Work has been completed on the par-5 Heartbreaker No. 1, the 10th hole in the Robert Trent Jones Trail facility’s traditional championship routing considered the most intensive element of the project.
The course has been closed since being ravaged by the April 27 tornadoes.
“It was just a hard hole to redo,” Silver Lakes director of golf Jason Callan said Monday. “We kept the same green, but had a hard time moving some of that (dirt).”
The mound that used to split the fairway has been shaved down and pushed forward toward the green, requiring nearly two acres of sod, officials said. A large bunker has been constructed where the mound used to be, forcing play down the desired left side, and a new pot bunker — unseen from the fairway — has been dug about 20 yards short of the center of the green.
“It’s going to look pretty cool,” Callan said. “It gives us a lot of options. That’s what we tried to find. That green is 12,000 square feet. We needed to find a way to make it all accessible.”
The next most intensive area was Heartbreaker No. 7. Initial plans called for removing one of the two fairway bunkers. That will not happen now, but a new tee box will be built on the left side of the par-5 hole and three descending ponds will have been created along the creek that has been opened by the loss and removal of so many trees that destroyed the intimacy of each hole.
“We’ve taken a very difficult situation and making it as good as we possibly can,” said Dr. David Bronner, CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama that finances the Trail.
Bunkers also have been added to Mindbreaker No. 5 and No. 7. While the work was ongoing, crews also replaced the bentgrass on all 36 greens with Champion Bermuda.
“I think we’re doing the right thing,” said SunBelt Golf president John Cannon, on hand at the RTJ Trail’s Capitol Hill facility Monday to help promote the Navistar LPGA Classic coming to the grounds Sept. 12-18. “Everyone involved in the project now believes this golf course is going to be prettier than it probably was before.
“It’s going to special, I think. It’s going to be fun.”
The Navistar LPGA Classic will be played at Capitol Hill for the fifth straight year, but with a few new twists.
No one will play the Senator Course that will stage the event until open qualifying Sept. 12, as the course as been closed since May 31 to convert the greens to Champion Bermuda and undergo other renovations. The most significant change was a reshaping of the par-5 fifth hole.
In addition, all spectators will be allowed on the grounds free of charge. Single-day tickets have gone for $10. Last year, the ’s event drew between 45,000 and 50,000 for the week, tournament officials said.
This year’s event, the last full field event on the LPGA Tour before the Solheim Cup, has drawn the top six players in the world rankings and 15 of the top 20.
Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.