For Mizzou, a change of course

Creators hope new course boosts MU golf
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:08 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
Rick Ridgeway mows the green on the 18th hole at the Club at Old Hawthorne while construction crews work on the country club in the background.
The MU men’s and women’s golf teams will each get to have a 54-hole tournament at the course each year, and the course is also up for consideration as a NCAA regional host in 2009.

When golfers reach the top of the hill to hit their final tee shots on the 18th hole at the Club at Old Hawthorne, they’ll see a view that captures the spirit of Columbia’s newest golf course.

As soon as their gaze drifts from the 27,000-square-foot clubhouse beyond the 18th green, golfers will tee off from one of five laser-leveled rectangular tee boxes angled for the optimal shot. Ideally, that shot will land somewhere in the six irrigation lines wide fairway, bordered on the right by a pond and separated into an upper and lower tier by a large bunker.

Membership & course fees

  • Local $9,000 (valued at $12,000) for initiation fees for members above 36, $6,000 for members below 36. Per month: $335 per family, $295 for a single
  • Regional (30-60 mile radius): $6,000 for initiation fees. Per month: $235 per family, $195 for a single
  • National (farther than 60 miles): $1300 for initiation fees. Per month: $89 per family, $69 for a single.
  • Guest fees are $45 during the week, $55 on the weekends, up to 3 guests are allowed.

“That is what the course is all about,” said Art Schaupeter, the renowned golf architect who designed the course. “It’s about options.”

After the tee shot, the next goal will be to hit an uphill shot that will reach the large, sloping green on the 385-yard par 4, all the while avoiding the remaining nine bunkers scattered along the way.

It’s holes like this one that have led Schaupeter and Jeff Whitfield, a Mizzou golfer for two years who graduated in 1980, to believe the new course is going to be unlike any other in the area when it opens May 19.

“It’s not hard to build a tough golf course,” Whitfield said. “What’s hard is to build a course that can be tough but can also be fun and playable for all levels of golfers.”

The Club at Old Hawthorne began as the vision of Whitfield, who believed that the Mizzou golf teams were at a recruiting disadvantage in the Big 12 conference with their current course. As a result, the challenging, private 7,221-yard course with wide fairways, 72 bunkers, three large water hazards and a winding section of Grindstone Creek will be the new home for MU’s men’s and women’s golf teams.

“I think part of the appeal of the Club at Old Hawthorne is the connection to the university,” Whitfield said.

Stephanie Priesmeyer, the women’s golf coach, said she and her team are excited about the move.

“When I first took the job six years ago, there were some whispers about a new golf course,” Priesmeyer said. “But we sort of figured it was never going to happen because it was such a big undertaking. It’s still kind of unbelievable. I think it’s going to be great for us.”

The deal will cost MU an annual fee of $24,000 for 20 years with the option of a 10-year extension, said Associate Athletic Director Mark Alnutt. Both teams will have access to their own practice facilities and the 18-hole course throughout the week, and Alnutt said a new team center should be built in the next 12 to 24 months when the funds have been raised.

“A.L. Gustin has been great for us, but it’s exciting to have a new and challenging course,” Alnutt said.

He added that A.L. Gustin will still be used for qualifying and other athletic department tournaments.

The deal also allows both teams to have one 54-hole tournament each year between Oct. 1 and May 1.

The first one of these will be the women’s Johnnie Imes Invitational, scheduled to take place Oct. 9 to 10.

The course is also up for contention to host a NCAA regional in 2009, and Priesmeyer said a decision should be reached in the next few weeks.

Priesmeyer said the new, more difficult course should give her team a competitive advantage, pointing to the fact that Texas A&M recently got a new course and has won back-to-back conference championships. She was grateful that the developers of the course made helping the university a priority.

“The caliber of the golf course that they’re building and them having us in their mind to be a part of it, it’s a nice feeling,” she said. “People may think of selling houses and membership and all that, but they’re also thinking about how they can help the university and the golf teams.”

Schaupeter was the lead designer for the course, but he got some help from the three partners, especially Whitfield. The two have worked together before to design Persimmon Woods Golf Club near St. Louis, which was completed in 1998.

“(The designing was) a continual back-and-forth process,” Schaupeter said. “I would bring in my ideas, and (the developers) would bring in their own ideas.”

Dallas Christianson, the club’s membership director, and Whitfield both stressed the importance of Schaupeter being able to build the course before the housing developments were put in.

“The partners asked Art to go ahead and design the best golf course possible on this lay of the land,” Christianson said.

Construction on the course began in October 2005, after the developers signed a contract with Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Niebur Golf. As the construction crews worked, Schaupeter drove in from his St. Louis-area home about three times a week to oversee the process.

The course was completed in September 2006, and Schaupeter was pleased with the final results. The Club at Old Hawthorne was his fourth course since he began his own designing firm.

The other three projects included the No. 5-best new affordable course in America, according to Golf Digest, and another course that was ranked No. 1 in San Antonio by the San Antonio Express/News.

“I think this one is the best of the four,” he said.

Schaupeter believes that his course provides 18 unique and challenging holes that will keep people coming back for more.

“(The course is) like a good piece of music,” Schaupeter said. “The more you play it, the more you like it.”

Whitfield and Christianson agreed the 18th is the best bet to become the course’s signature hole. However, Schaupeter said the 662-yard 6th, the short but dynamic 8th, the long and uphill 11th, and the 16th with its large, isolated green, could all be favorites for the club’s members.

To go along with the course, clubhouse and practice facilities, members will also be able to receive instruction from Head Pro Travis McCubbin and assistant pro Kevin Stull. The club will also feature a teaching school where John Utley will be the lead instructor. McCubbin, who is originally from the Harrisburg area, said he was thrilled with his new job at Columbia’s newest golf course.

“It’s the best,” he said. “It’s the one I’ve been beating Jeff about for about three years.”

For interested golfers who don’t want membership, Whitfield said the club plans to host several fundraising tournaments throughout the year that will be open to all, including a tournament on May 21 to raise money for the Missouri Heart Institute.

Although some of the zoysia grass in the fairways hasn’t turned green yet and the clubhouse is a work in progress, the course should be ready to host a round of golf for the media and special guests on May 18. On May 19, Schaupeter said he’ll be eager to play a round of golf with the course’s members and see what they have to say about his work.

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