A legendary course is re-born

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Remember walking up the fairway of the 18th hole at the Sleepy Hole Golf Course over the past few years?

As satisfied as golfers might have been with their performances on the first 17 greens, the course’s last hole wasn’t making it easy for them to have a happy ending. With the intimidating Nansemond River staring golfers square in the eye, they had to navigate a sloped green, cluttered with all sorts of mismatched grass. Forget about putting for par – this one made it tough to knock in a quintuple bogey.


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Well, it’s fixed now – along with the rest of the greens on the course. Since closing for renovations last June, the park has undergone $1.2 million in renovations. Bunkers were added. Ponds were dried up and taken elsewhere. Vegetation has been replanted.

But the final hole isn’t any easier. Golfers can either try to loop over a marsh, or take their chances in the bunkers, which could put them right at the river’s edge.

&uot;I’m sure golfers will love the new 18th hole,&uot; joked Master of Ceremonies John Castleberry at the course’s re-dedication ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

Over 130 golfers teed off in the Economic Development Golf Tournament. &uot;I know you’d probably all rather be at the office,&uot; said course pro Rick Bidnick, &uot;but hey, this isn’t a bad way to spend a Tuesday morning, is it?&uot;

A former local sports newscaster, Castleberry called covering the LPGA’s Crestar Classic tournaments at Sleepy Hole in the late 1980s some of his favorite memories.

&uot;This is a truly special day for the city of Suffolk,&uot; Castleberry said, &uot;but also for golf. We have a lot of good golf courses throughout the region, but not a lot of great ones. This course definitely falls into that category.&uot;

When he and other members of the Ault, Clark and Associates, Ltd. architecture group visited the course before it closed, said Tom Clark, &uot;some of the greens had four types of turf. Some of the vegetation had overgrown. The course had fallen into decline.

&uot;Our mission was to put it back in order. We didn’t want to change the course, but to breathe new life into it.&uot; They placed a pond on the 12th hole, regressed the greens, redid the bunkers and added a few new ones, took out some of the brush, added drainage (more is to come later), and improved other aspects. The course is debating whether to build a new clubhouse or renovate the old one.

Councilman Bobby Ralph was the first to experience the course’s new offerings – he blasted the ceremonial drive off the first tee (though it landed just to the left of the fairway). &uot;It’s a tremendous honor,&uot; Ralph said. &uot;It’s something I’ll remember, and I hope it’s something everyone here remembers. We’re here to celebrate the renovation of this course, and I’m glad I put it in play.&uot;