Part of our obligation to our clients is to design a golf course that will help them achieve their financial goals. Hurdzan/Fry never failed on that obligation, and sometimes we've been able to help them exceed those goals. Sand Barrens Golf Club is a case of exceeding expectations.
Edson and Malcolm Robertson are brothers who've run several businesses about 25 miles south of Atlantic City, New Jersey, the principal ones being a campground and RV sales. The Robertson’s are young and determined, with a great respect and balance for business, family, friends, golf and other finer things in life. Edson is the tight-fisted business guy. Mal takes on the role of a big-hearted, always-smiling facilitator. Together, they get their money’s worth out of everything they do.
When they decided to get into the golf course business, they had a clear vision of what they wanted when they hired us. We all were very deliberate in our planning and worked extra hard, but the main reason for the success of their Sand Barrens Golf Club is that the sandy soils of the site were so perfect that it could pass for a laboratory-selected and blended root zone for putting greens. And that sandy soil was hundreds of feet deep throughout the property. That meant it not only was a perfect growing medium for turfgrass, it also offered perfect drainage. It's not uncommon for two of the largest expenditures in golf course construction to be drainage and rootzone modifications. On this site, the Robertsons needed few of either, so they were saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What's more, almost the entire site was covered in scrub pine trees and bayberry bushes that effectively separate golf holes. It's easy to clear such undergrowth and replant it. The land is much like that of New Jersey's historic Pine Valley Golf Club, only the Sand Barrens site was nearly dead flat. The other positive aspect of the site was a good, clean, abundant irrigation source from wells.
Sand Barrens was always planned to be 27-holes, but when the process started Edson and Malcolm decided to only build 18 holes so they could see what things would cost, how good the course could be, and what kind of return on investment they might realize. They figured a third nine was years away. But once they saw the phenomenal response to the 18 from the day it opened, they decided to build the third nine immediately. The following year they built the clubhouse, which solidified Sand Barrens as one of the region’s finest public golf courses.
What makes Sand Barrens so popular with daily-fee players? It's well situated, only an hour or so away from both Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware, and is very close to Atlantic City. The clubhouse is low-profile and large, but inviting. The staff places a great emphasis on friendly, helpful service. Once golfers catch a view of the lake and golf holes beyond the clubhouse, anticipation to get out onto the course grows. The course is not disappointing. It's a wonderful, relaxed journey off elevated tees to wide landing areas. Holes are framed by trees and menaced by ponds, deep bunkers and waste areas carved from the natural sandy soil.
At Sand Barrens, we had the freedom to build below the grade without worrying about drainage. We were able to define a hole with trees, then dig out deep bunkers and use the resulting soil to build gentle, graceful landforms. We were able to carve out some fairways, recessing them well below the tree lines. We turned huge pits into waste areas, giving their edges a special flair. We was able to merge fairways right into the greens, for the only difference is in height of cut. This allows for all sorts of interesting bounce-and-roll approach options. In one particularly creative moment, we designed a double green over 50,000 square feet in size. That's roughly as much putting surface as you'd find on an entire 9-hole course. At Sand Barrens, this green cost almost nothing to build, for we simply shaped it from the existing soil.
We practiced a gentle earthwork approach except for two major fills over 30 feet in the air that now serve as multiple tees. These fills are so massive they almost seem natural. After all, why would someone deliberately pile up dirt so high they could look down into a bird’s nest? But Sand Barrens big hills work and golfers enjoy the view as well as launching shots from those elevated tees.
The bunkers at Sand Barrens are patterned after those at Pine Valley, and give the entire golf course a sense of movement and topography it doesn’t really have. There are also a few sod wall bunkers, the most notorious being at the ninth green on the South Nine.