Mill Creek Tees Up Golf Course Upgrades
In the 90 years since Mill Creek Golf Course unveiled its two Donald Ross-designed courses, much has changed both on the courses and around them. And now, projects at the golf courses are underway to restore and improve its facilities.
Right now, the golf course is in the midst of renovating the bunkers for the northern course after showing upgrades to their counterparts on the southern course in late April.
The $510,000 project includes new drainage beneath the bunkers, topped with stone, mesh and, on top, eight inches of bright white beach sand that stands in stark contrast to the brown, pocked bunkers being replaced.
Before, if it rained too much – more than a couple inches in a day – the bunkers flooded and groundskeepers would have to pumped out the standing water.
“Aesthetically, they’re much more visible,” says Brian Tolnar, director of golf for Mill Creek MetroParks. “It had just been caving in over 90 years of use.”
The restoration project is high on Tolnar’s to-do list. Last fall, the course renovated its cart staging area just outside the clubhouse and bought 124 new golf carts and 80 wheeled carts for those who prefer walking to driving. This spring new signage was installed at each tee box.
More projects are planned.
Next year, the drainage systems will be replaced beneath all 36 greens at the two courses, a $1.2 million project, and 2020 will see the paving of cart paths on the southern course and the few remaining stone paths on the northern course, Tolnar says.
“The goal we set was to take care of the product first. So that got the first shot with the cart staging and new bunkers,” he says. “It started by identifying areas that were in bad shape, either through neglect or just not having the finances to do projects.”
Tolnar views the upgrades as a three-phase effort. The course comes first. Then attention will turn to the clubhouse before working on the outdoor spaces around the clubhouse.
In the clubhouse, Tolnar envisions renovating the second floor – formerly a locker room for caddies – into a practice space complete with a Flightscope simulator and a putting and swinging area. That project will cost about $250,000.
“We have that in its entirety upstairs and it’s just been left there. We want to make all the area usable,” he says. “We want it to be a center where you can play golf 12 months of the year.”
Outside, the list of improvements includes repaving parking lots and expanding the patio area of Hole 55, the bar and restaurant of the course. Right now, the course has two tents set up to accommodate golf outings.
“They’re good for housing what we need to house throughout the season. But in the spring and fall, during poor weather, a permanent structure would be more conducive to hosting events,” Tolnar says. “It could help us expand the season beyond the six, seven, eight months that we have.”
This slate of upgrades has a trememdous effect on players’ experiences at the course, the golf director says. In 2017, Mill Creek Golf Course hosted an American Junior Golf Association tournament that brought in 96 players from 24 states and six countries, along with a $355,000 economic impact, according to a report from Mill Creek MetroParks.
With these upgrades, more tournaments could be in the cards for Mill Creek Golf Course, Tolnar says.
“There is the potential to gain other regional events and smaller scale national events. We’re never going to host a PGA tournament or a LPGA tournament,” he says. “But we can host the next level down.”
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