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S.C. Golf Course Built to High Environmental Specifications

Wed January 23, 2013 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

The Saluda River does come into play a fair amount for golfers to experience, but great care was taken to respect appropriate buffer zones along the banks.
The Saluda River does come into play a fair amount for golfers to experience, but great care was taken to respect appropriate buffer zones along the banks.
The Saluda River does come into play a fair amount for golfers to experience, but great care was taken to respect appropriate buffer zones along the banks. The Cliffs at Mountain Park Golf Course is in the final stages of grassing and is expected to open in the fall of 2013.

Situated on the banks of the North Saluda River, The Cliffs at Mountain Park Golf Course will showcase the area’s natural beauty while incorporating the highest environmental standards when it opens next year. Located in Traveler’s Rest, S.C., the recently completed, Gary Player-designed 18-hole golf course is part of the 5,000-acre Mountain Park private residential community on the southernmost edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“Designing and building a golf course is much more complex than people might think,” said Scott Ferrell, president of Gary Player Design. “The fundamental key is putting together an experienced team with the client and establishing a vision for all to follow. There are so many technical issues, starting with routing the golf course on a given piece of land properly, to grading exercises to promote proper drainage, to state-of-the-art irrigation systems to save water, to safety concerns, to environmental sensitivities. But it all comes together with the proper vision and commitment.”

Ferrell said a lot of thought went into the planning of the new course, which is in the final stages of grassing.

“It’s not really a mountain course with elevation changes, but the views of the surrounding mountains are absolutely beautiful. The Saluda River does come into play a fair amount for golfers to experience, but great care was taken to respect appropriate buffer zones along the banks. Many of the course holes are framed by rough bunker complexes that are accented by native grasses that are easy to maintain. The grasses also were incorporated amongst the multiple tee boxes to help minimize maintenance requirements. From an aesthetic standpoint, these grasses and features will provide wonderful color and texture contrasts.

“The fairways are generous, and there is really no rough; however, firm and fast conditions will tend to narrow the playing areas. An exciting feature is the fact the course is so walkable. Most tees are in very close proximity to the previous green,” Ferrell said.

Todd Tilton, project manager/estimator for contractor Medalist Golf Inc., Cumming, Ga., said that crews have recently been grading the site for the maintenance complex, with finishing and sod work almost complete on the driving range. On the job periodically since March 2011, Tilton said their work should end by late October.

“The owner requested an acceleration in completion, so staffing the project to achieve the owner’s new goals was the biggest challenge. We had as many as 50 men on 10 different crews at the peak of construction,” said Tilton.

Medalist Golf teams put in long hours, with safety a chief concern at all times. Workers also had to be sensitive to environmental issues, that included sediment and erosion control measures. From proper routing, grading to promote adequate drainage, implementing irrigation systems to save water, countless details had to be resolved.

Excavators, including 330-sized machines, were used for heavy earthwork, detailed golf feature shaping and drainage pipe installation. Bulldozers roughly the size of a D5 or John Deere 750 performed earthwork operations and golf feature shaping. Articulated off-road trucks were used for heavy earth work and materials transport around the job site. Sixty-five hp grading tractors were used for finish work as well as Sand-Pro machines for fine tuning the greens surfaces. TC-55 loaders hauled various materials during construction.

Thousands of tons of bunker sand, 3/8-in. crushed granite double washed gravel and greens-mix — a blended mixture of 90 percent sand and 10 percent sphagnum peat — were needed for construction of the greens, tees and the bunkers. Miles of HDPE pipe, hundreds of cast iron grates on the inlets and more than 100 acres of various varieties of sod also were utilized, along with PVC irrigation pipe, approximately 1,000 sprinkler heads, copper wiring to control the heads and hundreds of cu. yds. of colored concrete for the cart paths.

This latest course is designed to the specifications of Gary Player, aka “The Black Knight,” who’s among the original inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame and is one of only five golfers to ever win the Grand Slam on the PGA Tour. Gary Player and Gary Player Design have created a portfolio of more than 300 projects in almost three dozen countries on five continents. With each project, Player’s attention to detail is clear.

“Mr. Player is a farmer at heart, and his brother, Dr. Ian Player, has been one of the world’s leading conservationists,” said Ferrell. “His passion runs deep, particularly when it comes to conserving water, the world’s most precious resource. He pushes the entire GPD team to be sensitive in this area. We work to minimize turf areas when possible, design a water collection and reuse system, make sensible grass selections that take less to maintain in certain climates and advise the golf course superintendent on playing conditions that will conserve water. Mr. Player actually built his own golf course on his ranch in South Africa where he experimented with all kinds of water-saving techniques.”

One of only a handful of courses now under construction in North America and the seventh golf course in The Cliffs, the project, however, has suffered its share of setbacks.

“Work began in 2009, but we have had a couple of significant delays, primarily due to market conditions. Like virtually all residential developments in North America, The Cliffs has been through a difficult time. A new group has taken over and is positioning the entire group of communities for the future. Having tangible activity through the completion and opening of a golf course is very significant in today’s environment, and I’m sure The Cliffs will be leveraging this positive news as markets recover,” said Ferrel

In late August 2012, The Cliffs Club and Hospitality Group emerged from bankruptcy under the ownership of Silver Sun Partners. Silver Sun has established Cliffs Club Partners, and Cliffs Land Partners, respectively to manage club operations as well as real estate sales, marketing and development. The Cliffs Communities is made up of seven private communities located between Asheville, N.C., and Greenville, S.C.

Surrounded by more than a million acres of state parks and national forests, The Cliffs at Mountain Park Golf Course is set in a wooded valley and was planned to preserve the site’s natural beauty and reduce operating and maintenance costs by using organic materials and eco-friendly design practices. It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013.

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