A golf publication based in the United Kingdom has cast a favorable eye on recent developments in Central Wisconsin and, for a change, the focus wasn’t on Sand Valley or SentryWorld.
Instead, in its January 2019 issue Golf Course Architecture praised the recent renovation of Stevens Point Country Club, a re-do so dramatic the club’s website proclaims, “In short, we have a brand new course.”
The redesign, overseen by Craig Haltom and the Oliphant Company, included new bunkers and tees, installation of large sandy natural areas where pines had once crowded, widened fairways and a new irrigation system. Haltom designed three entirely new holes. The multi-million-dollar project also included a new pool and family activity center, a renovated clubhouse, a golf shop addition and new practice and teaching areas.
While the golf course still boasts thousands of tall pines and other trees, there are far fewer than just a few years ago. Some of the trees were removed during the redesign, but others – as many as 2,500 - had fallen victim to use of the Dupont herbicide Imprelis, once thought by superintendents across the country to be a miracle product until it was linked to the killing of nearby trees. By 2011 Dupont pulled the rogue herbicide from the market and later settled with golf course owners, municipalities and other users to the tune of more than $1.5 billion.
Painful as the killing of so many trees seemed at first, it was that significant windfall settlement that allowed Stevens Point CC to build its “brand new course.” Golf Course Architecture noted it was Haltom (who initially located the massive sandy dune property where Sand Valley was later built and whose name was given to a snack bar there called Craig’s Porch) who proposed a “radical project” to members that included removing additional trees, rebuilding all bunkers and creating large waste areas, all aimed at turning a traditional parkland golf course into something “rougher around the edges, with exposed sand and large bunkers dominating the view.
“To the club’s credit, it bought into this new vision,” the magazine said. “And the work is nothing short of a triumph.”
While the magazine described the property as not especially dramatic, the club does have “the priceless asset of having a tree-lined river valley down the entire left side of the golf course, separating it from nearby housing and giving the site a pleasingly natural, even wild in places, feel. Haltom’s work has really enhanced that.”
Coincidentally, the better known SentryWorld GC, famous for its cover girl “flower hole,” also recently underwent an extensive renovation overseen by golf course architect Jay Blasi “to a very high standard, and which would certainly have been regarded as the best course in town,” the magazine said.
“It is a testimony to the work of Craig Haltom and the rest of the team that this would no longer be an automatic assumption.”
Golf Course Architecture, which calls itself the global journal of golf design and development, is published in England. Jesse Malsom, who has been general manager at Stevens Point CC for just two weeks, was obviously pleased to see the attention paid to his course.
“It’s always good to get a little publicity,” he said, “especially the good kind.”