Remodeled Highlands Course at Prestonwood to be Unveiled Labor Day Weekend

The Highlands Course, the third 18 of Prestonwood's 54 holes redesigned by resident golf course architect Rick Robbins, is set to reopen. Nine holes from Highlands and nine from Meadows will be combined for the Champions Tour's SAS Championship in late September.

When Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C., contracted Robbins to renovate the Club's trio of 18-hole golf courses three years ago, the golf course architect knew he faced an enviable challenge.

Various tour events have been played at Prestonwood during the past 18 years, including the SAS Championship for more than a decade. Given that nine holes of the Highlands Course and nine from the Meadows are combined for the SAS Championship, careful consideration would be required to keep the courses compatible.

"I couldn't get too radically different with the design styles," said Robbins. "The greens designs were done in such a way as to give both open and accessible hole locations for typical play and to also provide more protected spots for tournament play. Prestonwood's superintendent, David Dalton, and I worked closely with the PGA Tour on the project and their agronomist, Bland Cooper, had a great deal to say."

The third and final piece of Robbins' handiwork at Prestonwood will be unveiled Labor Day weekend, when the freshly renovated Highlands Course is reopened. The renovation included rebuilt green complexes featuring A-1 Bentgrass, select bunkers replaced by collection areas and grass hollows, and numerous playability enhancements. An added benefit: With play spread out over three courses versus two for the first time in three years, Prestonwood's overall playing conditions will be consistent.

Now, with the club's brand-new Golf Learning Center having also recently opened, Prestonwood CC general manager Matt Massei said three years of patient anticipation shown by its members is ready to be repaid.

"Our membership has been without one course for three years, so we are thrilled to have all three back open," said Massei. "The entire golf experience at Prestonwood has been enhanced. We are celebrating three great golf courses that we have brought up to current standards. They were great before, now they are even better."

For Robbins, who honed his design craft under the tutelage of Robert von Hagge and Bruce Devlin, and later Jack Nicklaus, before starting his own company in 1991, there was an additional interest in the final result. Robbins lives with his family on the 14th fairway of Prestonwood's Fairways Course and plays a regular Saturday morning game with his men's group. "I knew if I didn't do the renovation really nice," said Robbins, "I was going to hear about it."

Robbins said that by the time he and the Shapemasters construction crew renovated Prestonwood's third course, the team had established a seamless, efficiently productive working relationship, making the Highlands the easiest and smoothest of the three Prestonwood jobs in regard to construction and schedule.

"Highlands has more elevation change in the course than Fairways and Meadows and the housing along the holes seems to fit the site without intruding on the golf play," said Robbins. "As with the other renovations, the primary focus was to make the greens have more useable pin spots, reduce bunker maintenance and to have a consistent style of design that blended with the other courses while still offering a distinctive style to this course."

Other Highlands changes include an approach shot on the opening hole that is more comfortable for the golfer as Robbins lowered the green, removed bunkers left and behind the green, made the approach wider, and generally provided a much larger target area. Water must still be carried to reach the green, but the approach now offers more room to hit the shot without requiring such a high degree of precision to avoid the hazards.

"We couldn't do anything about the fact that the lake was there, but now the fear factor on that second shot approach for the average player is much less," said Robbins. "By adding some low mounding along the area between the water and the fairway at the landing area, we were able to better define the edge of the lake."

Another notable change took place on No. 8, where Robbins cleared an area along the creek that runs down the left side of the hole and crosses in front of the green so the hole can be played as a drivable par-4. The green has been designed to accept an approach from both the long tee shot and the traditional landing area on the right side of the creek, meaning there will now be two very different strategies of play and some interesting choices on the tee shot.

Meanwhile, No. 11, another short par-4, has seen its green complex moved to higher ground on the right side and raised by several feet. Retaining its same strategic feel, where the pond protects the left-side pin placements, a deep hollow and bunker now guard a narrow, elevated green that falls steeply off the back side. No. 11 still requires a precise second shot when the flag is located on the left half of the green as before, but the water does not come into play as significantly.

"We are blessed with three terrific golf courses that offer not only our members but also the world's best players a high-quality playing experience," said Prestonwood director of golf operations Larry Conner. "Now that we have all 54 holes back open, we are eager for all our golfers to enjoy the finished product. Everyone at Prestonwood is thrilled."

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