March 30, 2009
From NC State's Technician

The grass is greener on Centennial Campus

The Lonnie Poole golf course is in the final stages of completion and is set to open at the end of M

By Lindsey Hall, Senior Staff Writer

The Lonnie Poole Golf Course, located on Centennial Campus, is nearly complete and ready to present a challenge to golfers. In addition, it will finally provide a home course for the men's and women's golf teams.

Construction on the 6,915-yard, par-71 course began in the summer of 2007. It was originally slated to open this April, but with the combination of extended periods of rain and unseasonably cool weather, golfers will have to wait another month to hit the fairways.

While there is no specific date set for the opening of the course, grand opening activities are tentatively scheduled for the last weekend of May, around Memorial Day.

Chip Watson, general manager and golf director of the Lonnie Poole Golf Course, is expecting a tremendous turnout for the opening weekend of the course, which will include a special appearance by Arnold Palmer. Palmer and his team from Arnold Palmer Design Company created the signature course.

"It's been great to see all of this come together and I can't wait for the opening," Watson said. "For now, we're just fine tuning [the course]."

All major construction on the course is now complete. Now, workers are devoting attention to detail by edging all bunkers and planting and grooming the last of the landscaping. Grass mowing patterns are also being finalized and cut.

The putting greens are finished and ready for play, and as Watson said, "You could go putt on them right now."

The main hold-up for the opening of the course is the fairways. The course is dominated by Bermuda grass, a special type of fine grass featured on many top-notch golf courses. Bermuda grass typically needs four to six weeks of moderately warm growing weather before being in prime condition.

The maintenance building is also ready to be moved in, which will take place over the next few weeks. The course superintendent's office will be housed in the building. A temporary structure will be in place within the next 30 days, adjacent to a parking lot that is nearly complete. The building will serve as a temporary clubhouse and will also house offices for course staff.

"The temporary club house is a very nice. It's the same style that was at the Old Chatham Golf Club as well as the River Landing course," Watson said. "So people that have played there in the past know the quality that can be expected."

Watson also said that the permanent clubhouse is still primarily dependent on fundraising from alumni and other donors. Once the target amount for fundraising is reached, construction on the clubhouse will begin. Once construction is underway, Watson expects the clubhouse to open eight to nine months later.

"We're in tough economic times, but it will happen soon," Watson said.

Visitors to the golf course's webpage have already begun purchasing pre-paid rounds. In December, the rounds became available after numerous requests for gift certificates were called in during the holidays. The online specials are offered at a discount from what the finalized prices will be and they will be removed once the course opens. Currently, the public can purchase two rounds of golf for $125, four rounds for $200 or eight rounds for $350. Once purchased, the online specials will be valid through the end of 2010.

"The packages are a good deal right now, and they help out with funding of the course before we're even open," Watson said. "It's saving the golfers money, too."

Pricing to play the course will be structured in four main categories, similar to other collegiate courses in the Triangle. There will be a standard general public walk-in rate, as well as one for "affiliated entities," such as the Wolfpack Club, the Alumni Association and other groups associated with the university. There will also be faculty rates and student rates. All of the rates will fall under certain stipulations, such as specific days of the week.

"We plan on announcing the prices in the next couple of weeks," Watson said. "We're getting together details on course rules, policies and other administrative things. These will all be announced as we continue to finalize."

The men and women's golf teams will have early access to the course. Watson also serves as the assistant coach of the men's golf team, which is currently nationally ranked. He said all of the players are excited about the fantastic year that the team is having and everyone is looking forward to the convenience and pride involved in having a home course. Watson is already seeing benefits of having a new course.

"Nowadays, high school kids ask about where we're playing, how many times we fly out, what our home facility is like and other questions," Watson said. "So it's nice to have something new and original to offer, and we've been getting a lot more visits."

Zac Kasak, a senior in business administration, is looking forward to the opening of the course. He plans on trying out the new course in the summer.

"Now I play when I go home, because I live on a golf course, as well as at Garner Country Club, because it's cheap," Kasak said. "It's a really attractive thing to have in the area that's new and catered to students, the golf teams and the alumni."