ASGCA Past President Rick Robbins, (Robbins & Associates International) who in recent years has been busy with renovation work in the U.S. and new designs overseas – has seen his new design at Compass Point, Leland, North Carolina, opened for play. It is the first new course to open in the Tar Heel state since 2008.
The Winston Salem Journal reported on the course and Robbins’ impressive career:
It’s no secret that building new golf courses in North Carolina came to a screeching halt over the last several years.
A weakened economy is one reason, and with more than 500 courses in the state already, there are plenty to choose from.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however, according to noted golf course architect and designer Rick Robbins.
“I think that what most don’t understand was with the housing market being so down that slowed down the golf industry,” said Robbins, who recently opened the first new course in this state since 2008.
Robbins designed the new Compass Point in Leland, which is near Wilmington, and it opened earlier this month. There’s also a plan to possibly add nine holes later.
“We’re excited about it, and it was a good piece of land to work with,” Robbins said.
Compass Point is the first new course in our state since The Dormie Club opened in West End near Pinehurst in 2008, according to Robbins. The Dormie Club was designed by Bill Coore, ASGCA, and Ben Crenshaw, but in a golf-crazy state such as North Carolina it’s hard to believe there were no other courses built until now.
“It was a down time in our line of work, but there has been a lot of restorations or renovations to existing courses over the last several years,” said Robbins, who also stayed busy the last few years by designing five courses in China.
Since 1991 Robbins, who lives in Cary, has designed or renovated close to 50 courses in the United States, but he has done work all over the world, including Malesia, Indonesia and Thailand. He has designed nearly 20 courses in his career from scratch.
Some of his designs closer to home include Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, Mill Creek in Mebane and Deer Brook Golf Club in Shelby.
As Robbins, 65, looks ahead to other new courses being built in North Carolina he said the housing market is worth watching.
“If the housing market demands it, the other nine holes that we could build at Compass Point could come sooner,” Robbins said. “And I think that’s how it’s going to be from now on.”
Compass Point, which is a semi-private course, has available memberships but is also open to the public. Robbins speculates that building totally private courses that will have to rely on home sales around the course isn’t as feasible as it used to be.
“I think the way Compass Point is doing it is probably the best way to survive,” said Robbins, who grew up in the Banner Elk area and graduated from N.C. State.
Robbins’ father, Spencer, worked with Peggy Kirk Bell and Warren “Bullet” Bell at Pine Needles in Southern Pines. Spencer later helped develop Hound Ears and he is the owner of Elk River Club in Banner Elk, which was designed by Jack Nicklaus.
Despite the advances in equipment that make it easier to design a course by digging it out of the dirt, Robbins says there are a lot of challenges. He’s very particular about the environment that he builds courses on. Robbins tries to minimize soil erosion into streams and ponds.
Another challenge is making sure the course is playable for all golfers. To do that, Robbins says more designers are building more tee boxes to offer the best conditions depending on golfers’ handicap.
“You don’t want the golfers who have a 20 handicap playing from the tips that can measure 7,000 or so yards,” Robbins said. “We’ve got five tee boxes for each hole at Compass Point and we’ve also built the family tees, where every hole can be a par-3.”
Compass Point is a par-72 and from the back tees it plays 7,200 yards and the closest set of tees plays at about 4,900 yards.
Robbins has high hopes for the business to pick back up in North Carolina.
“I’m optimistic,” he said. “It’s dependent on the economy and it’s really always been like that in our business.”