Beau Welling Design has completed a renovation of the golf course at Evansville Country Club in Indiana.
The design firm was originally appointed because the private, member-owned club wanted to address the safety and standard of its driving range. It also wanted to rebuild tennis courts that were next to the range.
Welling’s shaper Joe Titzer is originally from Evansville and provided an ‘in’. Titzer had also worked with the father of Evansville’s superintendent Jeff Sexton in a previous capacity.
The solution that Welling felt was best for the club was to relocate the driving range, rebuild several greens, and build some new holes. “This thought process led to the idea of upgrading infrastructure throughout the golf course,” he told GCA. “This was especially the case for the greens, which were built with different methodologies at various times. There were old push-up-type greens, some quasi-USGA-type ones, and others that were a bit in between. There was also a desire to change the grass due to the different strains the greens had.”
Heritage Links began construction in September 2022, with work on the course now complete. A new short-game area is on track to be finished within the next month, ahead of a reopening around Memorial Day on 29 May. Welling’s design associate Hunter Rigsby has been on site frequently to monitor the project’s progress.
The new holes are the eighth, ninth, tenth, fourteenth and fifteenth. The new driving range sits where the former eighth and ninth holes were. “To do that we created a new eighth hole, which is a par three that plays along a bluff,” said Welling. “It’s 130 yards, but it’s going to be spectacular and super exciting! Everyone will be talking about because it is so dramatic on this bluff. It’s a classic, really short par three that some people will score well on, and others will take a really big number if they miss the green.”
The new ninth is the old tenth in reverse. “Players on the back tee have to hit over a big ravine and then climb up a hill on what is a short par five,” said Welling. “This hole will offer something that’s really distinctive and different from the experience that the members have had previously.
“The new tenth is, in essence, an extension of the old sixteenth, but in reverse. And then we have taken the old fourteenth and broken that up into two holes, as the new fourteenth and fifteenth, which makes up for the loss of the one hole because of the driving range.”
The project has also seen the green complexes on one, two, six, seven, twelve, seventeen and eighteen completely rebuilt. All greens have been grassed with Pure Distinction creeping bentgrass from Atlas Turf International and Pure Seed. Sexton is looking forward to what this new variety means in terms of maintenance practices and the quality of greens.
“For the golf holes and green complexes that we’ve redeveloped, we’ve tried to put a premium on accuracy that’s required to get to certain hole locations,” said Welling. “The golf course is not very long, it’s roughly 6,100 yards, and they do have a lot of really good players there, so we’ve tried to create more low-cut surrounds around greens, but also have more contour in the greens themselves, to really ask the better players to hit a really good shot in order to score. This will have a positive impact on the playing experience… the good players will be super happy.”
The project has also eliminated some bunkers, reducing the overall bunker square footage on the property. “We’ve been very mindful of labour in particular, trying to do things so that the maintenance budget can be optimised going forward to deliver a better playing experience for the members,” said Welling.
“Although we’ve been very budget oriented here at Evansville, we also feel this real sense of responsibility – like we do on any project – as this is one of our main employees’ hometown. So, we’ve really tried to be extraordinarily hands-on and very conscious of the fact that this is a big deal for the club. It’s a big deal for Evansville because this place is a meeting point of the entire town. We wanted to do something that’s value added to not just the membership experience but to the whole city experience.”
Welling’s masterplan also included rebuilding the tennis courts, the addition of pickleball, car park expansion, and relocating various areas. “From a master planning perspective, we took a holistic look at the club, through the lens of golf, to help get everything located in the right place and I think that’s going to be very important,” he said.
“This is a big deal for the club. We spent a lot of time there in the planning phases and did a bunch of workshops and focus groups with members so it felt like it wasn’t us – my firm – doing the project, but it was a much bigger us, comprising my firm and the membership of Evansville Country Club.”