Playing The Rookery for the first time (Part 8 of a series)
August 11, 2000
The Rookery opened for Cape Region public golfers July 30, 2000. Director of Golf Pete Oakley said they decided to go with a “soft” opening rather than a big event, considering all the weather-related troubles they faced in the last two weeks before starting operations.
On July 14, for example, a torrential storm dropped 12 inches of rain onto the course, as measured by their on-site rain gauges. The downpour earned a special mention on The Weather Channel, but Oakley and Course Superintendent Chris Adkins would have gladly declined the honor if they could.
The Rookery’s pond system holds far more than the minimum required stormwater levels. Extreme runoff then enters a freshwater wetland through a special grate at the pond edge near the 13th tee.
Butch Holtzclaw, the head golf professional, laughed and said, “When Chris put in the overflow drain, he never thought it would ever actually be needed.”
Adkins admitted, “We were stunned, but the drainage system worked. We had floods and some washouts, but it all cleared out successfully.”
Additional rain over the next two weeks kept the course from fully drying out, and delayed the washout repairs. The damp stuff also slowed the completion of other details, such as paving the parking lot.
I played the course on opening day and was impressed with how it looked despite the recent weather. Here are some observations from my first round that may prove useful for the typical bogey golfer using the white tees (6119 yards, par 71).
From the third tee, golfers can’t see a fairway bunker tucked behind a mound between the 3rd and 4th fairways. This bunker is easily reachable with a slice off the 3rd tee. In the early morning it was so quiet I could hear the ball splat.
The 290-yard 4th hole’s fairway actually stops short about 155 yards from the white tee. Fifteen yards or so of rough then slopes down to the edge of a pond. Long hitters may attempt the 220-yard carry for a half-wedge to the crowned green.
A well struck 4-iron off the white tee will enter the water between 10 and 15 yards from the pond’s edge.
It’s also easy to bounce a fading golf ball off the cartpath and into the pond that runs the length of the 12th hole. As I walked along the edge looking for my ball, I saw a turtle staring up at me from just below the surface. I think he was laughing.
The view from the 10th tee looked daunting, as one might expect for a 575-yard par 5. The fairway is actually wider than it seems from the tee. Perhaps the pond in between affects the perspective.
All the fairways are lush. So is the rough. In some places the fairways will be hard to reach for short-hitters. Golfers who miss the short grass off the tee on these longer holes may choose to use a pitching wedge or other short iron to set up a one-putt par or two-putt bogey.
The wildlife is pleasantly distracting. Sanderlings and other shore birds covered the sandy edges of several ponds. Turtles were sunning themselves. I saw several indications that berry-eating animals enjoy crossing the bridge to the island that holds the 15th green and 16th tee. Watch your step.
As with any golf course, keep an eye out for other golfers. I saw a player slice a ball into the back greenside bunker of the 8th hole, from the first tee. That really takes some doing. As the course develops and the landscaping matures, these risks will diminish.
The greens are soft, slow, and a little bumpy. In other words, they are exactly what one should expect for brand-new greens. Pretending that the hole is at least 18 inches farther away than it really is may reduce three-putting.
From all appearances, The Rookery should mature well and compete successfully for the Cape Region golfing dollar. Adkins, Oakley, and their investors and employees should be proud of their accomplishment.
(This is the last in an eight-part series of columns on the design and construction of The Rookery, originally known as The Greens at Broadview.)