5 Most Exciting Courses in Development

By Tony Dear

Photo credit: Getty Images

In the decade since the Great Recession, the worlds of golf course construction and course architecture have undergone wholesale changes. The emphasis is now on quality rather than quantity, as well as natural over decorative, which means courses generally cost less to build and maintain and are far less harmful to the environment. A handful of courses exhibiting those trends are in the pipeline: Here are five of the most exciting, plus a few others that just opened.

IN THE WORKS

The Scottish government will have the final say on whether a new links course two miles north of Royal Dornoch can go ahead. The fate of Mike Keiser and Todd Warnock’s Coul Links will be decided when government ministers choose whether to uphold the local Highland Council’s approval of the project. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have completed the routing and project manager Chris Haspell is coordinating efforts ahead of the hearing in February. “We have everything from ecologists to legal representatives building our case for the enquiry,” Haspell says. “We have the Highland Council’s endorsement and the Highlands in general are very much behind us.” 

One hundred and ninety miles to the south near St. Andrews, another new links course is taking shape at Dumbarnie. Designed by Clive Clark on flattish ground next to Lundin Links, the public Dumbarnie is set to open in spring 2020. Project manager Paul Kimber says construction was completed last month and the course is now growing in. “The greenkeepers will perform routine maintenance over the winter,” he adds. “And we will tackle a few remaining areas in the spring.”

Dumbarnie (Photo by Clive Clark)

Tiger Woods’s first public course in the U.S. is scheduled to open late in the year at Big Cedar Lodge, the 800-acre wilderness resort in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains owned by Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris. Payne’s Valley will slot in alongside Big Cedar’s four other courses—Top of the Rock, Buffalo Ridge Springs, Mountain Top, and Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw’s Ozarks National which opened last September. A tribute to three-time major champion Payne Stewart who grew up just 50 miles away in Springfield, Mo., the 7,308-yard course will enhance Woods’s growing reputation for designing very playable courses with broad fairways and open green surrounds. A 202-yard 19th hole, designed by Morris, will bring you back to the clubhouse.

Tom Doak will design the two other projects in our top five. LINKS wrote about Sedge Valley, the Sand Valley Golf Resort’s next venture, two months ago, and it was announced last week on thefriedegg.com that Doak will rebuild Houston Memorial Golf Club, a municipal course that Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is hoping for the PGA Tour’s Houston Open. Doak, who has become increasingly interested in designing a Tour course, will work alongside Brooks Koepka in creating something that not only challenges the best players in the game but also records 60,000-plus public rounds every year. 

LOOKING AHEAD

Also in the works: The Tom Weiskopf-designed Feddinch Club, a private club in St. Andrews that should open in spring 2021.

Mike Nuzzo’s three nines at Grand Oaks Reserve in Cleveland, Texas, which he says will open next summer when the new residential community’s roads have been built.

Three more Gil Hanse designs—an addition to Robert von Hagge’s original layout at Les Bordes in France; Ballyshear at the Ban Rakat Club in Thailand; and a recently announced, yet unnamed, course at the PGA of America’s future headquarters in Frisco, Texas. Hanse’s design, to open in 2022, will neighbor a Beau Welling course, and is slated to host future Senior PGA, Women’s PGA, and PGA Championships, and possibly a Ryder Cup in 2040.  

RECENT OPENINGS

In May, OCCM Golf (Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking, and Mead) completed a major overhaul of a 2009 Jack Nicklaus design at Lanhai International Country Club in China, creating the new Yangtze Dunes, turning a TPC-style layout into a sandy links. 

Twin Dolphin in Los Cabos, Mexico, had been on the drawing board since before the recession but construction didn’t start until 2017. A Fred Couples Signature course, it features many arroyos and overlooks Santa Maria Bay 10 miles east of Cabo San Lucas. 

New Giza Golf Club, 20 miles west of central Cairo, Egypt, had its soft opening last month following four years of construction on a rocky site eight miles northwest of the Great Pyramids, which form a cool backdrop at the downhill, par-three 4th. 

Before he passed in August, 2016, Bob Cupp redesigned the city-owned Bobby Jones Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga., which had opened in 1933. Instead of retaining its cramped 18-hole routing, Cupp devised a reversible nine-hole course that his son Bobby saw to completion.

Gil Hanse’s acclaimed new build at the exclusive, match-play-only Ohoopee Match Club and his incredible redesign of Pinehurst No. 4 opened to similarly outstanding reviews in September and October respectively.

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