Chet Williams goes Easy in Texas; Nicklaus Design completes Bear Lakes project; Bill Bergin to redesign an Alabama muni
The latest news and notes in golf course architecture.
> Twenty-three years ago, John Harvey teamed with Roger Rulewich to design the Resort Course at Grande Dunes, perennially ranked among Myrtle Beach, South Carolina’s best courses. Harvey returned recently with plans for a renovation. Harvey will team with Max Morgan, vice president and director of agronomy at Founders Group International, which owns the course. Morgan was also involved with the original construction. "Priority work involves reclaiming the green platforms, thatch layer removal and bunker renovations," said Harvey. Construction begins in mid-May.
> Given the name, it’s logical to have thought that Ernie Els would be involved in the design of Big Easy Ranch. Instead, it’s Chet Williams, a former Nicklaus Design associate who got the nod in September 2021 to add a 7,448-yard championship layout to the property’s existing nine-hole par-3 course that he also designed. Located in Columbus, Texas, roughly halfway between Austin and Houston, the 2,000-acre Big Easy Ranch is owned by Billy Brown, who gifted Williams a site that has 80 feet of elevation change, creeks and mature oaks. Construction is ongoing, with an expected completion date of autumn 2022.
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> The dawn of 2022 brought a refresh to the Lakes course at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., courtesy of Nicklaus Design, the same firm that did the original design in 1984 as a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course. Square footage of bunker sand has been reduced from 150,000 to 100,000 (down from 250,000 at inception). Fifteen bunkers were eliminated entirely and other large bunkers were divided into smaller bunker complexes.
"In 1984, the site was one big cattle pasture with very few trees," said Chris Cohcran, senior design associate at Nicklaus Design. "Today, the framing, personality and much of the strategy of how the holes play is more about the mature trees on the golf course and less about the need for as much bunkering as there used to be."
Home to multiple U.S. Open qualifiers over the years as well as a PGA Tour Qualifying School, an intended by-product of the bunker reduction at Bear Lakes has been the bump up in recovery options around the greens.
> Bill Bergin, who crafted McLemore, a top 100 layout in Georgia (in collaboration with Rees Jones), has signed on to do a substantial makeover of Alabama’s Indian Pines Country Club. In order to accommodate an adjacent airport expansion, the cities of Auburn and Opelika have retained Bergin to refashion the municipally-owned layout into essentially a brand new, 7,031-yard, par-72 course, keeping only a few corridors from the previous routing. Indian Pines is expected to close at the end of 2022, with the renovation work to commence soon thereafter.