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2010 Chapter Courses of the Year 

Each year the NGCOA and its chapters honor outstanding member facilities. The Chapter Course of the Year Award recognizes these facilities that epitomize exceptional course quality and management, while making important contributions to their communities and the game. The 2010 winners are:Industry Hills

California Golf Course of the Year
Industry Hills Golf Club at Pacific Palms Resort 
Industry Hills, California (about 20 miles east of Los Angeles)

Opened:  1980 (both courses) - Dwight D. Eisenhower (The Ike) & Babe Zaharias (The Babe)
Architects: William F. Bell (original design) & Casey O’Callaghan (renovation)
Facility type: Resort/semi-private
Owners: Ed Roski & John Semcken

Golf’s Shangri-la

“You wouldn’t know that Pacific Palms is located in the middle of one of the world’s most populous areas.  The 650-acre heavily wooded property, which includes two world-class golf courses with completely different characters, a 292-room resort hotel, and breathtaking views of the now snow-covered San Gabriel Mountains, provides the perfect getaway to relax and enjoy the game of golf and a number of other pastimes.  Each course is a masterpiece of design and conditioning.  The Ike is more of the macho tournament course with huge undulating greens, deep, kidney-shaped greenside bunkers, and elevation changes.  The Babe has smaller greens, shallower bunkers, but the fairways are somewhat narrower.  Like the resort itself, each course hole provides a lot of privacy so that players feel as if they’re out there by themselves.  While the golf club is open to the public, it also has more than 1,400 members.  To maintain the courses, we use only reclaimed water.  And because the courses were built over a landfill, collection systems under some fairways and the practice range collect methane gas to run the resort’s heating and air conditioning.  During a recent $22 million course renovation that took two years, a herd of 500 goats was brought in to clear-cut the hillsides of foliage up to six-feet high instead of using polluting machinery to do the job.  Pacific Palms has 12 PGA members or apprentices on staff to provide instruction at the club’s Golf Academy of Pacific Palms.  In addition, we have a Junior program that is one of the best in the country.  More than 300 kids, 17 years of age and under, participate annually.  Even though we are an oasis in the Los Angeles area, we take involvement in the community seriously.  For instance, The Land of the Free Foundation, which  was created by the owners, hosts the “Land of the Free Golf Classic” annually on Veterans Day.  In one day, we raise $1 million for beneficiaries in each branch of the military.  The tournament starts with the National Anthem, there is flyby by US Air Force bombers, and we have tanks and other military equipment on property from nearby Camp Pendleton.”

– Dave Youpa, director of golf   

Dunes WestCharleston Golf Course of the Year
Dunes West Golf Club 
Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina (separated from Charleston by the Cooper River)

Opened: November 1991
Architect: Arthur Hills
Facility: Semi-private
Owner: John Wieland Homes & Neighborhoods

Perfect marriage of golf and community

“Charleston is recognized nationally as one of the top destinations in the country for weddings.  Local brides voting on the Web site, www.theknot.com, rated Dunes West as the best place in Charleston for weddings or other special events because of its magnificent beauty.  Annually, 50-65 weddings are held here.  Dunes West is part of a 3,000-resident gated community on the site of the historic Lexington Plantation, among thousands of pine trees and 200-year-old oak trees covered in Spanish moss.  Two creeks wind throughout the property.  Even though homes line the world-class course, they are on two-acre lots and designed to fit in with the history of the area so they only add to the club’s charm.  We pride ourselves on customer service, providing the kind of hospitality for which the Low Country is known.  Anyone who visits Dunes West is made to feel welcome every step along the way – from the gate attendants to the course starters.  We provide a world-class golf experience at a fair price.  That’s why we have almost 900 members – the majority of which are young families – and log more than 40,000 rounds every year.  Besides golf, we also have three swimming pools, 10 tennis courts, a fitness center, and a boat launch.  Despite being part of a gated community, we connect with and open up the course to the surrounding community as much as possible.  Members have worked with Habitat for Humanity to build a home nearby.  We recently collected two truckloads of toys for Toys for Tots, and we conducted a fundraiser for a Mt. Pleasant resident whose home was destroyed by fire.  In addition, we give away hundreds of rounds to local charities, including a halfway home for kids, for which 18 volunteers raise money from sponsors by playing 100 holes of golf in a day.  Junior golf also is a big part of our commitment to the community.  The on-site Frank Moore Golf Academy provides year-round instruction to more than 100 kids, ages 6-17.  While we have no large-scale, formal environmental program, we have instituted our MAD (Make-A-Difference) Initiative in which we do everything possible to conserve and preserve.  For example, we routinely transplant tree saplings from areas on the course in which they might not survive to locations where they can thrive and add to the club’s beauty.” 

– Richard Rankin, general manager

HarmonyColorado Golf Course of the Year
Harmony Club
Timnath, Colorado (about two miles east of Fort Collins)

Opened: July 2007
Architect: Jim Engh
Facility type: Private
Owner: Byron Collins (Colorado developer)

Balance & harmony

“For those who love to play the game of golf the way it was meant to be played, Harmony Club is a paradise.  We are about creating relationships among golfers, and between golfers and the natural beauty that epitomizes Colorado.  Our focus is on enjoying the game of golf.  The interim clubhouse is a log cabin we call, what else, Harmony Cabin.  Golfers can pick up a sandwich, a sleeve of balls, a shirt – and then relax and tell the stories that make a round even better.  Golfers are here because they are players.  The club is located on a square mile piece of land with the front nine, on the eastern side of the property, being a wind-swept high plain.  The back nine, on the western portion of the property, is highlighted by significant elevation changes, expansive tree canopies, and a series of historic canals and agricultural ditches.  With the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, you have spectacular vistas.  Course conditions are impeccable, thanks to the efforts of our year-round maintenance staff.  When there is snow on the ground, they might be found building bird or bat houses, or tending to the quail or pheasant populations.  Harmony Club’s ongoing collaboration with the Agronomy Department of Colorado State University in Fort Collins helped set the stage to make this one of the few courses in the state with an organic fertility program.  No synthetic fertilizers are used.  Another relationship with the university is through support of its men’s and women’s golf teams.  Harmony built a state-of-the-art indoor practice facility which was then given to the university’s golf program.  We are the “Home of Ram Golf.”  With 140 members, Harmony Club is like a small town – the atmosphere is relaxed, friendly, and everybody knows your name.  We don’t, however, relax about attracting new members and retaining current ones.  In an economy that’s admittedly tough, we saw our membership grow 20 percent during 2009, and we’ve retained 96 percent of our membership since opening the course.  A modest number of annual tournaments – usually five or fewer – for various local charities sell out quickly because people want to experience the course’s beauty.  Participants are given “Membership-for-a-Day” cards to encourage outside play and market the club to the avid golfer.  Another big draw for families and golfers with little free time is the ability to play a leisurely round in four hours or less.  The name Harmony was chosen for a reason.  We are all about creating balance for like-minded people who enjoy golf.”

– Sheri Jensen, director of communications

Coral RidgeFlorida Golf Course of the Year
Coral Ridge Country Club
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Opened: 1954
Architect (and owner): Robert Trent Jones, Sr.
Facility type:  Private country club
Owners: Local businessmen and longtime members

It’s a family affair

“After building courses for other people, Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed Coral Ridge for himself and his family.  This was his personal course for more than 50 years before it was sold to the current owners.  The club hosts the Ione D. Jones/Doherty Women’s Amateur Championship – one of the oldest women’s amateur tournaments – and has produced winners like Patty Berg, Babe Zaharias, Joanne Carner, Natalie Gulbis, and Alexis Thompson.  Today, the emphasis is still on creating an atmosphere that attracts families.  In 2004, when we bought the club, the average member age was 64; now it’s 48, although we have 22 members over the age of 90, with the oldest being 104.  Today we have 800 members – more than ever before – and we’re sold out.  To make families a priority, we’ve added two courses for kids.  And there are more than 180 annual golf events at the club, from parent/child golf to golf using only hickory-shafted clubs.  In Florida, where the emphasis is on speed, we’ve slowed things down a bit by bringing back walking and pull carts, which has been very popular.  Also, we put a focus on growing the game.  More than 1,000 kids – from 4-years-old and up – attend our camps, which run 11 weeks in the summer and two weeks in the winter, and are open to the public.  We participate in the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) to teach children motor and rotary skills used in most sports, not just golf.  You might see kids in this program kicking field goals and wrestling.  To connect with the community, Coral Ridge is the home course for three local high schools – boys and girls teams.  We donate thousands of rounds to organizations like Junior Achievement, the University of South Florida Medical Center, First Priority (high-school bible study group), and food pantries.  We also hosted the Jeb Bush (former Florida governor) Tournament raising $1 million for local charities and attracting PGA pros like Rocco Mediate, Jesper Parnevik, and Bruce Fleisher.  The course itself is a typical ‘hard par, easy bogey’ Jones design, with small, elevated greens; generous fairways; and aircraft-carrier-type tees.  Despite being located just across the street from the Intercoastal Waterway and close to the Atlantic, the course has only four holes with water.  In 1954, when the course opened, it was 7,100 yards, long even by today’s standards.  For women, it’s a par 74 at more than 6,000 yards.  Our members not only love the course, but they love playing it because it offers something for everyone.”

– J.J. Sehlke, managing partner

RIVERPINES CLUB HOUSEGeorgia Golf Course of the Year
RiverPines Golf 
Alpharetta, Georgia (northern suburb of Atlanta)

Opened: November 1990 (par-3 course and practice facility); November 1992 (18-hole championship course)
Architect: Denis Griffiths
Facility type: Public daily fee
Owner: Roger Miers

Lasting memories

“It’s been 15 years since my partner in creating RiverPines, Toby Chapin, died of a rare cancer.  Toby and I were buddies since 7th grade and together we built this course.  We keep his memory alive with an annual tournament that has been very successful and funds 100 percent of a family room on the oncology floor of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.  Twenty-three local pros – one with each foursome – participate in the two-day tourney which has raised as much as $63,000 for the hospital.  Children participate during the tournament’s first day with an event on the par-3 course; the next day the tournament moves to the championship course.  Team members…that’s what we’re about at RiverPines, and that’s what makes us unique.  There are no employees here, just team members.  We work extremely hard about developing a team concept so that every person who sets foot on this beautiful 186-acre piece of land feels like this is their club.  Our full-and part-time team members don’t worry about departmental boundaries; we help each other wherever and whenever the need arises.  Yes, the focus is on golf – not on attracting PGA tournaments – but it’s about providing a high-quality ‘guest’ experience for the golfing public.  It is important that our guests are made to feel at ease, knowing we are ready to service their golfing needs.  In addition to the championship course and the par-3 course, we have a full-service practice facility.  Our director of teaching is one of Golf Magazine’s top 100 teaching pros.  And there is an active Junior program that goes year round and often sells out.  RiverPines was built on land that has been in my family for almost 100 years, and was once used for farming.  It begins on an upland plateau and falls off toward the Chattahoochee River, so there are significant elevation changes.  Two creeks meander throughout the property and empty into the river.  Towering loblolly pines and water oaks populate the land and create nice buffers between holes.  It’s a wonderful natural setting of which we are good stewards through common-sense maintenance and the efforts of a top-notch course superintendent.  In fact, the water that flows into the Chattahoochee from the two creeks is cleaner than when it entered property.  Golf courses are excellent filtration systems and RiverPines is no exception.  Everything we do here is designed to give the golfer a lasting memorable experience for years to come.”

– Roger Miers, owner

HawthornIndiana Golf Course of the Year
The Hawthorns Golf & Country Club
Fishers, Indiana (northeastern suburb of Indianapolis)

Opened: 1993 (9 holes); 1994 (9 holes)
Architect: Arthur Hills
Facility type: Private country club
Owner: HDG Mansur Capital Group

All in the Family

“Our vision is to be recognized as the premier, full-service, family-oriented club in the Midwest.  That’s always uppermost in our minds in everything we do here at the Hawthorns and it has been since the club opened – long before it became popular.  Last year – in 2009 – when golf was struggling and many private clubs were in financial trouble, we added 40 new members, almost all families.  We now have 460 members (average age: 47) with a total of 850 kids (median age: 12).  When we built our permanent clubhouse in 1999, for example, we included a gymnasium, focused on kids.  Also, our Arbor Grill is the place where kids can come to hangout, to be comfortable and safe.  After school and on weekends – even at night, it’s usually packed.  We’re on the cutting edge of family-friendly activities, even providing child care at all times.  Beyond the typical activities you’d find at a club like golf, tennis, and swimming lessons, we have father-daughter dances; pre-teen dances; tots dance lessons; kids’ fitness classes; kids’ night out with movies, games, pizza; arts/crafts classes; Breakfast with Santa – the list goes on.  Our family-focus reputation builds and feeds on itself by word of mouth because we do little marketing.  Prospective members always come to the Hawthorns to see what’s available as a family, as opposed to only dad looking at the golf course.  We have a great connection with the community as well, hosting fundraising golf tournaments – in some cases, providing direct financial support – for such groups as the Children’s Wish Foundation, or area schools.  We do annual Christmas gift collection campaigns for needy families in the area.  And we are an example of how real estate development and environmental stewardship can co-exist.  In 1992 – before the course opened – the Hawthorns was one of the first members of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program; the USGA and the Audubon produced a video about such cooperation and gave it to all USGA members.  As a result of having a world-class golf course with almost 100 acres of natural wetlands, we’ve hosted a number of high-profile tournaments, including the PGA of America Callaway Boys’ Junior Tournament Series, the Women’s Western Golf Association National Girls’ Championship, and the NCAA Men’s Division III National Championship.  Usually club membership is the first thing to go when times are tough.  Our members say that the Hawthorns would be the last thing to give up.”

– Al Martel, chief operating officer, Leisure Division

Michigan Golf Course of the Year
Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa
Thompsonville, Michigan (28 miles southwest of Traverse City)

Opened: Mountain Ridge, 1998; Betsie Valley, 1977 (redone 2001)
Architect: Mountain Ridge, William Newcomb; Betsie Valley, Ray Hearn (2001 redo)
Facility type: Semi-private/resort
Owners: MacInnes & Petritz families

Responsible growth of golf

“Crystal Mountain’s interest in growing the game is manifest not only in increasing the number of players through quality Junior and instructional programs, but also in maintaining and growing our two championship courses in an environmentally sustainable way.  For example, Golf Magazine recognized us as having one of the “Top 25 Golf Schools” in America.  Since 1994 – when the school was established – our directors of golf and instruction have been holding training clinics year round here and throughout the state of Michigan, even reaching into Florida on behalf of Crystal Mountain.  Our Junior Elite program has produced three Michigan amateur champions in the last eight years.  Two of our instructors have received the Michigan PGA President’s Plaque for contributions to the growth of the game.  Our instructors also give back to the community.  Clinics have been held in which the fees have been donated to the local Habitat for Humanity, and during the Christmas season, the Tips for Toys program provided 30-minute indoor lessons in exchange for a new unwrapped toy.  Environmentally, we partner with Michigan State University to do research to help create sustainable golf course maintenance practices.  Tests currently are being conducted on the 7th hole of Betsie Valley to determine the outcome when inputs are reduced by 15%.  In addition, we offer every outing the opportunity to purchase wind energy credits from Renewable Choice Energy of Boulder, CO to cover the event’s carbon footprint.  The transaction – which is voluntary and doesn’t affect Crystal Mountain’s outing fee – is based on the number of participants, distance traveled, and the amount of energy used during the event itself.  While many decline the offer, the overall response to our commitment to environmental stewardship has been overwhelming.  Our customers appreciate our philosophy to build an environmentally responsible and sustainable business.  Not only do these initiatives serve to raise awareness, but they serve our bottom line as well.  While both of our courses are challenging to golfers of every skill level, Mountain Ridge is our signature course and host of the Michigan PGA Women’s Open.  It’s also the longer of the two courses.  Our approach to golf extends beyond the meticulously groomed fairways and greens and stunning panoramas.  At the heart of our ideology is ensuring the growth of the game and maintaining its integrity for generations to come.”

– Brian Lawson, director of public relations 

Midwest Golf Course of the Year
Ridges at Sand Creek
Jordan, Minnesota (about 40 miles south of Minneapolis)

Opened: July 2000
Architect: Joel Goldstrand
Facility type: Daily fee, no memberships
Owner:  Malone Golf, Inc.

A friendly game among friends

“Ridges at Sand Creek is coming up on its 10th anniversary and it has been 10 really good years.  We take pride in working with our customer base – putting together events for them, finding games for them, finding out why they like to play here and then focusing on putting those reasons into action.  Golf is all about being social, about having fun, and that’s how we look at golf and it’s why I built this course after 20 years of working for someone else.  People can golf anywhere, but for the most part, they want to play where their friends are.  We strive to be that destination.  As a result of that philosophy being embraced by our seven full-time staffers and 80 part-timers, we’ve been named the 2010 Golf World Readers’ Choice 33rd best course in the nation.  Rather than a lot of high-profile events, we focus on club events, on a tournament schedule for anyone…in keeping with our ‘golf is fun’ outlook and our desire to create lifetime golfers.  We sell a “player’s card” that provides half-price golf year round and corporate cards in which the discount grows with the number of cards purchased.  When you make golf a friendly activity, the demand will be there.  We have a vigorous Junior program and our Golf with the Gals has been extremely popular.  It starts at 7 p.m. with instruction on our 40-station practice facility, followed by three holes of golf, followed by a social gathering in our banquet facility.  The first night drew more than 140 players.  Ever since, we’ve had to trim back because we reached our limit immediately.  Both nines at the Ridges – with tight, thick bluegrass on tees and fairways – start on top of a ridge and work their way down.  The seven holes on top have a rolling links feel.  The eleven holes at the bottom of the ridge are tight and tree-lined, and they all come in contact with Sand Creek, which is anything but one’s typical image of a creek.  It’s 75-feet wide and packs a lot of energy.  Add the fifty-four bunkers and the Ridges has great variety, great challenges, and provides an exciting Northwoods experience.  Even though there are home sites on the property, we built the 40 homes so they are at the course rather than on the course.  And starting this year, we will turn over a few acres of out-parcels to anyone in the community interested in growing vegetables or flowers.”

– Michael Malone, owner & PGA pro

Myrtle Beach Golf Course of the Year
Shaftesbury Glen Golf and Fish Club
Conway, South Carolina (10 minutes from the heart of Myrtle Beach)

Opened: 2001
Archtiect: Clyde Johnston
Facility type: Public daily fee
Owners: Jack Himmelsbach, Paul Himmelsbach, and Marvin Arnsdorff

The real thing

“With 102 golf courses in Myrtle Beach, a city of only about 25,000 permanent residents, but millions of visitors annually, you have to do things a bit differently to make your course stand out.  We have done several at Shaftesbury, named after a town near England’s southern coast from which the land’s original owners – the Johnsons – emigrated.  When we built the course, the architect, Clyde Johnston, tried to imitate Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, site of five US Opens, as closely as possible.  We used Winged Foot’s original plans in a tribute to its architect, A.W. Tillinghast. There are elevated, rectangular tees; raised greens that slope from back to front; wide fairways; and about 90 huge, exquisitely sculptured bunkers.  Conditioning is perfect.  In fact, our greens have been voted the best bent-grass greens in Myrtle Beach.  And when we opened, Golf Digest nominated Shaftesbury the best new public course in America.  While brown may be considered the new green in golf, we continue to over-seed wall-to-wall because we are a tourist destination and golfers from up north expect to see green when they come here.  Then there is our inviting clubhouse, built to resemble an Olde English manor, overlooking the course and the Waccamaw River.  Last year, we added a second story that includes five 2-bedroom, 1,100 sq. ft. luxury suites so our visitors can stay and play.  When guests aren’t on the course, they can use the practice green and range.  Or they can wander down to the pier on the river and do a little bass fishing.  In spite of the economy, we are pleased with the response to our lodging amenity, particularly when you consider there are 150 other hotels from which to choose in Myrtle Beach.  In 2009, Golf World Magazine ranked us the 34th best golf resort in America.  Lastly, there is the friendly reception every customer receives from the staff here at Shaftesbury.  And this is honest-to-goodness, original Southern hospitality.  This is something that can’t be imitated.  There is nothing else like it anywhere.  Giving our guests a comfortable and enjoyable experience is our first priority.  We also try to be involved in the community as much as possible. For example, we are the home course for a local high school with our pros providing coaching.  We also sponsor a YMCA tournament annually.  While the course is a faithful recreation of Winged Foot and the clubhouse a recreation of an English manor, it all adds up to a world-class experience that is the real thing.”

– Jack Himmelsbach, co-owner & general manager

Siena Golf ClubNevada Golf Course of the Year
Siena Golf Club 
Las Vegas, Nevada

Opened: June 2000
Architects: Lee Schmidt & Brian Curley
Facility type: Resort/daily fee
Owner:  Jamison Services

Less is more

“Siena Golf Club, which is only about 10 miles off the Strip, was the one of the first courses in the area to work with the Las Vegas Valley Water District to reduce its water use through a turf reduction program.  Since we began that program in 2003, we’ve replaced more than 50 acres of turf with natural desert landscape.  The property itself totals more than 145 acres.  As a result of the turf program, we’ve had a 30-40% reduction in water usage which is very important in this part of the country and it’s less costly to maintain the exceptional quality and playability of Siena.  Also, the course’s character has been enhanced, and its more than 97 white-sand bunkers and the six water holes are framed better.  Siena’s concern for the environment extends to the community as well.  Annually, more than 400 rounds of golf are donated to local charities, like the Nevada Cancer Institute, Make-A-Wish, Rally for the Cure, and UNLV (University of Nevada-Las Vegas) athletics.  Those rounds are used in silent auctions, raffles, and as giveaways for outing prizes.  In addition, the course annually sponsors two local high school golf programs.  They use our dual-ended practice facility and our course for their matches.  While the club doesn’t have a formal Junior golf program, its Siena Golf Academy does offer one-on-one instruction by appointment and a number of 60-minute clinics for groups on various aspects of the game.  Our head pro, Gerry Montiel, and full-time PGA instructor, Kim Dolan, are always busy giving instruction.  In addition, we have a Player Improvement Program (PIP) that gives participants range privileges, reduced green fees, and teaching clinics for a monthly fee.  The idea is to encourage players to practice and learn the game and then take advantage of the world-class course.  Siena averages about 45,000 rounds annually and in 2009 almost 110 outings (16 or more players) were accommodated.”

– Tony Lenzie, director of operations

New England Golf Course of the Year
Granite Links Golf Club

Quincy, Massachusetts (Boston suburb) 

Opened: 9 (2003); 18 (2005); 27 (2007)
Architect: John Sanford
Facility type: Semi-private
Owners: William & Peter O’Connell (general partners)

Boston Tee Party

“What was once a landfill and a granite quarry is now one of New England’s premier golf courses, and what Golf Digest voted as one of the top 10 best new upscale courses in the country when it opened.  Today, according to the publication, it is one of America’s top 100 greatest courses.  More than 13 million tons (900,000 truckloads) of dirt – courtesy of Boston’s Big Dig – were brought in to cap the landfill and fill in the quarry to build Granite Links which is 284 feet above sea level, with spectacular views of downtown Boston only seven miles away, and the Harbor Islands and Blue Hills Reservation.  The links-style course still features quarry outcroppings and ponds from 10-85 feet deep.  Seven holes have water and the course is one of only two in New England with white silica sand bunkers.  Conditions are second to none thanks to Brad MacDonald, our superintendent, who was once assistant to Bill Spence at The Country Club at Brookline, a course that has hosted three US Opens, five US Amateurs and was one of the USGA’s five founding clubs in 1894.  Brad was taught by one of the best and is now one of the best, and it shows.  In addition to fantastic golf, we also have one of the few lighted driving ranges in the region, featuring a PGA pro who walks the line providing free 20-minute lessons to members and non-members.  And when the clubs are put away for the day, Granite Links offers what Golf Digest has designated as one of the country’s top 50 best 19th holes.  The Tavern at Quarry Hills located in our 43,000 sq. ft. clubhouse overlooks a water-filled quarry with views also of Boston’s skyline.  As a result of our great course, facilities, and service, membership has been constantly growing.  We now have 360 members, with 15 new members already in 2010.  Throughout the recession, our golf and restaurant business held up well, while corporate functions declined.  Granite Links is a partner with both the city of Quincy and the town of Milton, sharing the club’s proceeds with the communities.  We also donate the course and food to each community annually for an outing to benefit the charity of their choice.  Between the two, more than $50,000 is raised for charity every year.  Quincy Medical Center also uses the course for an annual fundraising event.  In addition, three area high schools call Granite Links their home.  We are strictly a golf club.  People like to play here because of the conditions and the service.  And don’t be surprised if you see celebrities like Bill Russell, John McEnroe, Jane Blalock, Mark Wahlberg, Doc Rivers, or a number of others also having fun enjoying one of America’s great golf venues.”

– Walter Hannon, general manager & limited partner


New Jersey Golf Course of the Year
Atlantic City Country Club
Northfield, New Jersey (across Lakes Bay from the casinos of Atlantic City)

Opened: 1897
Architects: John Reid (1897); Willie Park, Jr. (1915); Howard C. Toomey & William S. Flynn (1925); Tom Doak (1999)
Facility type: Semi-private/Resort
Owner:  Harrah’s Entertainment

Hallowed Ground

“If you’re a history buff who likes to play golf where many of the game’s legends have walked, you can’t do better than Atlantic City Country Club.  In 1911, Johnny McDermott, the club’s professional, became the first U.S.-born citizen to win the U.S. Open.  And he did it at the age of 19 – still the youngest U.S. Open winner.  Babe Zaharias won the first of three Women’s Open Championships here in 1948.  And in 1980, we were the site of the first PGA senior tour event.  In addition, the words ‘birdie’ and ‘eagle’ were coined here.  In 1903, after a player hit a shot to the 12th green (now the chipping green) that allowed him to score one under par, his partners said, “That’s a bird of a shot.”  Bird, at the time, was a favorable term so they called one under par a birdie.  Until 2007, Atlantic City was a private club, catering to New York’s and Philadelphia’s ‘high rollers’ and many celebrities, including Bob Hope who was a regular.  A few years following the re-design by Tom Doak, which brought the course back to its original condition, it was opened to the public.  Now anyone is able to experience the fabulous conditions, renowned friendly service, unrestricted views of Atlantic City (the city) across Lakes Bay, and ocean breezes that make playing Atlantic City different every day.  While relatively flat, the links-style course, in which the entire back nine runs along the bay, has deep bunkers; undulating, fast greens; and par 70.  This is the longest 6,500-yard course you’ll ever play.  In 2008, GOLF Magazine named us one of the “Top 100 courses you can play.”  And when the round is over, the experience doesn’t stop.  Golf Digest named the club’s Tap Room Bar & Grille one of the top 50 19th holes in golf.  Despite turning public, it hasn’t been easy the last couple years, but there is demand for the quality experience we provide and we are still seeing increases in business.  We are now aggressively marketing our historic clubhouse for weddings and banquets; we’ve started “Nine & Dine” on Friday nights; we’re enhancing already strong junior and women’s programs; we’ll be establishing a Play Golf America event here this year; and  we’re working on Audubon certification.  In addition, cottages on the property will be renovated and opened to guests.  Plus, we’re continuing charitable fundraising through the Ron Jaworski Celebrity Shootout, which is in its 17th year and soon could be broadcast on the NFL Network, and our annual tournament supporting Marine Corps. efforts to help veterans’ families.”

– Charles Fahy, director of operations and a PGA member


Ohio Golf Course of the Year
River Greens Golf Course
West Lafayette, Ohio (about 100 miles south of Cleveland, just west of I-77)

Opened: 1966 (Rivers nine); 1967 (Greens nine); 1994 (Pines nine)
Architect: Jack Kidwell
Facility type: Public access w/memberships
Owners: George Davis family  

A place to relax and recreate

“With so many great courses in Ohio, it’s an honor to be recognized as course of the year.  We’re in a river valley, a rural area far from any large cities where farming is still the big industry.  We’re certainly not in the limelight, but our family and employees work hard to keep River Greens a well-conditioned, well-groomed course where people can enjoy a relaxing round of golf and recreate with their friends.  That’s been my father’s philosophy ever since he decided to turn the 125-acre family farm into a golf course (which has since grown to 250 acres).  He and my grandfather moved most of the dirt themselves at the direction of Jack Kidwell, the architect.  Our family continues to apply a “morning ‘til dark” work ethic.  My sister runs the restaurant and full kitchen; my brother-in-law is the course superintendent.  We draw from a wide circle, ranging from Cleveland to Parkersburg, from Columbus to Pittsburgh.  Golf Digest has consistently given River Greens 4-1/2 stars.  It’s an easy course to walk for just about anyone because the land is relatively flat.  There isn’t a lot of bunkering, but there are many large pine trees and the Tuscarawas River borders four holes.  In addition, we recently opened a driving range on 11-12 acres with a 25,000 sq. ft. hitting area and eight target greens.  We try to be a community asset, a kind of local gathering place.  Three area high school teams consider River Greens their home course, and, for the past three years, we have hosted the Ohio Athletic Conference championship for Division III colleges.  Every Memorial Day weekend we host the 36-hole Coshocton Invitational for Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia amateurs, and in August we host the 54-hole Eastern Ohio Amateur drawing 80-90 players, many of whom are on college teams.  In 1991, we started a Junior tournament in which probably about 120 kids participate every July.  While corporate outings recently have declined, business has held up well and we continue to host a number of fundraising events for local charities like Habitat for Humanity.  Moreover, our banquet business has been a nice supplement.  We have a facility that accommodates 100 people for weddings, graduations, and class reunions, and an open-air shelter for picnics.  The bridge on our 27th hole provides a really nice background for weddings.  We put everything back into River Greens because it’s our goal to make sure our customers have a good time on a course that’s always in good shape.  It’s that simple.”

– Doug Davis, son of George Davis, and a PGA pro

WyncotePennsylvania-East Golf Course of the Year
Wyncote Golf Club 
Oxford, Pennsylvania (about 40 miles southwest of Philadelphia)

Opened: 1993
Architect: Brian Ault
Facility type: Daily fee (with memberships available)
Owner: Jim Pepple

Businesses – not dreams – are made of this

“After 13 years as a dairy farmer, I became bored.  So I built a golf course on land perfect for golf, but in an area that didn’t have a large population.  Consequently, I had to build something fantastic to draw players from Philadelphia and Baltimore.  While I was no expert on golf, I did know how to grow grass, coming from a farming family.  When Wyncote opened in 1993, Golf Digest rated us the country’s 3rd best new course.  Two years later, the magazine ranked us the state’s best public course.  My wife came up with the name which is Welsh for “windy cottage.”  And our first clubhouse was a 1,600 sq. ft. cottage.  As a windswept ‘bump-and-run’ rolling, treeless course that sits on the highest point in Chester County, we’ve been compared to Shinnecock.  Tee to green it’s bent grass, and when we opened we had parking lot attendants – things that were unheard of at the time here in Dutch Amish country.  Our service and quality resulted in tremendous business and big annual increases until 9/11, when revenue dropped 30 percent.  Ever since, we’ve been building back.  The last couple of years haven’t helped.  Moreover, 40 courses have been built within 60 miles since 1993.  Fortunately, we have a staff that’s committed, on top of their game, and homegrown.  Nearby Penn State has fabulous golf superintendent and course management programs, and our director of golf and superintendent are both graduates…plus they used to work here as youngsters.  In fact, all of Wyncote’s pros and superintendents grew up in the area.  In 1998, I persuaded local native Jim Furyk to play a skins match to benefit Habitat for Humanity.  The first Exelon Invitational included Sergio Garcia, Justin Leonard, and Lee Jansen.  We were drawing up to 20,000 people when the tournament outgrew Wyncote.  We also created the Wyncote Players Championships which ran for 13 years for the top money winners of the Philadelphia PGA section to benefit the Red Cross.  By 2003, we had raised $450,000 for local charities.  In addition, we virtually created golf programs for the local high schools and Wyncote has been a First Tee facility for five years.  As much as we care for the community, we are minimalists in course maintenance.  For example, we probably use half the water of other area courses, we’re experimenting with chicken manure as fertilizer, and we’re injecting molasses into our greens to stimulate bacteria that decompose thatch, allowing us to cut fertilizer use by 10 percent and skip one aeration annually.  While I built Wyncote as a business rather than to fulfill a dream, there have been some nightmares along the way, but overall I have had no real complaints.”

– James Pepple, owner 

Pennsylvania-West Golf Course of the Year
Birdsfoot Golf Club
Freeport, Pennsylvania (about 40 minutes northeast of Pittsburgh)

Opened: 9 (2002); 18 (2003)
Architect: Jim Cervone; Ault, Clark & Associates
Facility type: Daily fee, with memberships and various level golf passes available
Owners: Lindsay Golf Group Ltd.

Celebrate good times

“With the song “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang playing in the background, our counter staff dances and enjoys themselves as they welcome guests to the club.  This is the kind of atmosphere we want to create at Birdsfoot.  While doing our due diligence before building the course, we found that many other clubs weren’t as welcoming or as fun as they could be.  Our focus is that this is a good-time business and that we are going to do as much as possible – no matter how small – to make this a unique experience for guests.  For example, to start every event, my cousin, Michelle, the club’s event coordinator, walks down the 18th fairway toward the clubhouse in full Scottish attire playing the bagpipes.  We also fire a World War II cannon.  We involve our 5,000 e-mail database by asking addressees to submit secret passwords for special deals.  Those whose passwords are selected receive a greens fee discount.  As a result of things like these and a staff committed to a good-time philosophy, our business has grown every year since we opened.  And we have a high re-book rate for corporate outings.  It helps, however, that the course itself is awesome – one of Pittsburgh’s most popular places to play and a 4-1/2 star rating by Golf Digest.  This used to be the family farm, the land purchased by my grandfather from the 1940s through the 1960s.  But development was moving this way so we decided to build Birdsfoot, even though no one in the family was a golfer.  The land is rolling, about 1,100 feet above sea level in the Buffalo Creek Valley.  The architect and developer were amazed at how beautiful this piece of land is; they were excited that no housing would be developed and the best spots could be used for greens and tees.  The front nine is links style, while the back has elevation changes and woods – a parkland feel.  And it’s all bent grass from tee to green.  Our clubhouse is an 1860s farm house, with events held in a walled, heated tent.  We have a range with a grass teeing area about half the size of a football field.  The Dave Pelz Golf School holds clinics here, and our Junior instruction program is strong.  We connect with the community by donating 3,000 coupon cards to local charities each year that can be used for fundraising; building and maintaining a baseball field for the North and South Buffalo Little Leagues; being a local school’s home course; and providing instruction for the Western Pennsylvania Minority Golf Association.  A local artist has carved the face of a gnome or “Bogeyman” in the bark of trees along the cart path.  Golf Magazine said, ‘Grim-faced…they’re likely to be the only faces that aren’t smiling at Birdsfoot.’”

– Travis Lindsay, operations manager

Sandhills Golf Course of the Year
Seven Lakes Country Club
West End, North Carolina (a10-15 minute drive from Pinehurst #2)

Opened: 1976
Archtiect: Peter Tufts III (Donald Ross’ godson)
Facility type: Member-owned equity club (non-member play also allowed)
Owners: 225 members

Change for the better

“The community in which we’re located – Seven Lakes – was originally developed for retirees, but there is a demographic transition taking place to a younger, family-oriented environment.  Because we draw most of our members from Seven Lakes North, South, and West, the club also is experiencing a similar change.  More and more new members are now young families.  During the last several years, we’ve made many improvements and updates to what was already a terrific course to facilitate that change.  We enhanced the course’s playability with a new irrigation system, several new tees, renovated bunkers, and a greater focus on aesthetic standards.  Our efforts were rewarded when the North Carolina Golf Panel ranked us 89th in the state last year.  This year, we are 86th.  When you consider there are about 650 courses in the state, this is quite an accomplishment, especially entering the list at 89.  We’re also one of the few courses in the area that has recognized that brown is the new green.  We don’t over-seed in the winter.  This is an important part of our philosophy because it helps control costs without sacrificing quality.  And that’s significant in today’s economy.  We use less water, less electricity, and cut down on machinery wear and labor.  Initially, players were critical and thought the fairways were burned out, but they are recognizing that while green looks great on TV, it has little to do with playability.  What all of this does, however, is help keep our dues extremely reasonable.  We have an under-55 membership that’s tough to beat in terms of cost.  One way that non-member players can play Seven Lakes is by purchasing the Sandhills Golf Association’s Golf Capitol Card providing discounts on the 14 member courses, of which we are one.  Another improvement has been a new and expanded practice facility, helping to attract non-member play.  The course itself is links style in that you don’t return to the clubhouse between nines, but it is lined with mature pine trees for which the Sandhills area is known.  What is unique is that Seven Lakes has a lot of movement in the terrain, with elevation changes adding to the course’s complexity.  While we don’t do many outings, we are active in our community through the chamber, convention & visitors bureau, and our Business Guild.  Another priority is involvement with charities.  Every month a member committee reviews donation requests for which we contribute hundreds of rounds annually.  We also regularly host several large tournaments, including the Eastern Junior Golf Association Championship, the TYGA TarHeel Youth Golf Association East-West Challenge, the Moore County Amateur Championship, and the Carolinas Golf Association Father-Son Championship.”

– Mike Spayd, CCM, general manager

Wisconsin Golf Course of the Year
Stevens Point, Wisconsin (in the heart of Wisconsin about 160 miles northwest of Milwaukee;  100 miles north of Madison; or 90 miles west of Green Bay)

Opened:   1982
Course architect:  Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
Facility type:   High-end, daily fee
Owner:   Sentry Insurance Company

Thinking locally, acting globally

“While SentryWorld is still considered a destination course with 30-40 percent of its customers coming from outside a three-hour driving radius, we have become a top-ranked instructional facility during the past ten years that caters to teaching and developing local and state golfers for the good of the game.  It’s interesting how we have evolved and are now committed to participating in PGA and WSGA (Wisconsin State Golf Association) training camps and leagues for golfers of all ages and abilities.  Few locals used to play the course because of the perception that it was too expensive or only for the best players.  Now we have a teaching staff that is headed by the Wisconsin PGA player of the year, an indoor practice facility that draws players from 40-50 miles away year round, and we are incorporating the “Get Golf Ready” program.   Our teacher-to-student ratio for instructional programs is 1 to 5.  Also, for the last 14 years, we’ve hosted an annual five-day long Wisconsin PGA Junior Camp that draws intermediate to advanced juniors from throughout the state and has been led by such golfers as Steve Stricker and Manuel de la Torre, one of the game’s best-known teachers.  This year we hope to have Dennis Tiziani.  Instead of memberships, SentryWorld has a pass program offering benefits based on the level purchased – platinum, gold, or silver.  We have made playing what Golf Digest has ranked the fifth best public course in Wisconsin and what Golf World Readers’ Choice has placed in the country’s top 50 courses a very affordable experience.  The continuity of our staff also is a big reason for our growth and development.  I’ve been with SentryWorld for 15 years and I’m considered the “rookie.”  Our superintendent and chef have been here 30 years; our general manager, 24 years; the tennis pro, 22 years; and the pro shop manager, 21 years.  When the course was being built in the early 1980s, our superintendent - then a teenager - worked here picking up rocks.  Sentry Insurance has made this a great place to work and it shows in the service we provide our customers.  It also shows in how well we’ve done despite the economy.  In 2009, we were off only four percent from the year before which was a very good year.  SentryWorld is a classic, all-natural design.  You know you’re in the northwoods with the thousands of mature deciduous trees and towering pines, and 35 acres of spring-fed lakes, highlighted by five acres of flower beds, including the famous par 3, 16th “Flower Hole” with 45,000 flowers.  Whether you’re from Milwaukee, Chicago, or Minneapolis or from Stevens Point, Wausau, or Waupaca, SentryWorld is a world-class golf experience affordable for everyone.”

– Brian Dumler, director of golf

© 2000, National Golf Course Owners Association