Cypress Lakes: Home of the Floyds finds acclaim on own merits

By Patrick Jones, Contributor

HOPE MILLS, N.C. -- Cypress Lakes Golf Course promotes itself as the "Home of the Floyds."

At the outset, for the edification of the too casual fan, the Floyds being referenced are not any of the following: rockers Pink Floyd, still-dead gangster "Pretty Boy" Floyd, or Mayberry's favorite hair trimmer, Floyd the Barber.

As anyone who did not miss an episode of "The Big Break" on The Golf Channel knows, it's the golfing Floyds of Fayetteville, N.C. - siblings Raymond and Marlene, and their daddy, L.B. - whom Cypress Lakes members hold dear to their hearts and proclaim as their own.

One of the game's all-time great players, Ray Floyd was in his middle 20s and already established as a touring professional when Cypress Lakes opened in 1968. The course was designed by Stuart Gooden, though L.B. and Ray purportedly had input on the finished layout.

Ray Floyd went on to win the 1976 Masters and the 1986 U.S. Open. Marlene played for many years on the LPGA Tour, served as an analyst for NBC Sports golf telecasts and is considered one of the game's top female teaching professionals. Their father, L.B., still makes his home near the No. 6 tee box at Cypress Lakes. Marlene's residence is off the No. 10 green and No. 11 tee. Ray had a home here next door to his dad at one time, but has been based out of Palm Beach, Fla., for many years.

Though its close connection to one of golf's royal families is a convenient name-dropping claim to fame, and one that should certainly be used to its advantage, Cypress Lakes Golf Course has found acclaim on its own merits after 35 years of operation.

The semi-private club has approximately 120 resident members, but it also has a following of migratory regulars who hail from faraway locations such as Canada, New York and Ohio. Many of them have been playing the course for decades.

Cypress Lakes benefits from its close proximity to Interstate 95 - it's just two miles from the heavily traveled north-south corridor off exit 41 - and gets a significant number of its 35,000 to 40,000 annual rounds from drive-by golfers on their way to and from other destinations such as Florida, Myrtle Beach and Pinehurst.

"I've never seen a course that has such a following from out of state," said head professional Calvin Weber. "It is unbelievable. Every spring and every fall, they come here to play. And they know this place. They remember that this little thing used to be here and that was there. If we move one little picture in the pro shop, they notice it."

They also take heed of the phenomenal rates, particularly after playing high-ticket courses at some of the glitzier destinations. At 2003-04 winter rates, you can play Cypress Lakes with cart on prime time Friday through Sunday and holidays for just $32. It drops to $22 on weekdays. Seniors, law enforcement officers and men of the cloth (pastors, not tailors) pay just $19 on business days (M-F). For walkers, it's close to a buck a hole any day after 1 p.m.

Along with the steady stream of out of towners, Cypress Lakes also takes care of its neighbors. Nine-hole leagues are a staple here for companies with a local presence, including DuPont, Sprint, Kelly Springfield and Black & Decker. Weber has big plans for local junior clinics come this spring and summer.

The 7,240-yard course meanders up and down across rolling hills, past horse farms, and, on several memorable holes, through tannin-stained, Cypress tree-filled wetlands that make you feel like you've stepped back in time to a primordial era when hunched over men swung sticks in the swamp to subdue their dinner. Prior to its creation as a golf course, this unique acreage was the personal retreat of a local physician who nurtured a turkey farm and cultivated azaleas and camellias on the property.

L.B. Floyd and Al Prewitt were the prime caretakers of the property once attention turned from gobblers to birdies. Tom Prewitt, Al's son, is now the course owner.

Head professional Weber, a native Nebraskan, came to Cypress Lakes after three-plus years at nearby Baywood Golf Club following a decade in Florida. He says the biggest appeal of the course is that it embodies what golf is meant to be.

"It's a layout where you feel the need to keep trying it because you use every club in the bag," he said. "It's a course that challenges you with doglegs right, doglegs left, shorter holes, longer holes, holes over water. There's every shot you can think of on this course.

"It's a course that's very challenging (73.2/133)," Weber added, "but it is very golfer friendly. There aren't any hidden holes where you have to play it two or three times to figure it out. It's very straightforward. The challenge of the course is what brings so many golfers back - and many of them from far away. You play it once and you can't wait to come back and play it better the next time."

Cypress Lakes places a heavy emphasis on the quality of its greens. In the mid-90s, the putting surfaces were reshaped, contoured and reconstructed with top-of-the-line Penn A4 Bent grass greens.

"The No. 1 thing golfers will tell you is that courses they play must have good greens," said Weber. "Almost half of your scores are on the greens and around the greens. Having excellent greens is our top attraction, hands down, bar none. (Superintendent) Ed Drake has done a helluva job. He's lived with the course and made it his baby.

"I've been at golf courses where they've had bad greens," Weber added. "You can't have a worse nightmare than that for a golf professional. What a thrill it is to stand here and have golfers consistently compliment our greens. You can always have your course a little more trimmed up and have a few more flowers, but we put the dollars into the greens first and everything else comes after that."

On the front nine, No. 9 is likely the hole that most golfers at Cypress Lakes both relish and fear the most. The par-3 plays to 180 yards from the championship tees. It requires a full carry from tee to green over the Cypress swamp. A road is to the left. Bunkers protect the front of the green. Water is to the right.

Weber considers the hole his personal favorite and hears the same from most golfers at Cypress Lakes.

"You play eight holes of just battling it and you come around to that ninth hole trying to close out your front nine," Weber said. "There is no bailout. It just takes a golf shot. You stand up there and you feel like 'This is it. ' This is the time and the hole to make sure you go through your routine, to be focused and try to pull off a good shot."

No. 11, formerly a reachable par-5, is being modified with the addition of a natural area 245 yards from the tee box, turning it into a three-shot hole even for the long hitters.

Cypress Lakes prides itself on its friendliness, an atmosphere demanded by Prewitt and fulfilled by Weber. It's an anomaly if Weber, who calls himself "a very hands on" professional, does not personally greet you and ask you how you're doing.

"We do whatever it takes to make every golfer feel at home at Cypress Lakes," said Weber.

If your name - first, last or middle - also happens to be Floyd, so much the better.

Where to stay/what else to do/golf packages

For more information on the Fayetteville, N.C., area, see the roundup story: Fayetteville offers quality, affordable golf.

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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