Monday, June 09, 2014

Viewing the US Open & a Lonnie Poole Golf Course update

The US Open is this week and the US Women’s Open is next week, both being played on Pinehurst No. 2, a wonderful (who am I to give it that description) creation of Donald Ross. Many say it’s his most creative, his best. Will I be there? Maybe, but probably only in spirit. I do not have tickets, didn’t even make an effort to get one, so, most likely, I’ll be watching in the comfort of my home, in front of my 60” VIZIO HD.

At the end of the four days, Thursday-Sunday, weather permitting and ties not welcome, there will be a Champion, but I believe the winner will be the golf course in particular and Pinehurst in general. Instead of using this space to write more about my take on this week’s tournament, I’ve penned a story for a new and creative website, Raleigh & Company. You may putt your way there by clicking on that link and take a look at the entire website, or you can drive directly to my story by going to Open for Viewing: The US Open in Pinehurst.

In my last post, in this space, NCGolfer, much of the article centered around the Rex Hospital Open golf tournament of the tour moving to Lonnie Poole Golf Course (LPGC) from the TPC at Wakefield Plantation. Nothing official yet on the move, but renovations at LPGC are underway with the touranment change in venue in mind and at an estimated price tag of $1,000,000! Yes, one million dollars, just four years after the course opened on the NC State University Centennial campus in Raleigh.

In the project, as written about earlier, there is a complete sand bunker overhaul. The sand is being removed down to the clay; the bottoms of the bunkers are being flattened to some degree; a layer of rock is being laid and then covered with a glue (for lack of a better explanation) over which will be a topping, then a liner and then new sand. Balls that land in the faces and walls of the bunkers should roll to the bottom to offer the golfer a flat and much easier shot. Some of the sand bunkers will be reshaped and be made smaller. Some of the islands will be removed. Work on the sand bunkers began in May with the completion date unknown.

In addition to the sand bunkers, all par three tee boxes will be rebuilt, according to those in the know. There are five par threes, and about 19 different teeing locations for the various tee markers. At LPGC, there are six different sets of tee markers with all but the NC State Competition tees out every day. View the scorecard at LPCG Scorecard. The reason for rebuilding the tee boxes is because: 1) they were too small to begin with; 2) more than 38,000 rounds a year are being played at LPGC; and, 3) the maintenance staff does not move the markers enough to prevent major destruction in specific spots (see reason No. 1).

And, it appears, just for the Rex Hospital Open, the 17th hole will be played from a new, temporary tee box. In the last post, I wrote that the second hole would change, but that idea has been nixed because of the cost of building a green to PGA Tour standards. But, the PGA Tour, we understand, is concerned about traffic flow from the 16th green to the 17th tee, so instead of the current tees for the 17th hole, a special tee is on the drawing board. It will be placed to the right of the 16th green between the 16th fairway and the 18th fairway. That’s actually a cost that does not need to be taken on by anyone. Despite the confluence of the 13th green, the 14th tee, the 16th green and the 17th tee, and the desire to spread the traffic flow, the course is fine just as it was designed. If it is built, those teeing off on No. 17 will be in danger or stray drives from the 16th and 18th tees, but the traffic flow will be better. Hah!

And, last but not least is the continuation of a drainage project that was started last year. There was not enough money to complete the project at that time, so it’s being rolled into the other renovations.With solid clay soil under all fairways, and with lots of low spots developed while building the course, drainage has been and probably will always be an issue at LPGC.

Again, total cost is said to be One Million Dollars (click the link) as Dr. Evil said in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. The question is: from where does the money flow? My guess is that some of it comes from the PGA Tour, if indeed the Rex Hospital Open is being moved to LPGC, but the remainder is a puzzle. No word from Dan Adams, NCSU Associate Vice Chancellor of Enterprise Services which oversees the entire operation of LPGC, but this is one case of the University putting in money to bring the course up to par with either a cash contribution or a “loan” of sorts to be repaid with donations. Inquiries have been made; no response has been forthcoming. Was that Dan Adams asking for the ransom money?

By the way, now that the course rankings for 2014 by the North Carolina Golf Panel are out, if the Rex Hospital Open moves to LPCG from TPC at Wakefield Plantation, the even will be moving from the 73rd ranked course (Wakefield) to No. 78 on the list: NC Golf Panel CourseRankings for 2014. In that ranking, Wakefield rose from No. 90 to No. 73 while LPGC dropped from No. 72 to No. 78, most likely the result of Wakefield hosting the NC Golf Panel one day last year and LPGC not.

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