Take a drive down Damascus Road sometime and look around. What you'll see is a Palmer Course Design golf course emerging from a barren area that once was the site of a run-down housing project known as Village Square.
What is known as the First Tee Augusta golf course is quickly rounding into shape. The six-hole course, dedicated to providing affordable and accessible playing and learning opportunities for beginning golfers ages 8-17, is scheduled to open in September. Ground was broken on Dec. 22.
"Things are going very well. We're right on schedule as far as building the course is concerned," said Paul S. Simon, chairman of Fore! Augusta Foundation, Inc., the non-profit group that raised funds and oversaw the development of a First Tee chapter in Augusta.
First Tee is a nationwide initiative of the World Golf Foundation to help youngsters learn the game.
The First Tee Augusta golf course holes have been routed and will be grassed in early April.
Ranger Construction Co., of West Palm Beach, Fla., has handled the construction work at no profit. Once the course it grassed, Ranger will turn the course over to Fore! Augusta, but will stay on to supervise the growing period.
"I think people are impressed when they see what we've done so far," Simon said. "That's what I hear from everybody. We've been getting lots of calls about when we're going to open up. I think it's going to be a success. It's going to be a beautiful course."
"It's a great design," said First Tee Augusta superintendent Chad Hayen. "Anything that Palmer is involved in is top notch. I think every hole is going to be like a signature hole."
The holes will have a natural, rolling feel to them.
"There is a 95-foot elevation change from top to bottom," Hayen said. "They've mounded some holes with the lay of the land. All they've done is move solid ground around and shaped it to fit the lay of the land."
Hayen, formerly an assistant superintendent at Cedar Creek in Aiken (for two years) and then Savannah Lakes (one month), has been on the job for a week. Yet to be hired are a professional and teaching pro.
"We should have them in place in the next 60 days," Simon said.
Construction will begin soon on the clubhouse/training facility. The work will be done at no profit by Allen Associates, Inc., of Augusta.
"We're looking for continued commitments from the businesses and industry to help support it," Simon said of the First Tee project. "For anybody who wants to contribute building supplies such as bricks and concrete for the clubhouse and training facility, we'll certainly give them (public) credit."
Simon said anyone wishing to contribute should call Clay Boardman at 261-6466.
Simon hopes some Masters Tournament visitors will check out the course.
"A lot of people from around the country are interested in this First Tee idea," Simon said. "We're not the first course, but we're up there in getting one up and started."
The Augusta National Golf Club is ranked third in GolfWeek magazine's list of "America's Best Classical Courses." Pine Valley Golf Club in Pine Valley, N.J., is No. 1 and Cypress Point Club in Pebble Beach, Calif., is No. 2. Rounding out the top five are Pebble Beach Golf Links at No. 4 and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southhampton, N.Y., at No. 5.
In the Modern Course category, Cuscowilla Golf Club in Greensboro, Ga., is ranked 22nd. The course, which opened in 1998, was designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. Another Crenshaw-Coore collaboration, the Sand Hills Golf Club in Mullen, Neb., tops the Modern Course list.