Five years after construction of one of Mississippi’s best practice facilities – including range, short game facility, and a unique “free range” short course – the Tupelo Country Club has approved starting Phase II of the 2010 long-range Master Plan completed by Nathan Crace, ASGCA Associate, and Watermark Golf/Nathan Crace Design.
According to Crace, Phase II centers around the total renovation of the par-3 8th hole, including the green complex and bunkers, tees, irrigation, grassing, and repair and re-shaping of the lake fronting the green. In addition to the 8th hole, a streambed restoration project will be completed from the 14th fairway, across the 13th fairway, behind the 12th green, and into the 15th fairway. Lastly, all of the lake banks throughout the course will be renovated—repairing erosion, re-shaping the banks to create more manageable slopes, and installing sod.
Phase II is scheduled to be complete in the Summer of 2017 with the 8th hole re-open for play by early Fall.
“Tupelo Country Club is one of those special courses where there’s a lot of history and lot of support from the membership,” Crace explains. “They also have one thing many courses built in that era don’t have—room to grow. So as we move into the future phases, we’ve taken into account the need to balance playability for the full spectrum of members with the need to challenge the stable of better golfers who call TCC their home club. They have a very high percentage of high-caliber players here and they host a number of high profile amateur events annually.”
As far as the changes to the par-3 8th hole, Crace says it was a conversation that began with the need to repair the levee that contained the lake fronting the green. As part of that work, Crace says that he and the committee decided the best use of funds and time would be to generate the dirt for that work and the green complex simultaneously by re-shaping the lake and dropping the elevation of the green as part of the total re-design and renovation process. The Men’s Golf Association raised the money to repair the levee and renovate the hole (based on Crace’s design for the hole from his 2010 Master Plan) and had enough money to make the other improvements as well. If Phase II goes the way he thinks, Crace says he hopes the membership will expedite the renovation of the other 17 holes in what he now refers to as “Phase III.”
“Phase III would be the remainder of the golf course and work depicted in the Master Plan,” Crace says. “Either all seventeen holes simultaneously or doing the back nine one year and the rest of the front nine the subsequent year.”
For Tupelo CC members Gentry Long and Les Ellis (who are both members of the renovation committee), the work has been a long time coming and they are excited to see the project moving forward. Along with other members, they were instrumental in spearheading the plan to kick off Phase II as well as the fundraising effort among the membership to get it started. Phase II is entirely funded through donations from members.
“We believe our course is one of the top golf destinations in North Mississippi,” Long begins. “And with Nathan’s assistance, we hope to secure TCC’s place as one of the premier courses in the state. The level of Nathan’s work speaks for itself, and we look forward to seeing the results of his planned enhancements to our course.”
“We have a great club,” added Ellis, who played Division I golf in his college years. “What we are doing now is investing in the future of the club. To continue to grow, we need to invest in the course like we have other areas in recent years. Nathan did an incredible job with our practice facility and par three course and was the obvious choice when it came time to address long term maintenance issues on the championship course.”
Crace says that design studies and committee review meetings will continue through the end of the year with construction tentatively scheduled to begin on the 8th hole by mid-March. The work on the lake banks and the streambed restoration could begin as early as January, weather permitting.
“We can get a head start on the lake banks and the streambed restoration this winter,” Crace explains. “But there’s no sense in tearing up the 8th hole any sooner than necessary when the grassing window for TifEagle sprigs in this region of the state doesn’t begin until mid-May. This way, we can leave the existing 8th hole open for members as long as possible.”
According to Long, an additional benefit of completing the work on the 8th hole is being able to point to it as an example to the membership of “what the course can be” once the remainder of the work on the Master Plan is complete.
“Like other courses this age,” Crace explains. “The greens have internal issues that cannot me managed away. [Superintendent] Jim [Kwasinski, CGCS] does an incredible job of maintaining the greens at the highest level possible, but each year it becomes more costly in manpower and resources. This is the most efficient and effective method to remedy that.”