Cypress Tree GC at Maxwell AFB Undergoes Renovations

The recent renovation of all 18 greens on the West course and the practice green at Cypress Tree Golf Course at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Ala., should disprove the myth that government cannot move quickly to remedy a problem. After more than a year in the planning and design phases, construction began in late March 2008 to renovate all of the green complexes - including greenside bunkers - and make irrigation upgrades. All areas were completed and grassed by mid-July 2008 and the course re-opened in late autumn.

"The contractor completed the work in less than 16 weeks," said golf architect Nathan Crace. "And we didn't cut corners to do it. We had a great project team from the Air Force to the contractors to the golf course staff and a lot of great weather during construction."

This is the second Air Force project for Crace in two years following his renovation of Bay Breeze Golf Course at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Miss., in 2007. He says his firm (Watermark Golf/Nathan Crace Design) has built successful relationships with clients like the Air Force based on a foundation of providing professional results in a timely fashion while working within stringent budget restrictions. That is nothing new to Crace, however, who has a number of "public" clients on his resume the past 14 years, ranging from municipalities and counties to universities and the U.S. Government and sees tightening budgets as an advantage for a firm with a proven track record.

"Like any project, this one began with a detailed analysis of what the end goal was and how we were going to achieve that end," said Crace. "Before I was brought in, the thought was to only core out the greens and re-dress bunker faces. With my past experience in renovation projects, I knew we could make better use of the budget. After some detailed cost/benefit work, we determined that it was actually less expensive to renovate the entire green complex on each green, build the new greens to California green specifications, shape new bunkers, and fix the irrigation for less than the cost of doing it the other way."

The result, said Crace, is a far better finished product that meets current industry standards while managing to save the government money on construction. Each of the 18 green complexes on the West course at Cypress Tree was demolished and re-shaped to Crace's design - including new bunkers. San Antonio-based E2M, Inc. was the general contractor for the project and Nebraska-based Landscapes Unlimited handled the green and bunker shaping, construction, irrigation and grassing. In addition to the 18 green complexes, Crace combined two existing practice putting greens into one large new practice green with multiple pin placements as well as some rollicking contours to keep things interesting.

"I cannot say enough about the involvement of each member of the project team," Crace added. "From [golf course superintendent] Glenn McWhirter to Dana [Grode] and Jeff [Ricketts] of Landscapes Unlimited and Marshall Culp of E2M to the other base personnel and representatives from AFCEE who were so instrumental, this project shows what can be done with the proper planning and a good team."

AFCEE (the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment) administered the project on behalf of the government as it did the 2007 project at Keesler AFB in Biloxi. Crace said that he enjoys working with the AFCEE staff because of their professionalism and willingness to do a project the right way for the long-term benefit of the course, the end-user, and the government.

"Ultimately, if we do it right the first time, these courses will be revenue generators for the Air Force and self-supporting entities like a public golf course in your home town," he said. "But like any other project, if we don't do it right, then there's no cost savings in maintenance or reason for new golfers to play the course. If that happens, we've missed the mark and nobody wants that in their resume. There's no doubt we are now two-for-two in exceeding our goals with the Air Force thus far."

Asked if he has other Air Force projects planned for the future, Crace said there's nothing on the drawing board for now, but he never knows what's around the corner. An ardent supporter of the military, he hopes to help other branches of the military with their golf properties and can now point to two successful back-to-back Air Force projects as a testament to his work.

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