Golf Courses & Resorts

5 of 2015’s Most Important Golf Course Renovations

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The golf course construction boom of the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s may be over, but that doesn’t mean that opportunities to be among the first to play a “new” golf course have dried up.

Indeed, in order to keep their own businesses afloat, golf course architects – upstarts and veterans alike – are pouring their talents into the project of turning existing layouts into their best selves.

In fact, for the last few years, the bulk of the most exciting golf course work has come in the form of renovation and restoration, and that trend seems primed to continue.

Here are five golf course renovations and restorations that caught our eye this year:

Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead Course) – Palm Harbor, Fla.

Innisbrook's Copperhead course looked great before this year's project... (Innisbrook Resort)

Innisbrook’s Copperhead course looked great even before this year’s project. (Innisbrook Resort)

Don't worry - this is a photo from early on in the renovation process at Innisbrook. (Innisbrook Resort)

This photo, taken during renovations, gives a glimpse into the caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation that the Copperhead has undergone. (Innisbrook Resort)

This Larry Packard design is one of the pros’ favorite non-major Tour stops, based on the layout’s abiding fairness and constant challenge. Wisely, the Tampa-area course’s overseers, Salamander Resorts, opted not to change too much at the course that regularly wins acclaim as a favorite among Tour pros. Greens were resurfaced and expanded to their original perimeters, bunkers were rebuilt and a new irrigation system was installed; it is expected to save up to 11 million gallons of water per year. Reopened: November, 2015

Wild Dunes Resort (Links Course) – Isle of Palms, S.C.

Tom Fazio’s first-ever solo design has always been regarded as one of the Charleston area’s best courses, if overshadowed somewhat by Kiawah Island and its Ocean Course. Known for two finishing holes on the Atlantic, recent beach erosion brought the water too close for comfort, especially in the case of the original par-5 finisher. So the resort brought Fazio back to reconfigure the Links’ finish, now a 185-yard par three on the ocean. Fazio also oversaw a resurfacing, slight re-contouring and enlargement of the course’s greens, as well as implementation of a new irrigation system. Mother Nature presented a challenge and one of the modern era’s best-known architects met it. Reopened: October, 2015.

Trump National Doral Resort (Red Tiger and Golden Palm Courses) – Miami, Fla.

Trump National Doral's Golden Palm received the full-on Hanse treatment as well. (Trump National Doral)

Trump National Doral’s Golden Palm received the full-on Hanse treatment as well. (Trump National Doral)

The Donald was so impressed with Olympic Course architect Gil Hanse’s renovation of the Blue Monster that he contracted Hanse’s team, led by Jim Wagner, to work their magic on the resort’s old Red and Gold Courses. While neither course presents the relentless challenge of the Blue Monster, there is still plenty of teeth on the Golden Palm. And the Red Tiger, with its routing of six par threes, par fours and par fives, has something for everyone. Reopened: February, 2015 (Red Tiger); September, 2015 (Golden Palm)

Quail Lodge & Golf Club – Carmel, Calif.

The most striking aspect of the renovations at Quail Lodge is undoubtedly the rustic, eye-catching bunkering. (Quail Lodge & Club)

The most striking aspect of the renovations at Quail Lodge is undoubtedly the rustic, eye-catching bunkering. (Quail Lodge & Club)

Architect Todd Eckenrode isn’t exactly a household name. But even though his Origins Golf Design firm’s portfolio is small, it is impressive. Their original design at Barona Creek Resort & Casino outside of San Diego is regarded as one of the Golden State’s best public-accessible layouts, and their renovation work at a number of California private courses has garnered high praise from architecture aficionados. So it’s no surprise that since reopening, Quail Lodge, just 20 minutes east of Pebble Beach, has been a hit with visitors. Previously often-overlooked, the course is now a great inland option for those visiting Monterey. Reopened: September, 2015

La Playa Golf Club – Naples, Fla.

La Playa is known for a high level of manicuring and landscaping. After its most recent facelift, it should sparkle even more. (La Playa Beach & Golf Resort)

La Playa is known for a high level of manicuring and landscaping. After its most recent facelift, it should sparkle even more. (LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort)

A wise man once told me, “Minor surgery is still surgery to someone,” and this holds true at La Playa, one of Naples’ prime resort golf options. The course closed for six months earlier this year, with the main focus of the $1 million spruce-up project being a total re-grassing of the layout. Course designer Bob Cupp seized the opportunity to make some other refinements, softening certain slopes near water hazards and around the greens and returning those putting surfaces to their original borders. The facility is also home to the David Leadbetter Golf Academy. Reopened: October, 2015

The renovation/restoration trend continues apace for 2016. Here are some courses we’re looking forward to seeing reopen in the next year or so:

Sea Pines Resort (Ocean Course) – Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Davis Love III’s firm, which did a wonderful job remaking Sea Island’s Retreat course into the resort’s second-best layout, is tackling this track, the first built on Hilton Head Island. We expect it to become an excellent compliment to Sea Pines’ two Pete Dye designs: Harbour Town and Heron Point. It is expected to reopen next September.

Trump Turnberry (Ailsa Course) – Ayrshire, Scotland, U.K.

Never content to leave things alone after acquiring a property, The Donald immediately set about improving on Turnberry’s Open Championship-hosting Ailsa layout. British Architect Martin Ebert will be helming the changes, the biggest of which will turn the iconic long par-4 ninth hole from a long par four to a long par three demanding a carry over rugged Scottish coastline. Want to be among the first to see it? It reopens next June.

TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course) – Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Seemingly always under the knife, the perennial host of the PGA Tour’s PLAYERS Championship will close after the tournament concludes in May 2016 for a renovation of its putting surfaces. The course is expected to reopen in November.

Did you play any recently renovated golf courses this year? Let us know all about them below!

5 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    November 10, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    While certainly not in the class of your aforementioned renovations, a major transformation occurred here in Savannah Ga when a city course (Bacon Park), was completely renovated by a local businessman. The course had fallen on very difficult times and the restoration back to the original Donald Ross design was a rebirth for those of us that play on public courses. It would be a good story for your writers at Golf Vacation Insider to examine this restoration project for yourselves.

  2. Tim Gavrich

    November 10, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Anonymous–
    You’ve got great instincts. We’ve got something in the works about restored and renovated municipal courses across the country, including Bacon Park. Stay tuned!
    –Tim

  3. Richard

    November 10, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Recent renovations made to RTJ in Gainseville VA in preparation for this year’s PGA tour event have turned an already scenic course into a jaw dropping experience. A must play if you can get on it!

  4. Poor Mans Golf Guide

    November 10, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    You can add Ponkapoag Course #1 in Canton, MA to your renovated municapal course. Donald Ross original and “first public course in the country” had fallen on hard times and 9 holes had been closed since the early 90’s. Just reopened in October after 5 million renovation project funded by the state.

    Still a lot of work to be done but good story to revive a Donald Ross gem.

  5. Randy

    November 10, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Wow I’ll think I’m going to sell my grandchild so i can play on one of those five courses.

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