Dan Maples Sets Gates Four on Track with Sand Hills Courses

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

FAYETTEVILLE, NC -- It's not easy living in the shadow of Pinehurst, and the Sand Hills cadre of top notch golf courses, but life just got a little easier for this neighboring military town. Dan Maples, known throughout the Southeastern U.S. for his course designs, recently flexed his muscle in the golf management business, overseeing a major remodeling of Gates Four Golf and Country Club.

Maples Golf Course Management recently completed a $5 million clubhouse improvement and several upgrades to the golf course, which is the centerpiece of Fayetteville's oldest gated community. To bolster interest in the new look facility, Gates Four Golf and Country Club has launched a major membership drive for the first quarter of 2002.

Members who join in January, February or March will receive significantly reduced prices on initiation fees. The goal is to add enough members to make Gates Four a totally private country club.

"We're definitely in a growth mode," said Chris Hawk, director of sales and marketing for Maples Golf Management, which runs the club. "I think you can put this golf course and these facilities up against any."

Gates Four has been managed by Maples Golf Management of Pinehurst, since 1999. Under the direction of Maples – son of famed Pinehurst architect Ellis Maples -- significant improvements have been made to the design, maintenance and drainage systems of this Willard Byrd-designed layout. Maples Golf also oversaw the recent construction of a state-of-the-art, 29,000-square-foot clubhouse that's become the centerpiece for the club.

"It's a $5 million work of art," Hawk said. "There are all kinds of people out there that don't know of the facilities we have to offer."

The new clubhouse features a main ballroom, private dining area, lounge, conference rooms, fitness center, fully-stocked pro shop, men's and women's locker rooms, men's and women's card rooms, club storage and a club repair shop. Pool and tennis are also available.

The club has reduced membership rates as a major way to lure new members into the fold. Through January, the regular initiation fee dropped from $6,000 to $250. In February, it will be just $500, and in March, the initiation fee rises to $1,000.

Starting April 1, the joining fee returns to $6,000. And once total membership rises to the 500 mark – it's at 400 right now – the club plans to go private, which means the initiation fees will probably rise again.

"Now is definitely the time to join," said head professional Loren Beahm, who's been at Gates Four since 1995. "Once we get to that 500 mark, the initiation fee will go up."

In addition to the clubhouse, Maples Golf upgraded the course by reversing the two nines and allowing the course to finish with a manageable par-5 that provides players with a view of the new clubhouse. The old 18th hole, which is now the ninth, was a brutal, dogleg left par-4 that was difficult to reach in two shots. Maples softened up that hole, providing a wider fairway and better landing area for tee shots.

Maples (at right), who has a number of solo designs to his credit in the area, also completed a major overhaul on the par-4 seventh hole. The fairway used to slope about 35 degrees left to right, sending most tee shots down to a creek on the right side of the fairway. Now the large bank that comprises the left side of the fairway has been leveled to create a hole that is much more accommodating to tee shots.

Other improvements include the completion of a cart path system throughout the entire course, and the addition of drainage systems on several of the low-lying holes.

"All the upgrades have made the course more playable and enjoyable," Beahm explained. "If you haven't played the course in a while, you really need to come back and visit us again. There are so many improvements that you won't recognize the place."

The greens are always among the best in the area, giving Gates Four a solid package for someone looking for a golf and country club will a full set of amenities.

"It is an unbelievable offer," said Hawk. "What you get for the money, I'd venture to say there's not another country club in the country that offers what we offer for the price."

Maples was recently called upon to participate in a membership drive at Cramer Mountain Country Club just outside of Charlotte. Maples was the original designer of record for the mountainous layout, which he has often referred to as one of his "favorites."

Maples learned the course design business from his father, Ellis, who in turn apprenticed under his father, Frank. Frank Maples worked extensively for Scottish golf course architect Donald Ross, who designed the famed No. 2 Course at Pinehurst Resort.

Maples first solo effort was Marsh Harbor, north of Myrtle Beach in Brunswick County, NC, and the Pinehurst native now claims over 45 courses with his name, including the The Pit in Pinehurst, Rocky River in Charlotte, and Oyster Bay near Myrtle Beach.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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