There’s a golf course in Georgia, tucked into the middle of a 9000 acre plantation that is one of southwest Georgia’s preeminent, privately- owned conservation areas. The plantation features extensive areas of significant conservation value, including over 3,300 acres of natural upland forest (including almost 1,000 acres of rare longleaf pine), over 650 acres of bottomland hardwood forests, nearly 40 acres of wetlands, numerous fresh water springs, and almost 5 miles of frontage along (a major river) the Flint River. The golf course, while not an afterthought, certainly takes a back seat to its surroundings.
Designed in 1982 by Jack Nicklaus himself, the original course consisted of only six greens and nine holes until Jack returned in 1992 to update the course and make it such that it could be played as a six hole, twelve hole, or full eighteen hole course depending on the player’s preference. The back tees have a 74.5 rating and 140 slope while the forward tees carry a 69.5 rating with a 126 slope.
Measuring between 5288-7005 yards as determined by the selected tees, the course presently features seven greens with ten flags and lies on 38 acres of maintained turf. While the course was and still is private, its concept and design may have set the pace for what appears to be an emerging trend in golf course design. And it certainly formed the basis for what Jack has been preaching for years…that courses need to be designed to speed up play and be compatible to all levels of players. This is a course that was created by thinking outside the box while keeping the environment intact.
Used mainly for charity outings and to entertain invited guests, the course is meticulously maintained by two full time employees and accommodates less than 500 rounds per year. The 34 year old superintendent has been on the job for 8 years but and has never attended a turf grass school for golf course maintenance. His MiniVerde greens were perfect and I suspect the speed was running about a ten on the stimp meter. The 419 Bermuda fairways were perfectly mowed allowing the ball to sit up nicely for the most important shot in golf, the next one. The entire design combines beauty with playability and the course delivers outstanding golf without compromising great vistas. Golfers can play from different tees to provide shorter loops. Each hole has a set of four tees and because there are only seven greens to accommodate 18 holes, many of the forward tees are located on the edge of the fairways. Thus, the routing can be somewhat confusing to a first time player. But each tee has a directional arrow to dispel any confusion that may arise. While it’s a great course for walking, they do have a few golf carts for anyone so inclined. There’s an aerial map of the course but because there are 72 tee markers, it looks similar to what an air traffic controller might see when viewing the activity at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.
The plantation’s variety of forest types and water resources provide habitat for a wealth of species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, resident and migratory birds. Walking to my drive on the first hole, I noticed two magnificent swans traversing the lake to my left. They were imported onto the property to not only provide a pictorial setting but, being natural enemies of Canada geese, to keep the pesky and bedraggled geese off the property. Another very rare treat was seeing two bald eagles flying overhead. They apparently reside in one of the hardwood trees located adjacent to the course and I’m told they’ve now spotted a new eaglet. I counted 16 bluebird and a number or other bird housing just off the fairways and most, if not all, appeared to be occupied. A variety of owls inhabit the area and the plantation is in the process of becoming a certified bird sanctuary by the Audubon Society. Fish feeders insure the lakes are full of bass and bream and whenever Jack returns to the plantation, it’s with rod and reel in hand rather than a set of golf clubs.
No pesticides are used anywhere on the property unless absolutely mandatory. Fire ants are naturally controlled and although it’s rare to see any snakes on the course, both poisonous and non-poisonous snakes abound and are free to roam. The caretakers are working to recover native animal and plant species while eradicating invasive species. When I asked the superintendent why he has so few problems, his response was that their grass root system is so strong and tight, it tends to keep any problems to a minimum.
For years people have been talking about creating different approaches to enhance the game of golf by making it more fun, less time consuming,, and less expensive. Here, at No Name, the idea was to start with six holes in order to maximize the use of real estate and create a very playable course. By then adding alternate approaches to basically the same number of holes, Nicklaus created what he long has endorsed…a golf course that delivers something for everyone.
John Mooshie, a freelance journalist from Wakulla Springs, Florida,
has an insatiable curiosity for almost
everything and writes on a broad range of golf, travel, and
golf fashions for various magazines, newspapers,
e-zines, and websites. Formerly an ad agency and billboard
copywriter, he switched careers, co-designed
an 18 hole golf course, and now writes reviews on both golf course
resorts and destination spas.. He is
currently conducting research to write biographical sketches about
individuals and businesses that fly
below the radar and will soon publish a golf book promising to cure
the five bad shots in golf.