Davis Love III Returns to UNC to Renovate Finley Golf Course

©2002 Jeffrey A. Camarati

The University of North Carolina Golf Course at Chapel Hill, a layout known as UNC Finley, has begun work on a major course and facility renovation. The Love Golf Design team is managing the project, whose members include U.S. Presidents Cup winning captain Davis Love III, his brother Mark Love – both UNC graduates – and lead architect Scot Sherman. UNC Finley is perhaps best known as the place where Love III, an All-American Tar Heel, showed classmate Michael Jordan how to grip a golf club.

The Love Design team will update the layout, reversing the front nine and back nine and create two new holes on the future front nine. Additionally, they will be adding a new short course and range. A new space for team building and training will complete the offer.

Finley, named after Raleigh-based construction magnate A.E. Finley, was originally a 1950 design by George Cobb. In 1999 it underwent a radical makeover, with Tom Fazio essentially creating a new course on the old site . Love’s efforts won’t be quite as drastic, but the end results should be just as spectacular. Bentgrass greens that usually wilt in the summer will be replaced with heat-tolerant Bermuda. Additionally, Love designs two new holes to replace the current 10e and 11e. This plot will now be occupied by a training area for the men’s and women’s Tar Heel teams.

The revamped layout will incorporate the two new holes into the front nine (the old back nine), meaning several of the old holes will not fall in their usual order. The first of these will be the new fourth hole, which will follow the third par-3 (old 14e). The brand new 5 will be a potentially playable par-4, with a fairway that slopes left to right and a green well guarded by bunkers. The other brand new hole will be number 6, an uphill par 3 that sits near the current 15th green and ends near the current 17th green. What many consider to be the best and certainly the most difficult hole on the old course, the 490-yard par-4 15th will remain as it is, but will appear in the round as the fifth hole. UNC Finley closes in October to accommodate renovations and is expected to reopen in late summer 2023.

> Oregon’s venerable Portland Golf Club is weeks away from completing course renovations under the direction of architect Dan Hixson. Best known for his original creations at Oregon’s Silvies Valley Ranch and Washington State University’s Palouse Ridge, Hixson’s renovation skills were put to use this time, at the club that hosted the first victory Ben Hogan’s major at the 1946 PGA Championship and for American play at the 1947 Ryder Cup. Originally designed by George Turnbull in 1914 and remodeled by Robert Trent Jones in 1964, Portland turned to Hixson to fine-tune the greens, bunkers and irrigation system.

“The focus of this project was primarily to strategically and aesthetically improve the course, as well as the functions of the course systems,” Hixson said. “There were many problems with the bunkers, including failing drainage lines, contaminated sand and surface runoff. The bunkers also lacked variety, strategic value, aesthetics and were excessively large. Many of the surrounding greens needed updating to divert water from the bunkers to help with this.

Hixson expanded 12 greens, some of which were restorations and others intended to increase pinnable areas. He also relined bunkers with the Better Billy Bunker system. In addition, he has rebuilt tees, ripped out trees, modified mowing patterns and created a new green complex at the par-5 15e.

“The biggest visual difference will be in the bunkering,” Hixson said. “The old bunkers had very simple repetitive shapes and most of the fairway bunkers were at obsolete distances for modern play. The course has a wide variety of low and level greens, which are very steep on the hilly parts of the course The new bunkering will reflect this variety with lower profile designs Hixson has teamed up with Milroy Golf Systems on the construction side, which began in July Work is expected to be completed by the end of October, along with a new irrigation system , designed by Brent Harvey and supplied by Rain Bird, scheduled for installation in 2023.

> Now 104 years old, the 36-hole community golf club in Dayton, Ohio basks in a recently completed bunker renovation by architect Chris Wilczynski. Working on the build in tandem with Topp Shape Enterprises, Wilczynski rebuilt a number of bunkers, added more, and converted others from sand to grass.

“It was a wonderful experience working with the great city of Dayton and the team at Topp Shape,” said Wilczynski. “What started as an extensive bunker renovation plan has led to a more comprehensive roadmap to improve all aspects of the Hills and Dales courses, and we look forward to helping the city implement additional improvements to the future.”

Housed on land donated by National Cash Register John H. Patterson, the Community Golf Club hosted the 1924 US Public Links Championship, so there’s a nice slice of history to preserve and improve. “The bunker renovation has been a complete success for the last remaining golf facility in the City of Dayton,” said Bob Bajek, course superintendent. “Chris Wilczynski’s design not only simplified day-to-day maintenance, but also improved the aesthetics of the entire property. We have 74 leagues currently playing on Community’s 36-hole layout and the positive response has been overwhelming.

> Dormie Network’s Briggs Ranch will reopen in October after an extensive greens renovation throughout the summer. Designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 2001, Briggs Ranch is located 20 miles west of downtown San Antonio. The greens project was to restore the putting surfaces to their original dimensions and contours. The greens have been coated with TifEagle Bermuda for better maintainability all year round.

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