Beau Welling renovates Georgia’s Ocean Forest
Now underway in the Carolina Sandhills is 21 Golf Club, a private enclave 15 miles from Aiken, South Carolina, which will feature 36 holes. The first 18-hole layout, called the Hammer Course, will be a match play-oriented spread designed by Tad King and Rob Collins, the team that authored Tennessee’s Sweetens Cove and Nebraska’s Landmand.
Collins envisions a special creation, based on the quality of the site itself.
"Opportunities of this stature in the world of golf course architecture are precious few,” Collins said. "The land which 21 Golf Club sits is a geologic anomaly in the southeastern United States. The combination of the boldness of the terrain with its deep, deep sandy soils and the seemingly endless and uninterrupted views offer a rare tapestry for our team. We plan to deliver one of the most exceptional and distinctive experiences in American golf.”
The Hammer Course's name refers to the popular game of Hammer, which many view as the ultimate expression of match-play golf. In keeping with the traditions of the game, the course will demand boldness, creativity and skillful execution. As King-Collins successfully accomplished at Sweetens Cove and Landmand, the Hammer Course will allow players to choose from several teeing areas to alter each hole’s routing on the fly. Angles, yardage and par can all be adjusted to whatever best suits the moment. Plans call for an additional three holes to be added to the design. These extra holes will serve to decide matches not settled after a traditional 18-hole round, creating a rich competitive environment.
Following completion of the Hammer Course, 21 Golf Club will begin planning work on its second course, inspired by Alister MacKenzie’s original plans for El Boqueron (the famed Lost MacKenzie) in Argentina.
In addition to its two golf courses, 21 Golf Club will include a state-of-the-art practice and performance center developed in cooperation with Black Cat Design, as well as a short course.
Excited to announce that I have been commissioned to develop a Master Plan for improvements to historic Bowling Green CC. Good to work on yet another project close to where I was born/raised. BGCC is a great club w/ tons of potential to become something really special! pic.twitter.com/ZSVObc9phs
— Nathan Crace, ASGCA, PLA (@lipouts) December 21, 2023
FORMER WALKER CUP VENUE REOPENS
Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Georgia reopened for play in October after a renovation project from Beau Welling Design. Originally designed in 1995 by Rees Jones, Ocean Forest was host to the 2001 Walker Cup where Great Britain & Ireland, led by Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell, defeated the U.S. 15-9. The club sought to retain the challenge for elite players but offer more fun and variety for less-skilled golfers.
“Being able to test the best players was very important to the club,” Welling told golfcoursearchitecture.net. “In some ways the holes are more playable with fewer hazards around the greens. But we changed how the course challenges players, with the putting surfaces providing the difficulty.”
Welling noted that the greens remained in their existing locations, but were rebuilt, reimagined and redesigned. “Previously, many greens were elevated, very small and surrounded by bunkers, but now we’ve got a real mix of different sizes and they offer golfers more angles into them,” said Welling. “There’s also much more contouring.”
To accentuate views and provide better turf conditions, Welling selectively removed trees where necessary. “Visually, it feels like a new golf course,” said Welling. “However, we’ve been very mindful that its name is Ocean Forest. So we’ve protected the grand trees and exposed them as well as taken advantage of this coastal environment. We achieved this, for example, at the 18th, which runs along the Atlantic Ocean—We totally reinvented that hole by restoring the dunes it plays through.”
Another pronounced difference in the new layout from the old is tied to the bunkering. “There are fewer bunkers, but they are way more visual,” said Welling. “Before, the grass went down the faces pretty close to the bottom and there was an incredible amount of square footage. But now, the sand is high, so they’re much more dramatic, and we’ve reduced the sand square footage by half.”
Other enhancements included replacing formal cart paths with exposed hard-packed sand, reconstructing tees and introducing new irrigation.