New golf course will benefit MU

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 | 12:10 a.m. CDT; updated 2:10 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Last Saturday, a year of construction and a decade of planning culminated when the Club at Old Hawthorne celebrated its grand opening.

Visionary and development partner Jeff Whitfield said he’s thrilled to be a part of the project, and the response to Old Hawthorne has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Our members seem very pleased,” Whitfield said.

With a championship golf course, real estate opportunities and numerous amenities available to its members, including fine dining, a 27,000 square-foot clubhouse, and a Global Positioning System called “SkyCaddie” (a handheld device that displays course distances), Whitfield said it’s rewarding to see the finished product.

“It’s all you point toward for so long that you almost forget to enjoy it now that it’s here,” he said. “It’s extremely gratifying.”

Dallas Christianson, the director of membership sales, describes Old Hawthorne as a “hidden gem” because of its location in mid-Missouri instead of a metropolitan area.

“We think people live in Columbia for a reason,” he said. “Our members are real people you can talk to, and we like that aspect.”

According to Whitfield, construction for the course stayed on track with the help of a mild winter in 2005-2006. Whitfield saw a need in the late 1990s for an upscale golfing community in Columbia and worked with Columbia developer Billy Sapp and golf course designer Art Schaupeter to create Old Hawthorne.

“I always thought Columbia was a great location (for a golf course), along with the need,” Whitfield said.

Old Hawthorne developers also worked with the University of Missouri Athletic Department so the MU golf teams will have a new and more challenging course to practice on and host one tournament a year.

MU men’s golf head coach Tom Leroux said working with Old Hawthorne was a wonderful experience.

“They were very willing to help us,” Leroux said. “They were able to bend and give between what they wanted and what we wanted.”

The plan to build a new golf student center for the teams at Old Hawthorne, including locker rooms, coaching offices, and meeting rooms is on the agenda for the July MU curator’s meeting, while the team will begin practice at the course on August 15.

The teams will also have their own area on the course, separate from the members of Old Hawthorne so time and space won’t overlap.

“An average driving range is six acres. Ours is 23 acres, so when the MU teams come to practice, they have their own separate areas,” Christianson said.

Christianson said the course is catered to all levels of golfers and can be made as easy or as difficult as the player wishes through the five available tee boxes.

“The expert can challenge himself and the beginner can still have fun,” Christianson said. “It gives the players a lot of options.”

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