Oxmoor Valley - Valley Course
Oxmoor Valley - Valley Course
By Ian Thompson
It hardly seems possible that the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has been around for 16 years. But that’s a fact, and some of their earliest courses are starting to show a little wear and tear. Not ones to sit on their hands, the folks at the Trail’s management company SunBelt Golf realized work needed to be done. Thus the Ridge Course at Oxmoor Valley underwent a renovation last summer, reopening late last year.
First it was the turn of the Ridge Course. Now it’s the Valley Course’s turn and the new renovated layout debuted Sept. 1.
The Valley closed in May for its facelift and the work did not need to be as far-reaching as the Ridge course. The greens are tift dwarf Bermuda.
The main talking point will be the changes to Nos. 2, 11 and 18.
However, other work has been undertaken. I talked at length to director of golf Anthony Land and director of maintenance Jeff Christensen.
The expansive practice facility has also been closed for quite a while undergoing major work. The teeing area remains the same stepping down four tiers and you still hit sharply downhill, but gone are the target greens which were tough to maintain and collect balls from. They have been replaced by more natural looking target “greens.” The teaching tee that used to be at the far end is also gone, but it was surplus to requirements as the Academy of Golf has plenty of teeing space. The driving range reopened Sept. 1 also.
“Ours is a very busy range and after 14 years of use we had some drainage and erosion issues,” Land said. “We decided to look long-term towards the maintenance and operations friendliness by doing this work now. The public won’t notice a big difference, but it will be much improved for our staff.”
Christensen has been at Oxmoor Valley for nine years and has control over the entire grounds, including both championship courses, the Short Course, range and assorted practice facilities. Much like a director of golf has a head professional and assistants, a director of maintenance has a head superintendent (P.J. Tutchtone) and assistants, each assigned to a course: Ridge (Brian Phillips), Valley (Chuck Vandiver), and Short (Martin Hodges).
It’s a big operation, made bigger in recent years with the renovation work on the Ridge and now Valley. Christensen indicated the Short course would stay as is for now, with bunker work an ongoing project.
He referred to the work on the Valley as far less invasive compared to the renovation of the Ridge and I agree as the greens complexes are essentially unchanged, save No. 11 and I’ll talk about that later.
Whereas the greens on the Ridge were completely redesigned and rebuilt, the greens on the Valley were just rebuilt. There’s a big difference there. Oxmoor Valley aficionados will remember that the Valley’s greens are far less sloping and compartmentalized than the Ridge’s were (and I stress past tense). If you haven’t played the Ridge in a while give it another look and you can read about it in my story from early this year archived at http://golfsouthmagazine.com/reviews_details.asp?ID=127
Work that had been ongoing on the Valley even before it closed earlier this year was extensive tree clearing and all bunkers have also been rebuilt containing a new product called sand dam, which is a mesh barrier layer between the ground and the sand which better holds the sand in place and prevents contamination from the ground below.
The thinning out of the trees was especially evident on No. 6, a short par 4 dogleg left to right where a straight tee ball will fly through the fairway at the corner of the dogleg. It used to be that this ball as gone forever into dense underbrush and trees, but it’s no longer the case as the underbrush has been cut well back. A sharp fade is still the optimum tee shot to leave you just a pitch to the green, but a straight ball is no longer dead and buried.
The new, and much improved, second hole will not be ready to debut at the same time as the rest of the course. Hence the existing lower tee has been kept in place, but this par 3 will be played from a completely different elevation and angle come next spring. Previously the tee was level with the raised green and, especially with a long iron, was next to impossible to hold. It will play, when completed, much more downhill from a series of tees that step down and begin close to the first green. Also a pond has been built between the tee and the green for shots played from this side. It is a much more pleasing hole to look at and, one would assume, play.
No. 11 is a short par 4. The tee shot is unchanged as it is played between a bunker on either side of the fairway, but the green complex is radically different. It used to play sharply uphill to a blind green. Of course it still plays uphill, but the green has been lowered six feet and thus is more visible. Also gone are deep pot bunkers and a deep swale fronting the green. A large bunker in the hillside front right has been built, but it won’t be as penal as previous bunkering. The green has gone from being next to impossible to putt as it was so sloped to a much gentler putting surface, but it does still have some movement in it, particularly back middle.
The 12th is essentially unchanged, but some trees have been removed that stood near the lake on the right that stretches the entire length of the hole. This par 5 can be played as two dramatically different holes. The top tee, close to the 11th green, plays across the lake; the regular tee plays from lower down and straight down the hole. I’d choose the angle across the lake as it’s a better hole, but a more challenging drive.
The par 4 finishing hole continues to evolve. Always a challenging closer, it remains so. The cart path that fired straight downhill from the raised tee has been rerouted to traverse the severe terrain a little more serenely. Three fairway bunkers have been replaced by one bunker on the right and the way the hole moves is almost like a slight dogleg left to right. The upslope fronting and beginning the fairway has been resodded and generally cleaned out. Par here remains a tough ask and it will win the match a lot more times than it loses it.
So Oxmoor Valley has been revamped, both the Ridge and the Valley, and Land is very ready to get both courses cranking. Renovations cost a lot -- both in lost revenue and for the work done -- but it will certainly be a long time before they have to do so again.
Go take another look at the “new” Oxmoor Valley.