Renovations Underway on Spokane-Area Courses

Phelps/Atkinson Golf Design is overseeing extensive renovations to a pair of Spokane County-owned courses that will greatly improve recreational opportunities for residents and visitors to Eastern Washington.

Construction started September 15 at Liberty Lake Golf Course east of Spokane. The 50-year-old layout is undergoing a $4.5-million facelift under the guidance of architects Rick Phelps and Kevin Atkinson. Wadsworth Golf Construction is the builder at Liberty Lake, which is scheduled to reopen in the spring of 2010.

Wadsworth is also involved at Hangman Valley, located to the south of Liberty Lake. Builders broke ground there September 2. Tee, bunker and regrassing work are the emphasis at 40-year-old Hangman Valley, where renovations are expected to cost about $750,000 and plans are to reopen the course in spring 2009.

Between these two courses, plus 20-year-old MeadowWood GC next to Liberty Lake, Spokane County will offer 54 holes of high-quality yet affordable golf for the county's roughly 450,000 residents.

"With Liberty Lake and MeadowWood, we'll have two great courses next to each other plus another super layout nearby at Hangman Valley. Rick and Kevin are doing a great job. At roughly $20 green fees, what we will have here is going to be tough to beat anywhere," said Liberty Lake superintendent Todd Harper.

Phelps/Atkinson first became involved with Liberty Lake two years ago. Development of a master plan to upgrade the greens and bunkers quickly evolved into a decision to completely renovate the runway-flat site. "During the master plan process the county decided there was enough interest to tackle the entire project at once," Phelps recalled. "It was great to get that kind of support."

The county conducted a bond issue and expanded it to include the upgrades at Hangman Valley. Officials sought bids this spring, chose Wadsworth and hit the ground running in September.

Work began September 2 at Hangman Valley, with the project including: renovated and expanded tee complexes, allowing up to four sets of tees per hole; new driving range netting; additional fairway bunkering in an updated style and new sand in existing bunkers designed to enhance appearance and playability; 300,000 square feet of new sod; and improved collars around several greens. Wadsworth Golf will also make minor adjustments to the existing irrigation system, which was installed three years ago.

"We're planning to get our work done by early November so that two of the county's three courses will be open next year while work continues at Liberty Lake," said Hangman Valley head superintendent Mike Barber. "The weather has been very cooperative. Rick and Kevin have been great to work with. The projects here will total about $750,000."

The work at Liberty Lake is much more extensive. Built on land originally donated by a local fraternal organization, the 50-year-old layout is primarily flat and has undergone numerous changes over the years.

The complete remodel began September 15 and involves: substantial grade changes to spice up the level playing field and improve surface drainage; a new irrigation system; new cart paths throughout the course; new bentgrasses on the greens and bluegrass in fairways, roughs and tees; 22 additional modern sand bunkers; three new ponds; and approximately 200 new trees. The redesign modified the routing of about five holes in order to address safety concerns and improve the variety of shot values on the course.

"Work has been progressing rapidly and we moved a lot of dirt already," Harper said in early October. "We are basically tearing down and rebuilding the entire course. Many people drive by daily and seem extremely excited and enthusiastic about what we are doing here."

Harper said he has worked closely with the Phelps/Atkinson team and found the principals easy to work with and receptive to his ideas. Even with the significant upgrade, which will cost roughly $4 million at Liberty Lake, Harper is confident that green fees will remain in the $20 to $30 range, a tremendous bargain for residents and visitors alike.

"The goal at Liberty Lake and Hangman Valley is to maximize strategic variety, aesthetics and playability, giving Spokane County three courses in which residents, seasonal visitors and county officials can take great pride," Phelps said.