Golfers only got three days to test the new Atlantic Dunes layout before Hurricane Matthew intervened. A mere six weeks have elapsed since its second opening.
Even so, Sea Pines Resort’s newest gem already has its first award.
Atlantic Dunes is among 11 courses chosen by the American Society of Golf Course Architects for its 2016 Design Excellence Recognition awards, highlighting the most innovative projects among the year’s design ventures.
Winners range from new designs to practice facilities to renovations of various scope.
“They have all kinds of projects they’re looking at,” said Scot Sherman, the third member of Atlantic Dunes’ three-headed design team with Hall of Famer Davis Love III and brother Mark Love. “Our project was perhaps unique in that it was so comprehensive.”
The $10 million, down-to-the-foundation overhaul revamped the site of the former Ocean Course, which first brought golf to Hilton Head Island more than 50 years ago.
Atlantic Dunes was cited for excellence in overhauling a footprint that was “choked with trees, outdated infrastructure, marginal conditions and a layout that no longer fit its surroundings.”
The project removed dozens of nuisance trees and non-native vegetation, replacing them with tall oaks and palms, while repositioning lagoons and creating a new feel via sandy waste areas and native grasses.
The course also has six sets of tees, positioned to accommodate a wide range of skill levels.
“A big thing for us was that every level of player could get around the course and have fun,” Sherman said. “We feel comfortable that everybody — beginners, man or woman, young or old — can get around. And if they want to make it challenging for professionals, it can be set up for that as well.”
ASGCA judges received the course’s entry during final stages of construction, Sherman said.
“Fortunately we had all that done before the hurricane,” he said. “And fortunately, the hurricane really didn’t hurt the golf course.”
Atlantic Dunes, in fact, was the first Sea Pines course to reopen after Matthew. Sherman got his first post-hurricane look eight days after the storm passed and came away relieved.
“I was very worried, especially about the holes by the ocean,” he said. “The bulkheads, the bridges, so much wind, so much water.
“Though this hurricane made a mess, it didn’t really damage the golf course. We had to repair a few bunkers. But part of it, too, is that we had removed a number of trees that otherwise would have been a problem.”
Though Atlantic Dunes may go down as the only course ever to open twice in the same month, Sherman noted it isn’t his first project to be affected by a hurricane.
With Florida hunkering down for Hurricane Floyd in 1999, Sherman headed north to check on a project in suburban Philadelphia. “And sure enough, the storm came through Philadelphia,” he said. “I remember that one clearly.”
A few years later, a project in the Jacksonville area needed repairs after a storm rolled through six weeks before opening.