system. New mowing patterns are giving the club at least 20 percent extra fairway width.
Zoysia grass has been used on fairways, providing more disease tolerance and requiring less water than before. It also provides contrast with the bermuda grass rough, to give the holes greater definition.
Landscapes Unlimited handled construction work and the Better Billy Bunker liner system has been used for bunkers.
The project has been almost 12 years in planning, since the club’s creation of a long range architectural course committee in 2006. Following interviews with almost a dozen architects, in 2011 Vestavia selected Lester George to create a master plan.
“I had the privilege to work for eight consecutive club presidents during this process,” said George. “We literally looked at all options. No matter how long the planning takes to get everything done right, it’s all worth it in the end.”
Construction work began in January 2017. “Construction and grow-in took 16 months and was continuously challenged by rain (more than 80 inches) and subsurface rock remediation. It is always special when I give the course back to the members after a renovation, but the long process only added to my strong sense of satisfaction on this project,” said George.
George has employed template concepts and features of classic golf design on many holes, including a Redan thirteenth, a Biarritz green on the fifteenth and a Principal’s Nose bunker dominating the drive on the eleventh hole.
“The goal of our project was to create the best product that suited the needs of our members,” said long-range planning chairman Alan Coshatt in 2017, when construction was underway. “Lester saw more potential in our course than probably anyone at our club, and now that grass is hitting the ground his vision is becoming very evident. It’s wide, fun, fair, and still a challenge for all levels of play. And the best part is it’s sitting on one of the most beautiful pieces of property in our region! We have created something truly spectacular.”
Of the opening event at the start of June 2018, George said: “It was a true celebration – one of the most memorable moments in my career. The opening ceremony on Friday was moved inside because of rain, of course! There were 104 players on Saturday, and every single comment I received was positive.”
Some highlights of the redesign include the transformed par three seventh hole, which now plays over a lake on the property and the drivable par four ninth hole. Tree clearance has opened wide vistas of the surrounding countryside.
“Although the golf course can challenge the elite player, it was also designed to be fun, sustainable, and playable for all skill levels of members and guests. The comments I received from members during opening made it clear we had accomplished all those goals. Members were particularly pleased with multiple teeing locations, strategy, the introduction of water features, and vistas created by removing trees throughout the property.”