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7 “Reclaimed” Golf Courses You Need To See

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With Earth Day coming up later this week, we were wondering about golf-related ways to mark the occasion. Something fascinating occurred to us:

There are a lot of golf courses that have replaced far less desirable sites: industrial sites, landfills and other non-golf entities.

We’re biased, but we tend to think green spaces are better than metal, smoke and concrete. And if those green spaces happen to have 9 or 18 greens, even better.

Here are our favorite “reclaimed” golf courses:

Chambers Bay Golf Links – University Place, Wash.

Chambers received mixed reviews from the pros during the 2015 U.S. Open, but there is no denying that it represents an impressive engineering feat. (Titleist)

Chambers received mixed reviews from the pros during the 2015 U.S. Open, but there is no denying that it represents an impressive engineering feat. (Titleist)

The 2015 U.S. Open host venue, which drew all kinds of disparate comments from players and spectators alike, was built on the site of a century-old gravel pit. More than 100,000 truckloads of sand and fill were brought in to turn that spent site into the wild, terraced scene that is Chambers Bay. The first U.S. Open held in the Pacific Northwest was a rousing success, meaning that despite some initial discomfort with the course, golf’s best players will get another crack at the Jay Blasi/Robert Trent Jones II design before too long.

Trump Golf Links Ferry Point – Bronx, N.Y.

It took more than $200 million to get it squared away, but one would hardly realize that Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point sits on a former municipal waste dump. (Courtesy of The Trump Organization)

It took more than $200 million to get it squared away, but one would hardly realize that Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point sits on a former municipal waste dump. (Courtesy of The Trump Organization)

The highest-profile and most expensive-to-build of all courses on this list by far – the total cost has been estimated at $236 million – is a Jack Nicklaus/John Sanford effort that transformed a municipal waste disposal site into one of the most anticipated new courses to open in the Northeast in years. The completely manufactured landscape is partly Irish and partly lunar in aesthetic, with hundreds of grass-covered dunes dotting the site. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the golfer is playing in the middle of one of the world’s biggest cities, as the Whitestone Bridge lords over the scene.

Skyway Golf Course – Jersey City, N.J.

Built for a fraction of the cost (just $20 million) and with a fraction of the fanfare of the Trump course, Skyway is a nine-hole track on a former city dump that opened in June 2015, making it the closest public golf course to Lower Manhattan. It is also playable for a fraction of the rates commanded by Trump Golf Links – weekend 18-hole rates top out at $63, against a top Trump tariff of $219. Architects Roy Case and Jeff Grossman fashioned a layout of three par threes, three par fours and three par fives that is already being lauded as a great escape from its urban surrounds.

Granite Links – Quincy, Mass.

One of the positive outcomes of Boston's protracted "Big Dig" was Granite Links, which is one of the area's best public facilities. (Granite Links Golf Club)

One of the positive outcomes of Boston’s protracted “Big Dig” was Granite Links, which is one of the area’s best public facilities. (Granite Links Golf Club)

If you live in or around Boston, the phrase “Big Dig” probably still causes headaches. The 15-year, $24 billion project to overhaul the area’s roads and other infrastructure caused years’ worth of travel delays. But one bright spot of the enterprise was the construction of Granite Links, a 27-hole layout built on the site of former municipal landfills and granite quarries. The course’s hilltop location affords views of the Boston skyline, with the fill on which the course was built coming from certain Big Dig excavation projects. John Sanford, who assisted Jack Nicklaus at Trump Ferry Point, gained experience in reclaimed-course architecture at Granite Links, which has a similarly open feel, but with more elevation change.

Streamsong Resort – Streamsong, Fla.

Streamsong's unique setting is a direct result of the site's industrial history. (Larry Lambrecht)

Streamsong sits in an undulating portion of the thousands of Florida acreage owned by multi-billion-dollar phosphate mining giant Mosaic. The result of the use of that site for mining? Pure sand: perfect for golf. Bill Coore and Crenshaw (Red) and Tom Doak (Blue) laid out its original two courses, and Gil Hanse is putting the finishing touches on a third (Black), which will open next year.

(By the way, Streamsong is offering a GVI-exclusive package for a limited time…check it out here.)

Park Ridge Golf Course – Lake Worth, Fla.

Thinking about the Palm Beach area conjures visions of blue ocean water, palm trees and amazing wealth. So it’s strange that one of the area’s best public golf courses is a “brownfields” (former landfill) course, designed by Roy Case. Hailing from England, Case embraced the undulating, open nature of the site to craft a course that is one of Florida’s best municipal layouts.

The Mines Golf Course – Grand Rapids, Mich.

The Mines' sports some intriguing terrain thanks in part to its previous life as a gypsum mining site. (Larry Lambrecht)

The Mines’ sports some intriguing terrain thanks in part to its previous life as a gypsum mining site. (Larry Lambrecht)

Central Michigan is prime mining country, and The Mines is built on the site of former gypsum mining activities. The course embraces this heritage not just with its name but with one of the best public-course logos we’ve seen. Furthermore, materials from the mining operation were incorporated in the design of the course.  An example of the minimalist design philosophy of Mike DeVries, the course only has 31 bunkers – including half a dozen bunkerless holes – so its main defense is a set of fun but potentially fearsome greens. There are not too many courses by name designers whose green fees top out below $54, but The Mines is no ordinary course.

This is just a selection of our favorite “reclaimed” courses. Are there others you want known? Tell us all about them in the comments below!

25 Comments

  1. ed

    April 19, 2016 at 10:36 am

    the Old WOrks Anaconda MT nicklaus design…was a haz. waste site at a mine

  2. jerry

    April 19, 2016 at 10:37 am

    How about Harborside in Chicago and Victoria National near Evansville? Both are awesome.

  3. Kevin pollard

    April 19, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Chicago Highlands is a special place – former landfill – amazing views of skyline – Arthur Hills gem.. I have played more than half the above list – CHC deserves mention –

  4. D_Man

    April 19, 2016 at 10:45 am

    If you venture outside the U.S. into Canada, the city of Mississauga, Ontario(Toronto’s west side neighbor) has a Scottish Highlands style course built on an old city landfill site.

  5. Dean

    April 19, 2016 at 10:47 am

    The Old Works course in Anaconda, Montana is also worthy of mention. It is a Jack Nicklaus course on the site of an old copper smelting plant. Some remnants of the plant add to the landscape and the bunkers use black tailings from the smelter.

  6. Don Wilson

    April 19, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Harborside in Chicago has 36 holes on a former dump and both courses provide a great test. As a bonus, from several tees you get a great view of downtown Chicago

  7. Anonymous

    April 19, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Trump Ferry Point is by the Whitestone Bridge, not the Throgs Neck Bridge.

  8. Mike Seidl

    April 19, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Coal Creek and China Creek at Newcastle in Bellevue, Washington. Both were built on the site of a landfill. Coal Creek in particular is spectacular with some of the best views in the Seattle area.

  9. SA.Anderson

    April 19, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Nice reclamation projects, would like to have seen green fee rate.

    I understand Chambers Bay fee is above $125, which lends itself to light play and high subsidy by the owner.

  10. Jeff Bishop

    April 19, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Wildcat Golf Club in Houston. Two 18 hole courses: The Lakes & The Highlands.
    Built on old landfill site behind (what use to be) Astroworld and the Astrodome.
    Reported to be the highest elevation in Houston with a panoramic view of the NRG Stadium / Astrodome complex, the entire downtown skyline / Medical Center / Galleria area.

  11. Bucky Beaver

    April 19, 2016 at 11:16 am

    How about The Golf Club at Newcastle with its spectacular mountaintop view of Seattle, Bellevue, Lake Washington, Puget Sound, The Olympic Mountains, and incredible sunsets? All built on top of old coal mines and an industrial waste dump.

  12. Tim Gavrich

    April 19, 2016 at 11:58 am

    You’re right! Our bad; have made the correction.

  13. Joe Arundel

    April 19, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Newcastle Golf Course is built on the site of an old coal mine that was then converted to a land fill.
    Awesome 36 hole facility with spectacular views of Seattle and Bellevue.

  14. Wendy

    April 19, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    One of my favorite is Oak Quarry in Riverside California. Beautiful, challenging but playable – although sometimes amazingly windy.

    “…. in its operating heyday supplied limestone, marble and 88 various minerals for the construction of roads, large buildings and private residences in the greater Los Angeles area. During World War I, Jensen Quarry was a major source of marble… abandoned in 1979. Twenty-two years later, Dr. Gil Morgan and Schmidt-Curley Design laid out one of California’s most incredible golf courses.”

    I live in the Netherlands – many of our golf courses benefit from minor “hills” thanks to old dumps!

  15. FatGuyGolf

    April 19, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Iron Valley GC in Lebanon PA is a scrappy P.B. Dye course on a former iron ore mine site, with dramatic elevation changes.

    Wildcat GC in Houston was built on a former landfill. There’s a few fun holes, but some lack definition from the tee.

    McCullough’s Emerald Links outside Atlantic City NJ was also built on a former landfill. Designer Stephen Kay modeled each hole after famous British Isles courses, though none are instantly recognizable copies. It also features Alastair Mackenzie’s Country Life mag contest winner, the 7th at Lido. A few too many blind shots and shoe-horned holes for my tastes.

  16. J.R. Schmidt

    April 19, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    Harborside International in Chicago. Two links-style courses on boggy industrial land reclaimed from boggy industrial Lake Calumet.

  17. Wiley

    April 19, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    Three Crowns in Casper WY an old Standard Oil refinery site.

  18. JS

    April 19, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    The Golf Club at Newcastle in the Bellevue area of WA was built on a landfill which had been a coal mine before that. The two courses are beautiful and challenging, but it is the amazing views of Bellevue, Lake Washington, Seattle, and the Olympic Mountains that sell the course for me. And if you are with the family and they don’t want to play golf, the clubhouse is spectacular. The 44,000 square foot building has an elegant restaurant and banquet facilities and also takes advantage of the views.

  19. Brad

    April 20, 2016 at 8:20 am

    I will second Iron Valley in Lebanon, PA one of my favorite courses anywhere with awesome views of the valley below, huge elevation changes, and some pretty tricky greens. One of the water hazards on the front 9 is actually an old mine shaft filled with water and they have a depth gauge that usually reads well over 800 feet. Great course and thought it might make this list.

  20. Dale Wesselman

    April 20, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Skyway Golf Course was designed by Roy Case and associate Jeff Grossman.

  21. Tim Gavrich

    April 20, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks Dale; made that change.

  22. David L.

    April 24, 2016 at 9:55 am

    City of Industry near LA has the Eisenhower and Babe courses on site of old landfill. Both interesting tracks.

  23. Ron Sutherland

    April 26, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    The Home Course in Dupont is built on the old munitions depot from WWII and the site of the old fort. Fantastic views and there are bunkers and rail line from the old fort and factory on the grounds. It has also hosted the US men’s amateur and US womens publinks championships. Aside from being the home of Washington’s golf organizations such as the WSGA and USGA.

  24. Richard Wambach

    April 26, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    Settlers Hill in Geneva,IL (40 miles west of Chicago) is on a former landfill and has become an area favorite. It is an interesting combination of links and parkland.

  25. Blaine

    May 4, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Harborside International Chicago.
    Original Chicago landfill reclaimed. I was there for the construction. Shaped the 36 holes on the landfill, dammed and drained a section of Lake Calumet. Hauled clay from the lake bottom and placed a 4′ cap, added “new earth” from the Chicago waste water reclamation dept. and blended with sand from Indiana, traded for clay. Turned a three year project into two by a force of 40 plus heavy equipment operators working 14 hours a day seven days a week!
    Lake dredge turned to new marina. Recycled onsite concrete to gravel for paths.
    Nearly 500,000 dump truck loads of new earth and sand, not including the clay haul.
    Impressive views to the city.

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