Anderson Creek Golf Club in Spring Lake, N.C.: A labor of Love for Davis III

By Patrick Jones, Contributor

SPRING LAKE, N.C. - Regardless of the seemingly unclever play on words, the creation of Anderson Creek Golf Club was truly a labor of love for architect Davis Love III and his brother, Mark. The golf course, in many ways, is a tribute to their father, Davis Love Jr., a renowned teaching professional who was tragically killed in a chartered airplane crash in 1988.

Love III, you may recall, published a book - "Every Shot I Take: Lessons Learned About Golf, Life, and a Father's Love" - that recounted the heavy influence of his dad on his life on and off the golf course.

An emotional Love had his father on his mind when a rainbow shone down as he putted out on the final hole of his only major championship, the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot.

One of their father's favorite courses was Pinehurst No. 2, site of the 1999 U.S. Open (and upcoming '05 Open), which, as the crow flies, is only 30 miles from here. With that strong father-son bond in mind, it is not by chance that Davis and Mark mapped out Anderson Creek Golf Club with many of the same design features as architect Donald Ross' revered layout. It was an added bonus that the implementation of their vision was carried out by Bob Spence, a Love Enterprises' architect who oversaw the majority of the on-site construction. Spence, having grown up in Pinehurst, was able to polish the golf course's subtle nuances that bring to mind No. 2.

"If you were put on the course and didn't know where you were, you would think you were in the Sandhills," said Jon Hockaday, Anderson Creek's director of golf. "There are a lot of longleaf pines and the land does resemble the Pinehurst area to a strong extent. The design around the greens with the roll-off definitely reminds you a lot of (Pinehurst No. 2)."

Opened in July 2001, Anderson Creek Golf Club rocketed into the listings of the state's favorite courses with the same velocity as one of DL III's penetrating long-iron shots. North Carolina Magazine chose it the "Best New Course" in the state, edging out the private Brier Creek Country Club, an Arnold Palmer design near Raleigh.

Anderson Creek was Love's first foray into course design in his native state. Though he resides in Sea Island, Ga., Love was born in Charlotte and was a three-time All American at the University of North Carolina. Buoyed by his success with Anderson Creek Golf Club, Love has since added The Preserve at Jordan Lake Golf Club in Chapel Hill to his Tar Heel design resume.

Love still owns a piece of the Anderson Creek Golf Club and the surrounding real-estate development, though the management of the course was taken over in July 2003 by Signet Golf Associates based in, you guessed it, Pinehurst. Signet also manages other North Carolina courses, including Rocky River (Concord), Stonebridge (Monroe), Crescent (Salisbury) and National (Pinehurst), as well as golf courses in Georgia and Tennessee.

Hockaday, a native of nearby Sanford, came over in the management transition after spending a decade in the same position at well regarded Keith Hills Country Club in Buies Creek, N.C. During his tenure at Keith Hills, Hockaday oversaw the recent opening of a second 18 designed by Dan Maples, and was responsible for developing the golf management degree program at Campbell University (which owns Keith Hills). But he could not pass up the opportunity to become involved with Anderson Creek when the opportunity came along.

"I saw the challenge to come in and do some good things," said Hockaday. "The opportunity was very attractive to me. It's a great layout. I think it's a step above the other courses in our immediate area. (Davis Love) designed it so that it can hold a championship event, which it is certainly capable of doing. But it is also a lot of fun for recreational golfers if they choose the right tees to play from."

In a line of work where golf professionals also sometimes serve as dispute mediators and one-person complaint departments, Hockaday has yet to hear a discouraging word from players coming off the 7,180-yard Anderson Creek layout.

"Believe it or not, in my first six months here, I haven't heard a single negative comment about the golf course," he said. "It's always been in very good shape. Right now, it's in excellent shape. And it would be next to impossible to got out there and play the course and complain about the layout, because it is really that good."

The word has spread on Anderson Creek to the degree that it is common for golfers to make the trek from somewhat distant destinations, such as Charlotte and Greensboro, where round-trip drive times can exceed the time spent playing a round. The course's growing reputation also allows it to pull traveling golfers off Interstate 95, the East Coast's primary north-south corridor that is within a 20-minute drive on Hwy. 87.

Rates are reasonable, particularly considering you are playing one of the state's best new additions. Even the top rate at Anderson Creek Golf Club would pay for about a four-hole taste at Pinehurst's priciest destinations.

On the front nine, No. 2 is a potentially reachable par-5 that plays to 541 yards. You'll find Love grass (no relation) around this green - and many others - that can send you and your score on a safari if your ball finds it.

No. 4 is a 205-yard par-3 that requires a carry over water and is arguably the course's best photo opportunity. (The creators of the course's marketing communication pieces seem to consider it a favorite.)

The short, 335-yard, par-4 13th hole normally leaves a short approach shot, but it better be precise. The green, according to Hockaday, is "devilish."

It's no surprise that the long-hitting Love chose a par-5 for the finishing hole. At 545 yards, it provides a birdie opportunity if you can negotiate the well-placed, ball-seeking bunkers on both your tee shot and approach shot.

The Anderson Creek Golf Club is at the athletic heart of a planned 2,700 single- and multi-dwelling residential area. The original plans for the community call for a second golf course to be built once the real-estate sales and membership numbers justify the need for the extra holes.

Chances are that Davis and Mark will have the opportunity here for another architectural labor of Loves in honor of their father's - and Pinehurst's - influence.

Patrick JonesPatrick Jones, Contributor

Patrick Jones was the senior producer for ESPN's "Lower Your Score with Tom Kite" CD-ROM instructional golf training series. He spent six years as a full-time sports writer and was awarded first-place honors for column writing from both the Florida and Texas sports writers associations.

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