The primary objective for course co-designer A. John Harvey when he was asked to oversee a major renovation of the Grande Dunes Resort Course this past summer was to reestablish the full meaning of ‘grand’ in the course name.
Already large greens were rebuilt and further enlarged to reflect their original size, wide fairways were further restored, and bunkers were rebuilt to give them the character that had been lost over the years.
“With Grande Dunes, the motif was to be grand,” Harvey said. “As you see it, the wide fairways, you can mishit a golf ball. As many challenges that we have created with the lagoons and [other hazards], you could miss a tee shot or approach and you could still be in the grass or fairway. So the scale of things, and even the bunkering was meant to be large and be accommodating for everybody.”
The Resort Course closed from May 15 to Aug. 15 and the project included the installation of TifEagle ultradwarf Bermudagrass on greens and a significant reconfiguration of the interior of the clubhouse.
The 7.578-yard course’s design is credited to Roger Rulewich, and he and Harvey, who was a member of his staff, shared much of the design planning and implementation for a 2001 opening.
In order to retain the design integrity, course owner Founders Group International hired Harvey to oversee the renovations and team with Max Morgan, FGI vice president and director of agronomy who was also involved with the original construction.
“It’s been a thrill to be involved in a project that meant so much to me when we were building it and designing it, and now seeing it 22-plus years later and being involved with such a top-notch admirable company such as Founders Group International, it’s a blessing,” Harvey said.
An extensive project
Every green and bunker on the course was rebuilt.
The greens, including practice putting surfaces, were stripped of a 3-inch layer of thatch that had formed over the years and impacted the drainage and the health of the grass.
Harvey said the course regained approximately an acre of putting surface, back to an average green size of approximately 9,000 square feet. Greens had lost both their sizes and shapes over two decades.
“The greens, instead of having multiple pin areas and sort of an organic shape, evolved into more of an oval shape. So many of those pin positions were lost,” Harvey said. “So our mission was to sensitively reestablish and restore those lost pin positions.
“. . . I’d say we at least doubled the amount of pin positions and in some cases even tripled them.”
Only the par-4 ninth green underwent an appreciable design change, as the back right quarter of the green was flattened out to add a plateau pin placement option.
Bunkers regained some of their lost definition, some additional definition was added including fingers, and some bunkers were downsized, some were combined and some were split into two. Edging over the years generally added to their size and decreased their definition.
Aerial photos from the course’s early years were used to reestablish the contours of the bunkers.
“Many of the noses that were instituted as part of the original design were lopped off,” Harvey said.
Some bunkers were moved 10 to 15 yards, including the bunker on the inside left side of the 18th fairway to make it more of an obstacle for longer hitters.
A porous Capillary Concrete layer was installed as a liner in the bunkers that didn’t exist previously to help control erosion and contamination from the soil below.
Areas of rough around some greens were mowed down to create collection areas “to provide another element of strategy and shot-making opportunities for the golfer,” Harvey said.
Zoysia grass was used for the green and bunker surrounds to provide a buffer from encroaching Bermuda, “and provide a little different color and texture for the perception of the player’s eye year-round,” Harvey said.
Fairways were recontoured to add shape, as some fairway lines were straightened based on mowing practices.
Fairway bunker work has continued through the fall, as bunkers on 10 and 13 are being completed in early December.
“The big phase on the golf course was to bring back the spirit and intent of the golf course with the greens and with the bunker features,” Harvey said.
The Resort Course, which has several holes that run along the Intracoastal Waterway, features six tee boxes per hole.
Harvey, who is based in Michigan, might be involved in future renovations, including the addition of more forward tee boxes on multiple holes, he said. The course features six tee boxes and the yardage from the shortest tee box is currently 5,353 yards. Harvey has proposed additional tee boxes that would drop the total to about 4,600 yards.
A new-look clubhouse
Some of the Resort Course clubhouse’s many pillars and arches were removed and a glass wall was added to make it more spacious and improve views.
The bar was moved and enlarged near the middle of the clubhouse, the pro shop gained about 300 square feet, and casual lounge seating was added to the outdoor patio, which was enlarged. Several TVs and an indoor-outdoor audio system was installed to give the clubhouse a more festive atmosphere.
Some palm trees and plants were removed or moved to open up views of the 18th green and other areas of the course from the clubhouse.
Harvey was in the clubhouse one day and noticed the bunkering around the 18th green wasn’t visible. So the existing bunkering was altered and a bunker was added behind the green.
The new restaurant in the clubhouse is open to the public.
Terrazza 19 Tapas Room serves shareable plates, craft cocktails, handhelds and a selection of flatbread pizzas, with weekly or daily specials and seasonal items.
Menu items include candied bacon, pita nachos, brussels sprouts and pork belly with a balsamic drizzle, roasted tomato and brie spread, skewers, and panini sandwiches. The restaurant has indoor and outdoor dining, a bar, indoor and outdoor TVs, and potentially live entertainment.
Contact Alan Blondin at alan@OnTheGreenMagazine.com