Originally created 07/23/02

Nicklaus course is now open

AIKEN - If you didn't already know the new Reserve Club at Woodside Plantation is a Nicklaus Design golf course, the emblem on the golf cars gives it away.

There, on the side of all the cars, is Jack Nicklaus' famous Golden Bear logo.

The Reserve Club, a private country club which opened Monday, is the first Nicklaus Design course in the Augusta-Aiken area. Previously, the closest Nicklaus Design course was Great Waters, in Eatonton, Ga.

Nicklaus, a winner of a record six Masters Tournament titles at nearby Augusta National Golf Club, wasn't on hand at the opening.

Neither was anyone else from the Florida-based Nicklaus Design, which includes Nicklaus' sons Jack II, Steve and Michael, along with Jack's son-in-law, Bill O'Leary.

Bill McKay, the general manager of Woodside Development Corp., stressed that Jack Nicklaus does not want his first name used when referring to the more than 240 courses the company has designed, co-designed or re-designed worldwide in the past 31 years.

"It's a Nicklaus Design," McKay said. "(Jack) Nicklaus does not use his name as a product. It's the Nicklaus Design company. We're just trying to honor his wishes."

McKay said Nicklaus' sons had been to the site during the routing and construction phases, but the elder Nicklaus had not.

Nicklaus Design trademarks are everywhere, from the concave fairways to the 64 contoured bunkers on the 6,957-yard, par-72 course, which has numerous elevation changes.

"Absolutely, you can see it in the bunkers," said Wesley Elijah, the Reserve Club's golf course superintendent. "The bunkers have a beautiful appeal to them and it's a beautiful layout."

Elijah was so impressed with the Reserve Club project that he left his job as assistant superintendent at Augusta National in December to head up the superintendent work at the Reserve Club.

"It was tough to leave them, but this is a beautiful piece of land," said Elijah, who worked at Augusta National for more than 10 years. "I certainly miss the Augusta National, but I'm excited about the challenges we have here.

"This course has great potential," Elijah said. "It's got a good foundation, which is the key to a good golf course. It can only get better - that's the exciting thing about it."

Unlike some Nicklaus Design courses, the Reserve Club isn't a penal course. There are a few holes with narrow fairways, but most have generous landing areas. Water or marshland comes into play on only six holes, including the picturesque, downhill par-3 third hole.

"It doesn't favor the professional," Elijah said. "I think it pretty much fits all levels of golf, which is essential."

"It's not as long and demanding as some of the newer courses they're building," said Reserve Club head pro Noel Pack, the former head pro at Woodside Plantation. "It's more of a shotmakers' course."

Monday was the first time anyone other than Reserve Club officials played the course, which is owned by Woodside Golf and is not affiliated with the two 18-hole courses at Woodside Plantation, the Jones Course and the Cupp Course. Those courses, which opened in 1987 and 1990, respectively, are owned by Club Corporation of America.

"This is an independent, private golf course," McKay said.

There will be a limit of 350 members and they must live at Woodside Plantation, McKay said. Monday was the first day anyone could join.

"I think it will be one of the better courses and pristine country clubs because of the mere fact of its exclusivity and size of the membership," McKay said.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.


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