Area golfers who have been eagerly awaiting the reopening of Jones Creek Golf Club don't have to wait much longer - and when they see the newly renovated layout in Evans, they'd better hold on to their hats.
"Everybody I've shown the changes has been blown away," said Gregg Hemann, head golf professional and club manager at Jones Creek.
Jones Creek has been Augusta Nationalized, which should come as no surprise, considering renowned golf architect Tom Fazio oversaw the changes.
Fazio, who is the design consultant for the Augusta National Golf Club, has given Jones Creek a look that mirrors the famous layout on Washington Road.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Fazio's work at Jones Creek is the ultimate compliment to Augusta National co-designers Bobby Jones and Alistair MacKenzie.
The new green-side bunkers at Jones Creek have a distinct MacKenzie touch. There are also some greens reshaped with false fronts, which is a prominent design feature at Augusta National.
"The renovation is pretty incredible. You have to see it to believe it," Hemann said. "I was always one of the biggest fans of this course, but I really love the changes and improvements."
The 16th green has been lowered from its previous position.
Photo by Michael Holahan
Jones Creek will open for member play Friday afternoon, and the public can take its shot at the course Saturday. Green fees with cart will be $55 on weekends (Friday through Sunday), and the cost is $45 on weekdays.
Rees Jones designed the course originally, and from the day it opened in 1985, Jones Creek began to develop a reputation. Though it earned accolades as one of the finest public courses in the state, Jones Creek also was known as a place where no good golf shot goes unpunished.
Following a couple of ownership changes, Jones Creek became a private club in 2001. The course conditions, meanwhile, went downhill under the operation of Fairways International Club.
Fairways International went into debt, and a group of local investors purchased Jones Creek at foreclosure in January. The new owners made the course semiprivate, but the top priority was to restore Jones Creek to prominence.
The course was closed for renovation April 15, and though rainy weather created some initial construction delays, the work was completed close to schedule.
One of the primary changes was converting the Bent grass greens to TifEagle surfaces, which will provide more consistency in a variety of weather conditions.
As for the greens themselves, variety is the key word. Every green complex at Jones Creek was completely rebuilt and redesigned during the renovation.
Some of the greens were subtly shifted; bunkers were removed from some spots and added in others; many greens were expanded, and others now present a smaller target.
"From the tees, the course will look very similar, but the approach shots into greens are going to be very different," Hemann said.
The course's 15th green was reconfigured, with a new bunker added.
Photo by Michael Holahan
The most dramatic change was to hole No. 16. The green on the par-4 has been lowered about 30 feet and moved forward toward the tee about 20 yards. Also, the fairway was built up; the result leaves the player hitting to a target that is almost at eye level, rather than the severely uphill approach previously presented on the hole.
While No. 16 will be a bona-fide birdie hole, Nos. 17 and 18 could cause scores to skyrocket. Both holes are long par-4s, and new bunkers have been placed in strategic positions in front of the greens - if a player can't hit a high approach shot on these holes, there's no escaping the sand.
Most of the other changes at Jones Creek are player-friendly. There are bailout areas around most greens, where gentle swales have replaced steep slopes.
All told, Jones Creek will remain resistant to scoring by the expert player, but it should be more manageable for high handicappers.
"It's still going to be a great test, but the player who misses greens is going to have more favorable options," Hemann said.
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