It was well worth a recent trip to Fort Gordon to see the new nine-hole course at Gordon Lakes Golf Course.
In a word, the North Course, which will open Nov. 22, is spectacular.
"I can't believe it's here; it's a great nine," Gordon Lakes head pro Mike DiPasquale said during a tour of the course, which is groomed and ready to go.
Ron Whitten, Golf Digest magazine's architecture editor, has seen it and plans to do a profile on the course once it opens.
The good news for area golfers is that Gordon Lakes encourages civilian play, so this won't be one of those courses you read raves about but can't play.
Designed by Daniel Schlegel of Ault, Clark & Associates, Ltd., of Kensington, Md., the North Course is nothing like the 18-hole Gordon Lakes Golf Course it adjoins. That course was designed in 1975 by Robert Trent Jones Sr., in the style of the period: long and mostly flat.
The North Course is its hipper, more modern brother. Earth was moved to create elevation changes and swales that helped create some memorable holes. Two of the holes - Nos. 4 9 - have carries over wetlands.
The most scenic point on the course is on the elevated tee of the third hole, a 581-yard par-5 that requires a slight fade off the tee.
"I tell people, 'If you want to know what heaven looks like, just go sit up on this tee box,"' DiPasquale said. "It's hard to believe we have a golf hole that looks like this. It's unbelievable."
DiPasquale, who has been at Gordon Lakes for more than two years, watched in awe as Schlegel turned a heavily wooded area adjacent to Gordon Lakes Golf Course into this 3,571-yard, par-36 gem.
"He did a great job with it," DiPasquale said. "When we were walking through the woods and only the poles were there for the landing areas, he said, 'Wait until you see what we're going to build you here.' I said, 'Yeah.' I don't have the vision these guys have. It's incredible they can walk through a forest and see this here."
DiPasquale expects the North Course to play more difficult than the East and West courses "because it has mounds. You're going to get very few flat lies and on the first couple of holes, you're hitting into hills. We tell people to get your game ready to go play that nine."
The North Course, which will not cost any more to play than any of the other two nines at Gordon Lakes, might get the public back out to Gordon Lakes.
Play fell off dramatically in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedies and the subsequent weak economy. The fact that civilians' cars are searched at the Fort Gordon gates hasn't helped.
"We want to get some more folks out here playing," DiPasquale said.
MWR passes are making it easier for civilians to get to Gordon Lakes. The recently approved pass, which stands for Morale, Welfare and Recreation, can be obtained at the post bowling alley during operating hours. The pass allows civilians to go through the gates without their cars being searched.
The North Course will have two openings. In what is being billed as a sneak preview, it will be open from Nov. 22 until the first week of January, and it will reopen during Masters Week.
In June, the East Course will be closed for renovation. When that is completed, work will start on the West Course.
"We know we need to fix the greens and tees," DiPasquale said of the original Gordon Lakes course. "It's such a good 18-hole course; we've just got to fix it up."
Of the 57 Army bases with golf courses in the United States, 10 have more than 18 holes.
"Our goal is to make this the Army's best 27 holes," DiPasquale said. "We're going in that direction now."
What: North Course, at Gordon Lakes Golf Course
Where: Fort Gordon
Opening date: Nov. 22
Architect: Daniel Schlegel of Ault, Clark & Associates, Ltd.
Holes: Nine (3,571 yards, par-36)
Rates (with cart): $16.50 for nine holes for military and Department of Defense workers, or $27 for 18 holes. For civilians, it's $21.50 for nine holes or $32 for 18 holes.
Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.