Design Notes

Robert Trent Jones II, Nathan Crace collaborate on Mississippi golf park

Legendary Phoenix muni Papago to begin renovation; Love Golf Design to craft new layout for northwest Florida’s Watersound; Drew Rogers refurbishes Chicagoland's Twin Orchard

 Otter Creek

The latest news and notes in golf course architecture.

> Southerner Nathan Crace and West Coast legend Robert Trent Jones II have teamed up to create a multi-dimensional golf facility in Jackson, Mississippi. Otter Creek Golf Park at LeFleur’s Bluff will house a 10-hole par-3 course, a state-of-the-art driving range, an 18-hole putting course and a practice putting green. All will be illuminated for night play.

The LeFleur’s Bluff complex is shared by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and the Mississippi Children’s Museum. Its transformation — beginning with a kids’ playground as Phase I and the golf park as Phase II — is part of a master plan to connect four museums with walking and biking trails and additional recreational amenities.

"When Bobby and I first met seven or so years ago," said Crace, who’s based in the Magnolia State, "he told me there are only two states in the country without an RTJ course and one of those was Mississippi. A few months ago, when the project really began to gather steam, I called him and asked if he wanted to collaborate on it. I told him that we could not only preserve a large swath of urban green space, but also create a permanent home for the First Tee of Central Mississippi and he cut me off in mid-sentence. He said, 'I’m in. Let’s do it.' He is passionate about saving urban greenspaces and promoting junior golf, so this project is the perfect fit for the two of us to collaborate."

Draped atop a portion of the old LeFleur’s Bluff State Park Golf Course that had been closed since the onset of the pandemic, the new design will highlight walkability and will feature holes ranging in length from 70 to 150 yards.

Papago Golf Club.jpg

> In June, Papago Golf Club in Phoenix will undergo a four-month renovation and enhancement project. Owned by the City of Phoenix and managed by Troon, Papago is the home facility for Arizona State University's golf teams. 

The $4 million renovation is being funded by the Arizona Community Golf Foundation (ACGF) and a private donor. ACGF president Gregg Tryhus, who developed Scottsdale’s Grayhawk and Whisper Rock, is overseeing the project and Ron Despain, Troon’s senior vice president of golf course development, is overseeing project management and design enhancements. Heritage Links and Casa Verde Golf will be executing the construction work.

With construction of the new Arizona Golf House scheduled to begin in 2023 adjacent to the ninth green, 18th green and Evie’s Pavilion, renovations will include relocating the ninth and 18th green complexes as well as the first and 10th tees. The ninth green will be repositioned to the edge of an existing pond, creating a dynamic risk/reward par 5, while the 18th green will be relocated to create a different angle for approach shots. The 442-yard, par-4 sixth hole will be lengthened as the green complex will move 20 yards farther back. Additionally, all bunkers will be rebuilt and renovated, tee boxes will be leveled and new cart paths will be added around tees and greens. More than 10 acres of turf will be eliminated, further reducing water usage. The course will be playable during the renovation, then shut down for overseeding on Oct. 3.

Papago is expected to reopen, with renovations complete, on Oct. 24.

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> Watersound Club has retained Love Golf Design to create a new championship golf course for the private resort community located near Panama City, Florida. Watersound members have access to the daily-fee Origins Golf Club, designed by Love; to Shark’s Tooth, a Greg Norman design and to Camp Creek, a Tom Fazio creation. Love’s new layout will embrace the site’s natural vegetation and will play from 4,900 to 7,600 yards, with six teeing areas.

"After exploring the property on our first few visits, we found so many options it was hard to narrow the new course down to just 18 holes," said Davis Love III, founder of Love Golf Design. "We’re pleased to be working with a routing that flows across white sandy dunes, with diverse native plant materials, along with beautiful pockets of old growth cypress and pine trees to frame the golf holes. We are really thrilled with how the routing of the golf course is coming along at this point."

The design is forecast to be finalized before this summer.

> Illinois’ Twin Orchard Country Club, located in the northwestern Chicago suburb of Long Grove, has hired Drew Rogers to renovate its White course. The White, as with its sibling, the Red, was designed by C.D. Wagstaff in 1928, when the club was known as Kildeer. Lawrence Packard renovated the White in 1966 and now Rogers, formerly a longtime associate of Arthur Hills, gets his turn.

Wadsworth Golf Construction will begin the work in August, which will include redesigning several green complexes to USGA specifications, reshaping and relocating bunkers, installing Better Billy Bunker liners in the sand bunkers, new tees, fairway realignment and pond renovations.

"We’re strategically investing in our club’s amenities and laying the framework for the next 100 years," said Jack Newman, president of Twin Orchard. "These upgrades to our White course and other additions continue to position Twin Orchard as the premier private club in the area."

Construction on the renovation project is expected to be completed by May 2023.