Golf Course

Naval Academy Golf Club Getting Major Improvements

The Naval Academy Golf Club renovations 10th green
The Naval Academy Golf Club renovations 10th green

Add the Naval Academy Golf Club to the list of local courses that are undergoing major improvement projects.

With the closing of the Navy course’s back nine on Aug. 1, the official start of a one-year process to perform major upgrades is underway to get the course ready to play by Labor Day 2020.

Long overdue for a face-lift, the course is finally getting one, albeit with an eye toward its historical past − making the work more restorative than a renovation.

“With the Naval Academy hosting the Patriot League tournament (in the spring of 2021), it couldn’t come at a better time. The course is scheduled to be 100 percent ready to play by Labor Day of next year, just in time for the tournament,” said Pat Owen, head professional at the course and also the head coach of the Navy men’s golf team.

“During the restoration, the greens will be brought up to full USGA standards, the fairways, greens, and tees will all be redone, and the sand traps will be redesigned and all filled with new sand.”

Owen said the project will need the full cooperation of the club’s membership to be successful but is also being done in such a way as to keep the course open for play in some capacity as much as possible.

“I am sure there are some people who felt that closing off the course to play as inconvenient, but when it is finished, it will have been well worth any inconvenience one might feel,” Owen said. “When the project was explained to those impacted, it got the membership buzzing in a good way.”

The Naval Academy golfing community and alumni have already shown strong support for the restoration of the course by raising the money to pay for it. Club members paid for a new irrigation system through their dues and assessments, while an organization called FONG (Friends of Navy Golf) was established by two retired admirals and Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk to raise the other $5 million that was needed. Gladchuk serves as president of the Naval Academy Golf Club.

“When Mr. Gladchuk was approached with the plans for the restoration and told the how and why it needed to be done, he got fully behind it,” said Owen. “He gave his approval to get it done in time for the Patriot League tournament and played a major role in establishing the fundraising effort. Without the fundraising, I don’t know how this could have taken place.”

The history of this course dates back to 1938 when the U. S. Navy purchased land surrounding Greenbury Point. The acquired land included an 18-hole golf course that had been developed as a private golf club a decade earlier, but had been abandoned during the Great Depression. In the early 1940s, nine of that course’s original 18 holes were restored and opened as the nine-hole Naval Academy Golf Club.

In 1942, one of the top course designers of the day, William Flynn, was contracted to convert the nine-hole course into a full 18-hole tract. The new, redesigned course opened in 1944. In the early fifties, an expansion of other Naval buildings along Greenbury Point resulted in land being taken from the course and two holes being restructured to fit the reduction in space.

That was the first change in Flynn’s original design. In the years to follow, general aging and nature’s natural effect on the environment changed the character of Flynn’s original layout even further.

It is Flynn’s original plans that are being used as a guide for the current restoration. Those holes affected by the government’s need for land in the fifties, numbers 12 through 14, will be reconfigured.

No. 12, which has been a par 4, will become a long par 3 while No. 13 will change from a long par 4 to a double-dogleg par 5 that will measure 570 yards from the back tees, which are used mostly by the collegiate golfers. No. 14 will remain a par 4, but with added distance that could make it a par 5 for the average golfer.

Other changes around the course will find most of the greens being enlarged by about 20 percent, the sand traps reconfigured and restocked with new sand and the fairways sprigged with sturdy Bermuda grass.

Tee boxes will be larger and better aligned toward the landing area. Each hole will have five tees, adding more distance options for players. The main difference in yardage will be from the championship tees used for college matches and tournaments, stretching the course to 6,900 yards.

It all can’t happen at once, though − leading to the decision to start construction on the back nine while leaving the front nine open for play. With the use of temporary greens, some part of the course will remain open for 10 months of the year-long project.

The current schedule for the project called for the wooded back nine to be closed beginning Aug. 1 for the work to begin on tees, greens, green areas and sand traps for those holes. Around Oct. 1, the front side will close for the same to be done on those holes. Temporary greens will be used on the holes where greens are being worked on. The back side will reopen with the current fairways but some holes will be unplayable.

“The course will be closed, but many of the holes that are under repair will have temporary greens,” Owen said. “Those conditions are okay to the more casual golfer who wants to just be able to go out and hit the ball and get some exercise, but they won’t be good for playing competitive rounds and the scores can’t be posted for handicaps. It won’t be a full 18 holes.”

In the spring, the finished areas will need time “to settle in” before actual play can begin again. Beginning in July, fairways will be overhauled and Bermuda grass “planted” through the process of sprigging. Heavy watering will be needed in the intense heat for 4-6 weeks. The course will be completely closed during that time.

Should all go well, said Owen, the course should be ready to open by Labor Day weekend 2020.

“The course we play now is only a part of what Flynn had designed, the course when it is finished will be as Flynn planned it,” said golf course superintendent Eric David, who said proudly that the changes are being overseen by one of the up-and-coming course designers of the day, Andrew Green.

Green is the same designer who oversaw the renovation of the Chartwell course and who is overseeing the refacing of the Eisenhower course.

“A golf course is like a home,” David said. “Over the years it ages and its parts need to be fixed or a new coat of paint needs to be applied.”

All practice facilities such as the putting and chipping greens, the practice sand traps and driving range will remain open throughout the time the course is being worked on. That means the practice time for the men’s and women’s golf teams will be only slightly affected though any on-course activity by the teams will be moved to another local course.

“Both teams will play all their tournaments and matches on the road,” Owen said of regular-season play. “I don’t know how much that will affect their play except it is always nice to have matches on your home course.”

CANNON CLUB: The course held its first club championship under its new name last weekend. All championship matches were scheduled for 36 holes, though none went the limit.

In the women’s championship flight, defending champion Felicia Rich defeated four-time club champion Mary Wadland, 4 and 3.

In the men’s championship flight, Ty Herriot won for the first time, downing George Shenas, 6 and 5.

In the men’s flight, Evan Carr defeated Jack Mateosky, 4 and 3.

All previous championships were won when the course was Old South.

NAVAL ACADEMY: The club held a low gross/low net women’s nine-hole event. Winners were Frances Means, low gross in the first flight, and Susan Dilonardo, low net in first flight.

In the second flight, Judy Smith won low gross and Martha Hardesty won low net.

Winning the competition for fewest putts were Dilonardo and Anni Schnabel.

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