September 24, 1999
Last month we started a series on designing and building The Greens at Broadview, the new public golf course by Chris Adkins and Pete Oakley now under construction near Milton. This week’s column continues the series.
Heron nests inspire name change to The Rookery
As noted earlier, during the initial stages of golf construction the builders discovered a heron rookery in the forested wetlands on the eastern edge of their property. This caused a bit of a scramble, because the Fish and Wildlife folks and many others are very interested in preserving the breeding and nesting grounds for these graceful birds.
Adkins and Oakley soon confirmed that their proposed cut through the forest would not directly impact the rookery. Nonetheless, they still needed to re-design their original layout to avoid the nesting area. This meant re-thinking whether they could keep to a par 71 design with at least 6400 yards from the back tees. While the issue is not completely resolved, Oakley and Adkins were able to work out a satisfactory change in their layout and preserve the rookery.
Protecting the heron habitat also caused a significant change in the owners’ plans beyond the layout issues. At an investor meeting on August 26, the investors voted to rename the new course “The Rookery.”
Adkins said, “We figured if we had something that special on the property, then we should take advantage of it. We thought the new name was catchy.”
They have a point. There are dozens of golf courses with the name “Green” or “Greens” somewhere in the title. However, only two other courses worldwide use the word “Rookery,” in Suffolk, England and Westerville, Ohio. This is a bit surprising, because birds love golf courses.
Of course, golfers love birdies, too.
Herons cause design change, too
Adkins said avoiding the rookery required changing at least eight holes on the back nine. Three holes were significantly changed, and the other five required relatively minor adjustments. Nonetheless, Adkins and Oakley were able to keep par at 71, and retained the yardage at between 6400 and 6500 yards.
The biggest changes were to the 14th and 15th holes, both of which will now be par 3 holes. One will be an island green with tees set between 115 and 140 yards out, and the other will be a 200-yard challenge.
Many designers try to avoid back-to-back par 3s if possible, because of the risk of slow play. Adkins felt their changes minimized this risk: “For the island green, the short tee shots will either be on the green or in the water.” In addition, the two holes will come so late in the round that the risk of slow play should be reduced. The back nine will also include 3 par 5 holes, so players should still be spread out on the last several holes.
The other adjustments forced Oakley and Adkins to be more creative with their bunkering and mounding. “We were also very careful with our tee alignment to make sure we defined our shot angles as best we could,” said Adkins.
The two builders also resorted to the time-honored practice of hitting golf balls from the proposed tee areas to confirm their re-routing design. About this particularly tough duty Adkins laughed and said, “it’s always good to have golfers with different skills involved in that part of the design—one to hit straight and one to hit crooked. I take care of the crooked part.”
(This is the third in a continuing series of columns on the design and construction of The Rookery, formerly known as The Greens at Broadview.)