Tom Kite/Billy Fuller to renovate Indiana’s Otter Creek; Andrew Green tweaks Naples' Grey Oaks
Black Desert Resort Golf Course in Ivins, Utah—the late Tom Weiskopf’s final course design—opened to public play on May 27. The 18-hole layout sports fairways that twist through ancient black lava fields, with holes backdropped by southern Utah’s red rock mountains. Weiskopf saw design come to fruition before he passed away in August 2022 at age 79 from pancreatic cancer.
“Black Desert is truly a spectacular place,” Weiskopf said last year. “The beautiful red rock backdrops remind me of Sedona [Arizona].”
The centerpiece of a 600-acre resort community, Black Desert is characterized by the presence of ancient basalt rock formations seamlessly integrated into the landscape, creating a visually stunning contrast against the lush fairways. Weiskopf’s visionary design captures the spirit of the surrounding natural wonders. Weiskopf and his design partner, architect Phil Smith, designed the 7,288-yard, par-72 course with playability in mind, with most fairways 70 to 100 yards wide. The course features two drivable par 4s—the fifth hole and 14th hole—a Weiskopf hallmark, bringing both strategy and risk/reward elements into play.
Early reviews for Black Desert were so strong that the LPGA named Black Desert as a future host of an LPGA Tour competition beginning in 2025.
“We are thrilled to welcome Black Desert Resort into the LPGA family as a tournament partner and title sponsor,” said Ricki Lasky, LPGA chief tour business and operations officer. “This spectacular venue will undoubtedly provide an incredible test to our LPGA Tour athletes. We also greatly appreciate the dedication of the Black Desert Resort team to elevating the stature of the women’s game by making this partnership a key element of their corporate platform as they welcome golf fans to their venue.”
Reef Capital Partners is developing Black Desert Resort and Troon will manage the facility. Upon buildout, Black Desert Resort will offer a full hotel and conference center overlooking Snow Canyon State Park and the championship course; 1,000-plus residences; miles of on-property trails; a wellness spa; and 80,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. The property will also feature 75 single-family estate lots mingled in the black lava flows and approximately 214,000 square feet of commercial space, with the amenities of the resort center available for full-time residents.
In addition to the 18-hole course, guests of Black Desert will enjoy a 36-hole illuminated putting course for day or night play. The resort’s 19th Hole, an amphitheater-style lakeside gathering place terraced into the black lava, will be the ultimate venue for winding down after a day of golf.
TOM KITE, BILLY FULLER NAMED TO OTTER CREEK’S RENOVATION
Indiana’s Otter Creek Golf Course selected 1992 U.S. Open champion Tom Kite and former Augusta National superintendent Billy Fuller to lead a significant renovation of the revered public layout. Located 45 miles south of Indianapolis in Columbus, Otter Creek consists of 27 holes—the North and West nines designed in 1964 by Robert Trent Jones and the East nine, a 1995 Rees Jones creation. The original 18 hosted the 1991 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and played host to the Indiana Men’s State Amateur on 26 occasions. After six decades, it was time for a refresh.
“A golf course is a lot like an old building,” said Bob Haddad Jr., Owner and chief executive officer of Otter Creek. “That course is 60 years old. There just comes a point where a lot of things need to be updated, just like in an older building or home.”
Haddad purchased Otter Creek from the city of Columbus in autumn 2022. Discussions quickly ensued about retaining an architect to renovate and reinvigorate the course. He selected Kite, a seven-time Ryder Cup player and captain of the 1997 U.S. team who will pair up with turf guru Billy Fuller, a respected designer in his own right.
“There are so many reasons why I’m excited about the opportunity to work on Otter Creek Golf Club, but first on my list would be the people I will get to hang out with while we do the redesign,” said Kite, who will be designing or redesigning his 11th course. “Everyone associated with Otter Creek is a golf junkie, very passionate about the game and committed to creating one of the finest golf experiences in Indiana. I truly expect to have some wonderful friendships long after the project is completed.”
For his part, Fuller is a longtime member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects as well as a renowned former superintendent. “We are delighted to collaborate with Hall of Famer Tom Kite and Billy Fuller,” Haddad said. “Tom and Billy won our trust with their wonderful personalities, outstanding ideas, professional experiences and burning passion to restore Otter Creek to the great championship golf course it was meant to be. Our team has a big vision, and we can’t wait to get to work with Tom and Billy to make it happen. Otter Creek will always be historic, friendly and memorable.”
Kite acknowledged Jones’ superb original design and vowed to respect the Jones philosophy during the renovation process but acknowledged how different golf is these days. “Robert Trent Jones was one of the most creative and prolific golf architects in the history of the game,” said Kite. “Otter Creek was long regarded as the finest in Indiana and all who play it know that the ‘bones’ of the course are fabulous. But so many things in our game have changed since 1964 and it is time to bring Otter Creek up to today’s standards.”
The redesign will focus on six factors:
- The original irrigation system is aging and outdated, with newer systems incorporating significant water-saving features.
- Newer grasses, which will enhance playing conditions.
- Improve bunker drainage, maintainability and playability.
- Adding forward tees to accommodate players of all skill levels.
- Adding back tees and design features to elevate the challenge for elite players.
- Adding new tees with new angles to bump up strategic decisions for all levels of players.
“Just as many ‘mid-century moderns’ have been updated, Otter Creek will be updated,” Kite stated. “But when all is said and done the ‘bones’ that Mr. Jones provided will still be recognizable, praised and hopefully enjoyed for decades to come.”
Going forward, Kite, Fuller and their team will work closely with Otter Creek director of agronomy Brent Downs, head superintendent Mitchell Eickhoff, director of golf Austin Wright and head professional Jimmy St. John. Haddad hasn’t confirmed when the renovation will commence, or whether the 27-hole concept will be preserved.
“Our first phase of our work with Tom will be to do a site master plan for the entire 415 acres so we know what our entire roadmap is,” Haddad said. “Then, once we get the master plan complete, we’ll begin to determine how we’re going to approach it. But even before that, there will be lots of detailed drawings done. We’ll have to seek a build contractor, an irrigation contractor and work with them on their availability and their timing, so there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before we even know when the shovel is going to go into the ground.”
PINE COURSE IN NAPLES, FLA. NEARING COMPLETION
Andrew Green is nearing the finish line on his renovation of the Pine Course at Grey Oaks Country Club in Naples, Florida. One of three courses at Grey Oaks, the Pine opened in 1993 with a Lloyd Clifton design. After 30 years, however, infrastructure inevitably needs work. The club determined that the design could use a tweak as well so they summoned one of the hottest renovation specialists in the business, Andrew Green, to handle the task.
Green, best known for his restoration and renovation work at Oak Hill East (site of the 2023 PGA Championship), Inverness Club (2021 Solheim Cup) and Congressional (2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship), began the Grey Oaks renovation in February. Adding tees, improving bunkers, widening fairways and expanding greens were the primary assignments, with the intention of enhancing aesthetics, assisting with course maintenance and elevating the playing experience. Green’s additions will result in a boost in strategy.
Green previously assisted the club in 2022 with a redesign of its short game area. The Pine Course work is expected to be completed in July. Following a four-month grow-in period, the course will likely reopen in November.