March 3, 2000
Last summer and fall I ran a series of columns on The Rookery, the new public golf course by Chris Adkins and Pete Oakley now under construction near Milton. This week’s column continues the saga.
In a recent interview Adkins remained optimistic about their construction schedule, despite the storms of January and February: “We lost about a month because of the snow, but I believe we can still open in July.”
Adkins said the last five months went fairly smoothly. The ponds and rough grading are complete. Except for some electrical controls and a pump or two, the irrigation system is nearly finished. “We installed over 10 and a half miles of pipe,” Adkins said.
Nature has a way of interfering with construction plans, however.
For example, last week the crew seeded several mounds used to define the course and provide some visual appeal to the old farmstead, a classic piece of Sussex County flatland. Adkins said last Friday night’s thunderstorm was a ” real gully-washer.” They lost much of their seeding work in less than ninety minutes.
While walking the site last Saturday I was impressed at the company’s progress. I also learned my sneakers are no match for Sussex County mud.
Adkins showed off his new maintenance barn on the northeast edge of the property. Just south of the new barn will be the driving range area, with 25 stations for golfers to warm up their swings. The stations will be laid out in a slight crescent shape, to help keep the golf balls within the range area. Adjacent to the driving range will be a chipping area and putting green.
Yellow ribbons are tied around many of the mature trees on the property. Adkins used the ribbons to tell the woodcutters which trees to keep in place, while clearing out many others for the course.
The Rookery may currently own the largest wood chip pile in the county.
Adkins also pointed out some of the design features that he and fellow general partner Pete Oakley fit into The Rookery. It’s one thing to see the designs on paper. It’s another thing entirely to see how the design looks on the ground.
For example, Adkins was obviously proud of the 320 yard fourth hole.
This short par 4 will make golfers tee off into the prevailing wind. They will have two options—hit a layup shot just shy of 180 yards, or try their luck at a 220-yard carry over a pond. In either event players then must make a high approach shot to keep their ball on the crowned green.
Instead of the typical gentle slope from back to front, this green looks like a saucer turned upside down.
Adkins said, “We planned this hole to be reminiscent of the greens at Pinehurst No. 2, last year’s U.S. Open site.”
Oakley and Adkins took care to use a variety of green designs. Some are kidney-shaped. Some are ovals, and some look a bit like fat dumbbells. None appear to be unfairly sloped, a problem that sometimes plagues new courses.
All the greens are in final form. Adkins oversaw the seeding effort, and also watched the winter winds and storms reshape some of these complex areas. The crew is now repairing the damage of the last two months. Adkins felt that a few greens may require sodding, but otherwise the seeding should take hold soon with the coming of spring.
(This is the fourth in a continuing series of columns on the design and construction of The Rookery, originally known as The Greens at Broadview.)