In American golf these days, new course openings are rare. Most happen a far-away resorts with big budgets and big price tags.
Top-notch restorations have been improving courses nationwide, but the private-club community has been the driver of most of that work.
That's what makes what has happened at Corica Park in Alameda, Calif., so special. Culminating a three-year project with famed golf architect Rees Jones, Corica Park is unveiling its new South Course -- a publicly accessible course which embraces modern design elements for more player enjoyment, easier maintenance and less environmental impact.
The new South Course was designed by Jones to emulate conditions found in the Australian Sandbelt, invoking names of Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath.
The course features ample landing area off the tee and gives players several options to reach each green -- particularly good news for shorter hitters who typically run-up the ball to the putting surface.
An imaginative player will be able to use the ground game to their edge, playing shots off contours in the green surrounds and putting surfaces to score.
There are several short par 4s, which have become en vogue in the modern era. They require decision-making with conviction and execution to a player's strategy.
Overall, bunkering is strategic, designed to force golfers to execute if they take an aggressive approach to any hole. A more conservative player will be left with longer approach shots but will be frequently hitting from short grass.
Underneath the new course is the structure to handle the wild swings in California weather. A total of 25 miles of new drainage pipes were installed as part of a high-tech irrigation and draining system. A 6-7-inch cap of sand on each foairway ensures the course can dry quickly, even after heavy rains.
From an environmental standpoint, drought-tolerant strains of Bermudagrass on the fairways and green surrounds will reduce the need for water while encouraging firm conditions. It's the kind of golf experience most public players in California haven't had the opportunity to enjoy. The cart paths are made from materials included recylced glass, and the bunker liners are creatively made from recycled artificial turf from high-school football fields.
The City of Alameda and management company Greenway Golf, which took over running Corica Park in September 2012, hopes the new South Course will represent a rebirth for a property that was once only second to the San Diego area's Torrey Pines 36-hole facility in terms of rounds played at a California municipal golf property.
The new South Course represents part of Greenway Golf's commitment to preserving and restoring the three courses at Corica Park. In 2012, rebuilt the property's Mif Albright par-3 course, and then they renovated the Lucius Bateman practice facility. New short-game facilities have encouraged golfers to return as well.
For the future of American golf to continue getting brighter, more communities must commit to restoring and renovating their municipal golf facilities. From coast-to-coast, cities and counties which invest properly in their golf courses have seen huge returns from increased rounds, more enjoyment and a jolt in revenue. Corica Park has seen the value of investing in public golf, and the all-new South Course is a capstone in a job well done.