Golf Travel: Fayetteville Rising

Anderson Creek GC (Photo: Scott MacLeod)
Anderson Creek GC (Photo: Scott MacLeod)
Anderson Creek GC (Photo: Scott MacLeod)

The eastern flank of North Carolina’s famed golfing Sandhills provides ideal conditions for golf’s greatest architects to sculpt and refine their masterpieces.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (April 2016) — Fayetteville’s military ties and down home atmosphere extend well beyond the gates of Fort Bragg and even the city limits. It’s not uncommon on any given day to find soldiers relaxing in local parks, visiting shopping areas, enjoying outdoor dining, even teeing up alongside fellow locals on one of the region’s array of outstanding golf courses.

Progress continually marches on across the Fayetteville region, particularly on city’s golfing “south side.” It is here, where settlements date back more than 200 years, that perhaps the most authentic blending of the old and the new is currently taking place. Newcomers looking for a slightly slower pace of life on the outskirts of Fayetteville seem to be flocking more and more to this particular region.

Not surprisingly, when the new became a little old and worn down at one of the region’s premier courses, the owners decided to take preservation matters in their own hands. The result? Carolina’s “Bayonet” never looked sharper and its “Puppy Creek” remains as frisky as ever.

Historically one of the great names in golf, the Bayonet at Puppy Creek golf course located in Raeford recently got re-energized. Thanks to a recent upgrade – or reboot if you want to use the modern high-tech word – this Fayetteville area favourite is now enjoying a spring grow-in period. When complete, the Willard Byrd designed classic will truly be a must add to your 2016 golf course wish list.

True, the recent improvements across the traditional layout don’t add up to a total rebuild. The green complexes have stayed basically the same and the carpets are as smooth rolling as they have been for the past 21 years since Bayonet’s debut. But oh, have the look and playability been enhanced.

It’s important to note that there are two things that Bayonet at Puppy Creek has always had going for it. First, due to its rolling, Sandhills location, the 7,056-yard layout from the tips ­– sculpted from lush woodlands and winding creek waters – has always had plenty of sand at its disposal. Secondly, the owner and operator of the facility (Carolina Turf Farms, Inc.) brings with it 30 years of turfgrass experience. So when the partners decided to advance the design, the manpower, expertise, equipment and materials were readily available.

And their recent efforts have paid off.

Ownership’s goal throughout the recent off-season was mainly to blend the course back into nature, though drainage and maintenance issues were also addressed. The facelift – the first major one undertaken at Bayonet since its inception 21 years ago – promises to breath new life into the design.

The first thing return players will notice is the blending of natural grasses in sandy areas along with other indigenous plants. This gives Bayonet more of that retro “Donald Ross” feel that is all the rage just across the way in Pinehurst. There was also a removal of several unnecessary bunkers and a reshaping and refreshing of many of the remaining ones.

In addition, some of the tee boxes have been moved around to provide better sight lines and the removal of some trees will improve circulation around the greens.  The course has also been made increasingly more walkable as shortcuts through previously scrub areas have been cut.

Many barren areas have been re-sodded with high-quality turf and several of the underbrush areas have been cleaned out to the point where golfers can now actually play out of many of them.

Rounding out the list are cleanups around menacing Puppy Creek and occasional red rock outcroppings in the higher portions of the design, particularly on the back nine.

All in all, this “new” look Bayonet at Puppy Creek will have you feeling like you have returned to years of old, when Byrd was putting together his finishing touches on a design that would serve the public at the highest level for the next two decades – and now well beyond.

Behind the Gates

Of course Bayonet is not the only golf option with a fresh look when visiting Fayetteville. A mere eight miles away across quiet country roads is Gates Four Golf and Country Club. For those in search of that country club for a day experience, look no farther than this traditionally designed layout.

Though not as recent as Bayonet’s, Gates Four also features a “restored” championship design. Architect Kris Spence, careful not to disturb the original routing by Willard Byrd back in 1967, completed a remarkable upgrade to the facility in 2011 that has matured into the high-end product it is today.

Included in the Gates Four project were the addition of new bent-grass greens, renovated bunkers and improved playing conditions across picturesque fairways lined with a variety of hardwoods and pine trees. For those who seek out the opportunity to play this classic design, they will also discover sparkling ponds winding creeks and wooden bridges that truly make this challenge exceptional.

A Salute to Golf

Though Fayetteville’s Southside is home to a number of time-honoured golf courses, there additional designs of various ages in other locations. This includes the modern Davis Love III design located north and west of the downtown called Anderson Creek. Situated in Spring Lake and convenient to Fort Bragg, Anderson Creek features rolling fairways with natural areas highlighted with love grass. The greens were designed to recreate the classical nature of Sandhills golf as they provide large roll-off areas and significant undulations.

Yet another classic routing – Cypress Lakes featuring a lavish panorama of Cypress trees, ponds and natural springs – can be found just south and east of the city center off Interstate 95 exit 41. The venue, by the way, is the golf course where golfing great Ray Floyd learned to play and hone his game.

All told, Cypress Lakes, Anderson Creek, Gates Four and Bayonet at Puppy Creek – along with several others – make Fayetteville the ideal choice for a memorable and affordable three-night, four-day golf extravaganza. As the precise midway point for travel between New York and Florida, Fayetteville also accommodates golfers with thousands of hotel rooms and hundreds of dining options.

Learn more at www.VisitFayettevilleNC.com/golf.

/ Brad King