By David Rogers. June 23, 2017. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Augusta National has “Amen Corner,” but does Blowing Rock Country Club now have “Hospital Corner?” Is that a Bear’s Mouth that BRCC President Jim Williams crawled into?
COVER IMAGE: The ceremonial tee shot included triple tee shots by, left to right, Joel Gottlieb, Bob Miller, and Linda Russell. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
It was still a couple of weeks early for fireworks, but Blowing Rock Country Club (BRCC) celebrated the complete revamping of Holes 10, 11, 12, 13 and #2 of its golf course on Wednesday. The redesign by Greensboro, NC-based golf course architect Kris Spence is intended to restore original design features of the pioneering golf course legend, Seth Raynor, whom BRCC golf pro Wayne Smith has confirmed is the original course designer in Blowing Rock.
“When this restoration is complete,” Smith told the estimated 125 BRCC members packing the main ballroom in the clubhouse, “Blowing Rock will have the only Seth Raynor course in all of North Carolina. That is really something for this club to be proud of.”
Earlier in the day, some three dozen BRCC members joined Smith, Spence, the club’s officers and board of directors, and golf course superintendent Ben Barnes at the #10 tee with champagne in hand to toast those who made the renovations and redesign possible. And of course, they had a little fun with a one-hole, “Captain’s Choice” contest with three teams of two players. Fittingly, it ended in a three-way tie.
This is pure golf course genius.
At the clubhouse presentation later, Spence was on hand to elaborate on how the restored and revamped holes will play, and had a slide show presentation to point out various design features. When he described Raynor’s original template for a very deep “lion’s mouth” bunker at the front of #11’s green, many in the audience chuckled a sigh of relief when he admitted to scaling back on the depth “just a bit.” There would be no trips to the hospital after climbing in and out of deep bunkers, but Spence said he wanted to name that bunker at #11, “Bear’s Mouth,” and we doubt he was talking about the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus.
In describing how Spence and golf course superintendent Ben Barnes had salvaged grass on previous greens and moved it the newer, revamped and reshaped greens, Smith observed, “This is just pure golf course genius. Think about it. You have new greens that are about three months old, but they have 100-year-old grass on them. That’s just pure genius.”
The former Hole #13 was famous at BRCC for its almost incredulous design, start to finish. From the blue tees, you started with a blind tee shot, over a hill and down a lumpy fairway to a postage stamp of a landing area — in front of a lake. Then you had to pitch over the lake onto a relatively small green that seemed to slope off in all directions.
The only Seth Raynor course in North Carolina.
The new #13, Spence noted, may be one of the most beautiful golf holes on any course in the state of North Carolina. The design and construction team graded down to eliminate the blind tee shot, took out the lake and restored the creek winding down a little valley. In front of the tee boxes, they took down the dirt to expose a couple of large granite boulders.
“You want to stay left,” Spence told the appreciative audience. “Too far right and you will land in or roll into the creek.”
With other current projects that include The Country Club of North Carolina (Pinehurst), and Memphis Country Club (Memphis, TN) and recently completed projects throughout the Southeast, from Virginia to South Carolina and beyond, Spence specializes in restoring older golf courses originally designed by Raynor, Donald Ross, and Ellis Maples, among others.
Next week, we plan a tour around the course, camera in tow, so look for an update. Just in case, we’ll have 9-1-1 on speed dial!