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$4.3 million would restore 1948 golf course to original splendor

The town-owned Mooresville Golf Course was the last course designed by legendary international golf course architect Donald Ross before he died in April 1948.

On Monday night, a Greensboro-based golf course restorer offered a $4.3 million plan for bringing its original splendor back.

Kris Spence, president of Spence Golf Design Inc., specializes in restoring classic golf courses, especially those designed by Ross. North Carolina alone has 70 Ross-designed courses, he said.

The Mooresville Board of Commissioners requested the golf course study at its annual retreat in February and made no commitment to refurbishing the course after Spence laid out his proposal Monday night at the board’s regular meeting at Town Hall.

Spence said numerous issues plague the course. Its greens and bunkers have poor drainage, among other problems. Its fairways have isolated drainage problems, out-of-date grass varieties, narrow widths and uneven grades.

Its tees are small, unlevel and poorly aligned, while its irrigation system is outdated, inefficient, has leaks and poor coverage, he said.

The practice facility is inadequate and also poorly drained, he told the commissioners.

Improved golf course practice areas “have been a huge hit,” Spence said. As time demands increase, more golfers like to spend an hour on a practice range some days than three or four hours on a course, he said.

Spence has worked on numerous restorations of Ross-designed courses in his 13 years as a golf architect and design-builder, including at Myers Park Country Club and Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte, the Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa in Asheville, Memphis Country Club in Tennessee, Greensboro Country Club and Cape Fear Country Club in Wilmington.

Only nine of the 18 holes at Mooresville Golf Course were designed by Ross. He was finishing the design of those nine original holes when he died, and an assistant completed the work. Spence said.

Spence recommends reconstructing all greens, bunkers, tees and fairways, installing 419 Hybrid Bermuda grass throughout the course, installing a new irrigation system, pump house and transfer station and fairway drainage.

He recommends building a practice facility left of hole No. 10 and adding concrete cart paths. Holes along busy thoroughfares should be rerouted and a pond should be replaced with more golfing area, he said.

Spence also offered less costly alternatives that would leave out some of his recommended improvements.

Commissioners went into closed-door executive session after Spence’s presentation to discuss unrelated economic-development and property issues and weren’t immediately available for comment.

Spence said municipalities he’s worked with typically study whether they have the money for the improvements and gauge public support before committing to such restorations.

Marusak: 704-987-3670; on Twitter: @ jmarusak.
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