Ever since the recent economic downturn that hit golf particularly hard there has been much chatter about building shorter courses, courses with fewer holes and striving to be more efficient with land.
2016 seems to be the year where developers who think outside the box find out if it's going to work. Coast to coast, six- and 12-hole courses are opening and so are courses with flexible routings.
But more traditional 18-hole courses are planned to open as well. While there still isn't the velocity of brand new courses opening some might hope for, there's a good chunk of openings and redesigns to be excited about.
Here's a rundown of new courses slated to open in 2016:
(*Editor's note: Click here for part II featuring the top renovations occurring in 2016.)
Michigan headlines 2016 openings
In a state well documented with an over-supply of golf, Michigan is nonetheless back in the spotlight in 2016.
The most noteworthy is The Loop at Forest Dunes, a reversible golf course designed by Michigan resident Tom Doak and hands down the most anticipated new destination course of 2016. The Loop is on pace for a soft launch this summer, with the hopes of making remote Forest Dunes a multi-day, stay-and-play destination, recently acquired by new owner, Lew Thompson. (Read Matt Ginella's story on The Loop.)
Video: Ginella on Doak's reversible course at Forest Dunes
Meanwhile, one of Michigan's top under-the-radar golf retreats is adding another course. Gull Lake View Golf Club in southwest Michigan has called on Doak's Renaissance Golf Design to build Stoatin Brae. With Doak tied up at Forest Dunes, his associates have laid out a course high on a ridgeline above the Kalamazoo River.
"The overall approach is consistent with what (owner) Jon Scott really feels strongly about," RGD's Eric Iverson said. "Bring back the fun in golf. It's one of the things we all need to do to make sure the game perseveres instead of how difficult things are."
There are some other developments in the Grand Rapids, Mich. area. Scott Lake Golf & Practice Center is building a brand new six-hole course aimed at beginners and juniors to complement its 27-hole course. (Read more on the new course here).
Also on the west side, The Falls at Barber Creek completed its course with a second nine in late 2015 and will enjoy its first opening day as an 18-hole course.
And in the Upper Peninsula, Sweetgrass Golf Club, part of the Island Casino & Resort, has broken ground on a second course designed by Michigan-based architect Paul Albanese (who also built the original course, which opened in 2008) and is slated for a 2017 opening. Albanese also built Tatanka Golf Club in Nebraska, another course located on an American Indian Reservation and soft opened in late 2015.
New flexible course at Trilogy at Ocala Preserve
Part of a new residential community, developers are using a small, flexible footprint at the Trilogy at Ocala Preserve in Florida, a design by Tripp Davis and Tom Lehman. It can play anywhere from an 18-hole par-3 course to a six-hole regulation course depending on tee configurations, and it takes up only 50 acres. (Read more details in this piece by Mike Bailey.) The course is scheduled to open in February as an amenity to residents but will also be open to the public.
A brand new Ocean Course at Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island
What amounts to an entirely new golf course is being built on top of the Ocean Course at Sea Pines Resort. Davis Love III's golf course architecture firm is delivering a more wide open look with coquina shell waste areas to give the course a more coastal feel.
It's the last of the golf enhancements at the resort, which over the last five years has seen a redesign of Heron Point, re-grassing of Harbour Town Golf Links and the construction of two brand new clubhouses and a practice facility. Ocean is scheduled to open in the fall of 2016. This past fall, we spoke with Resort Chairman Matt Goodwin about the Ocean Course and the many updates at Sea Pines.
Rees Jones bringing new course to Chuck Corica South in Bay Area
Rees Jones, who helped revamp Torrey Pines South and Bethpage Black, seems to be on a roll with municipal rebuilds. His latest is the South Course at the Chuck Corica complex, located in the East Bay cit of Alameda, Calif. The course is receiving a total redesign from Jones, and the city is touting agronomic innovation and water conservation with the new layout, which is expected to open late 2016.
"You can really access the greens from the ground even more easily than from the air," Rees Jones said in an interview with Mike Bailey. "If you miss the green, you're really going to be on turf in most cases. It's going to be a dramatic looking golf course, while it will be fun to play. But I think it will test the best, too."
Brand new City Park Course in New Orleans
Jones is also the architect for the rebuild at New Orleans' City Park, a new 18-hole course that replaces the former 36 holes that were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. Built in a large part with FEMA funds, City Park, when completed, will be a PGA Tour-caliber facility with the potential of one day hosting the Zurich Classic.
The course could open as early as late-2016, in spite of the fact there has been some local opposition. Most recently, a Federal Judge dropped a lawsuit against the construction, though another is still pending with FEMA, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
New Orleans' City Park North, meanwhile, remains open, and the total complex, while smaller than its pre-Katrina footprint, will still offer 383 acres of golf just two miles from the French Quarter.
No open dates yet for two new courses at Top of the Rock
Bass Pro Shops founder and Ozarks native Johnny Morris continues to add to his golf offerings at Top of the Rock and Big Cedar Lodge. Two separate projects have been announced in the last couple years: Gary Player's 12-hole course at Top of the Rock, and Coore & Crenshaw's brand new course, the Ridge Course at Buffalo Ridge, which is being built on top of the now-defunct Murder Rock Golf Club, though ownership is still mum on an opening date for either course.
Two private Texas courses opening in 2016
In the State of Texas, two high-profile private clubs are opening. First off is Tiger Woods’ first U.S. course, Bluejack National, located north of Houston. It's an entirely new golf course built on top of the defunct Blaketree National course. The new design includes a 10-hole "Playground" course, aimed for families and juniors. Golf Advisor Mike Bailey recently visited the course to check up on progress in the fall.
Also, Dallas will open Trinity Forest, a Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design south of downtown. The architects tout a links-inspired design with tall native grasses and dramatic bunkering and greens. While the club will have memberships, a mandate from the city calls for 25 percent of rounds be available to the public. The course is expected to ultimately host the AT&T Byron Nelson Invitational on the PGA Tour in 2019. It will also serve as a home of the Dallas First Tee chapter, and a short course is also being built. The club is currently reporting a fall open date.
Three big new openings in 2017
We'll pull up more info on top courses opening in 2017, but for now, the ones with the biggest national buzz are:
- Streamsong Black: Gil Hanse is designing the third course at this new Florida resort.
- Sand Valley: In Wisconsin, Mike Keiser's latest project is coming along nicely and the first course, designed by Coore & Crenshaw, should open next year. David McLay Kidd designed the second course, which should come along soon after.
- Mossy Oak: Another Hanse design, Mossy Oak is located in Mississippi and being built by the owners of Old Waverly Golf Club. When opened, it will serve as home for the MIssissippi State University golf teams and while member-oriented, stay-and-play packages for guests will be possible.