Changes to No. 2 meet with Fay's approval

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Rants, raves and other things admissible as golf news from around the Old North State.

Seems that David Fay digs the new-look No. 2. The United States Golf Association's executive director was in Pinehurst last week to check out the latest changes to the Donald Ross jewel in its preparation for the 2005 U.S. Open. The impetus for the changes came from Pinehurst Resort, not the USGA - a change in the normal M.O between Open venue and the esteemed (yet often uncompromising) golf association.

As far as Open facelifts go, this particular surgery is fairly unobtrusive. A series of new tees have been installed, stretching the layout to about 7,300 yards. Holes with new tee boxes include the par-4 second; the par-5 fourth; the par-4 seventh; the par-4 11th; and the par-4 14th.

The additional length should (in theory) call for longer irons into greens, and thus fewer greens in regulation for the flatbellies. Fewer GIRs will help to bring Ross' famed chipping areas back into play, putting a premium on short game creativity (memo to Lefty). Other Open-oriented changes include narrowing the fairways between 24 and 26 yards (four to six yards tighter than the 1999 Open) and firming up the already bathtub slick greens.

Course rankings hit the shelves

The March issue of North Carolina magazine is on the shelves, and a couple of N.C. courses made moves up the charts in the glossy's annual golf course rankings. The National Golf Club in Southern Pines jumped one spot to 14th, marking the fourth straight year the Jack Nicklaus designed layout has advanced in the rankings. Rocky River Golf Club north of Charlotte moved up ten spots from 87 to 77.

North Carolina magazine has evolved into the de facto golf course ranking outlet in the Old North State. Panelists tour hundreds of public and private courses throughout the state each year, evaluating each on quality of design, conditions, scenery and service. Perennial powerhouse Pinehurst No. 2 maintained its hold on the No. 1 spot.

Fazio and Haas Honor Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents

Finally, a golf course architect and professional golfer who are ready to show hard working superintendents some love. Tom Fazio (the architect) and Jay Haas (the player) will serve as patrons honoring the 50th anniversary year of the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association. The Carolinas GCSA serves the professional interests of more than 1,700 members in North and South Carolina.

Fazio ranks among the 10 most influential people in golf according to Golf Digest along with the likes of Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and PGA Tour commissioner, Tim Finchem. Greensboro native Haas is a winner of nine PGA Tour titles and more than $12 million in prize money.

Haas says he wants to use the opportunity to increase awareness and appreciation of the role of golf course superintendents.

"I don't think the great majority of golfers, professionals or amateurs, understand what goes into making a golf course green, playable and beautiful to everyone involved," he says. "For me personally, I can't thank golf course superintendents enough for all they do."

While specific figures are unavailable in North Carolina, golf contributes $1.5 billion in economic benefit to South Carolina's economy each year, as measured by the State Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

"I have had the honor and pleasure to work on more than 30 courses in this region throughout my career, and I know first hand the dedication, knowledge, and hard work done by the superintendents that has made this region so special," Fazio says. "The Carolinas golf experience is second to none and it is the golf course superintendents that make the golf course special on a day-to-day basis."

Spence at it again at Gaston C.C.

In 2003, reported on Kris Spence and his restoration/redesign work at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville and Mimosa Country Club in Morganton. The Greensboro based golf course architect is at it again in 04. Spence, known for his restorations of Ross and Ellis Maples courses, has begun an extensive restoration project at Gaston Country Club outside of Charlotte.

The 18-hole private course, designed by Maples in 1958, was once considered among North Carolina's elite facilities. Spence's work will include reconstructing and restoring greens to their original sizes, shapes and contours, as well as repositioning select bunkers to improve strategy.

The majority of tees will be leveled and resurfaced, with additional length added to restore the natural shot values and strategy created by the pitch and roll of the property. The two elements of the project garnering the most gab are the lowering of the fairway hill on the par-5 seventh hole to allow golfers a glimpse of the green, and the shifting of the 18th hole to bring the existing lake more into play.

Gaston Country Club closed its course for the renovation in November. Spence expects the construction phase of the project to be completed by early May.

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 from 1997 to 2003.

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