Golf course designer Gil Hanse finishing work at Sewanee

Gil Hanse felt comfortable during the American Society of Golf Course Architects’ annual meeting at The Chattanoogan earlier this summer.

He’s been to Chattanooga before.

And he’ll back.

Hanse, who in May was selected with his team to design the course for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, has two projects of area interest on his schedule.

He is in the midst of renovating the Sewanee Golf Course at the University of the South and has been riding a bulldozer on the historic nine-hole course this summer. It’s one of a few projects he agreed to handle before becoming the most demanded course architect in the world.

“I think the course has a lot of features from Scotland,” said King Oehmig, a Sewanee graduate and its current men’s coach who played a pivotal role in hiring Hanse. “I think Sewanee is a links-like course on a mountain. But it doesn’t link the Earth to the sea. It links the Earth to the sky.”

Hanse’s team also has been in discussions with Lookout Mountain Golf Club, as recently as three weeks ago, to do a renovation in the future.

It’s a project that has been in the works for nearly three years now. It may take another five or six years — even if it’s agreed upon by the Lookout Mountain membership — before a shovel goes in the ground, because Hanse is in demand to design or redesign courses from China to South Africa.

“We have a picture of a Gil Hanse redesign to make this the perfect Seth Raynor course hanging in the clubhouse,” Lookout Mountain general manager Billy Buchanan said. “If the timing ever gets right, we hope to have Gil redo our course, but it may be 2017 or ’18 when we may have money to pay for the project.”

The Sewanee deal is done.

Hanse has moved dirt, stone, sod and sand on the nine-hole course built in 1915 — which may make it the oldest college golf course in the country.

“We like to joke that Gil got the Olympic job because of us,” Sewanee athletic director Mark Webb joked. “Fortunately for us, we landed him before the 2016 Olympic job and Donald Trump hiring him to redo Doral. We are thrilled he can put his name on our golf course.”

Webb said he’s seen Hanse on a bulldozer at times this summer and that the plan is on schedule to the point where visitors may hit a few shots during alumni weekend in late October. Back in May, Hanse said the project should be done by November.

“We’re blowing up all nine holes as far as the features are concerned, but the routing will remain intact,” Hanse said then. “We’ve stretched and pulled a few holes and added a few bunkers, so it will be more challenging and visually more interesting.”

Contact David Uchiyama at or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at

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