A driving range and chipping green are being created
By JOE GIESY
Golfers at the Mill Creek courses will have a new view from the east of the clubhouse next Memorial Day and should notice changes to a couple holes on the North course that was designed and built in the 1920s.
Dennis Miller, head of Mill Creek’s North and South golf courses, put the plans in motion to add the Mill Creek Practice and Learning center — a driving range and chipping green — to the 36 holes that compose most of the Mill Creek MetroPark between U.S. 224 and Shields Road.
Despite being $78,000 short of the $300,000 he needs for the project, Miller plans for the range to be fully constructed and seeded by October.
The new facilities will lie between the 10th and 18th holes on the North course causing changes to be made to the two holes in original design drafted by a revered architect Donald Ross.
Ross designed the courses that opened at Mill Creek in 1928 and was on site for the construction of both.
The South course went on to be named one of the best municipal golf courses in America by Golfweek magazine.
Ross designed more than 400 American golf courses, 100 of which have hosted national tournaments.
“I take that very serious,” Miller said.
Michael Fay, captain of the Donald Ross Society, never likes to see a Donald Ross course changed but acknowledged the need for Mill Creek to build the driving range and chipping green.
“Practice facilities are almost mandatory for a municipal golf course,” Fay said.
Practice ranges are a major draw for golf courses across the nation to bring in more golfers and additional revenue.
“Everyone is in agreement: This is what Mill Creek needs,” Miller said.
Fay said retrofitting an 83-year-old golf course with new facilities is a tough problem because of limited space in the original design.
Miller said they want to maintain the integrity of the original design when changing the location of the tee box on the 10th hole and the shape of the fairway on the 18th.
Mill Creek contracted architect Brian Huntley of Brian Huntley Golf Sense, Inc. in Uniontown to coordinate with Mill Creek’s staff on the project.
The new design allows 18 to keep its current yardage and takes out the dog leg on the hole by shifting the fairway, which runs west-to-east, 20 yards south.
Miller said the hole will still be challenging due to a creek that will now be in play on the south side of the hole and the addition of a bunker.
The tee box on 10 will be moved 20 yards north giving golfers a different angle from tee to green. The fairway runs diagonally on the golf course so golfers hit from southeast to northwest.
Ron Forse, a golf course architect and president of Forse Designs Incorporated in Hopwood, Pa, said the trick to changing a golf course’s original design is to recreate the landscape of the course. He has restored more than 30 Donald Ross golf courses.
Forses said it is ideal to keep any golf course like the ones at Mill Creek fully intact.
“It would be a shame to change that course because of its history,” Forse said.
Forse warned that changing the design without losing its natural feel is difficult to do. He said even amateur golfers can tell something is off when a course is man-made or a hole does not fit with the rest of the course.
“These are works of art,” Fay said about Ross courses.
He said a course designed by guys who had to work with the landscape they had is a better test of golf than new courses.
Alex Antonio, Milwaulkee State Golf Association Hall-of-Famer and 1962-63 Ohio High School champion, said he hopes the intent of Mill Creek is to look at the golf course as a whole when redesigning.
Antonio played Mill Creek a lot through his high school and college days and remembers the course to be a wonderful design.
Antonio said the personality of an architect gets reflected in the design. When two personalities are present on the same course, it might not affect the golfers game play but it could affect a player’s emotions, he said.
Miller, an avid golfer and member of the Professional Golfer’s Association, is confident the new layouts will suit the course and the new practice range and learning center will be enjoyed.
To make the necessary changes, Miller took $200,000 from Mill Creek’s reserve fund and launched a campaign to raise $100,000.
Miller collected $22,000 from private donors and ad space on signs at each tee box. Advertisers pay $500 per hole and six tee signs remain void of advertisement so selling the remaining spaces will net Miller and the project another $30,000.
Miller plans to honor donors by putting their names on a wall around the new short game area.