Serafin Designing New Nine at Lakeland Golf Course

By: Mark Leslie

Public golfers in western Champaign County will have their first 18-hole stage to play on next spring, following a nine-hole addition at Lakeland Golf Course in St, Paris, a town west of Urbana. Owners Ron and Ana Burns have purchased an additional 110 acres adjacent to the existing 62-acre nine-hole course, and have engaged golf course architect Barry Serafin of New Albany to give golfers "the best bang for their buck."

"Our goal is to exceed golfers' expectations from the time they enter the pro shop until they leave," said Ron Burns, who bought the 37-year-old golf course three years ago. "We're one of only three public courses in Champaign County and the other two are in the eastern section. This will be great for public golfers. We want foot traffic and have instituted aggressive corporate membership programs that allow employees of companies to become partial members of the club."

Many patrons already call Lakeland "a hidden little gem" as the public at large outside of the local community knows of its existence. Burns said, "One of the biggest challenges has been and continues to be getting the word out about Lakeland." The USGA has the existing course rated at par-71 with a slope of 128.

Burns looks forward to the expansion and removing the stigma of a "nine-hole" course. "We already have a nice course but many golfers will not even consider playing it because they have to play the same nine twice for 18 holes," he said. "With the Serafin-designed course, we look forward to bringing a layout that is as playable and formidable as any course in Champaign, Clark, Logan, Miami and Shelby counties."

Having interviewed a number of golf course architects, Burns said he chose Serafin because "he has a solid foundation in design and his resume is rich in success stories of expanding nine-hole courses as well as designing courses from scratch. We seem to see eye to eye on a lot of issues, which is vital in building a team that can develop, design and implement the course we anticipate this will turn out to be."

In addition to the golf course, Serafin has devised a master plan to include a new driving range and either single-family or condominium-type housing along the western edge of the property. Construction is expected to begin in June and be completed by fall in preparation for a full 18-hole opening next spring. In the meantime, Serafin said, construction will infringe for a brief time only on one of the existing nine holes, so play will continue throughout this season.

"We will reconfigure a couple of holes on the old course and build 12 new holes," Serafin said. "The routing works very well, using the land as best we could. It's a nice rolling property, with some old fence lines and mature trees. A creek meanders through eight holes. And there is a small area of woods in which we will create three holes."

The land is so well suited for golf, he said, that on a few holes, builders will only construct a green and tee. "The rest of the hole simply lays there today," he added. In fact, Serafin said only about 50,000 to 60,000 cubic yards of earth will be moved, and most of that earthwork will be done in creating three lakes covering about 4.5 acres. The earth from those lakes will be used to build greens and tees.

Meanwhile, since the existing nine is bunkerless, Serafin is adding a number of sand traps as well as additional forward tees, "to make it more fair for the shorter hitters," he said. When the 18 holes open for play, the par-71 track will stretch from 4,761 to 6,750 yards over five sets of tees.

"Barry has done a great job of maximizing the use of the land," said Burns, whose background is in corporate aerospace. "This will be very playable and challenging. The five-set tee boxes will accommodate golfers of different handicap levels so that everyone can enjoy the course. We look forward to hosting some local and regional tournaments as well."

Serafin is earning a national reputation for his designs. His New Albany Links in New Albany was recently named among the Top 10 Best New Affordable Public Golf Courses for 2001 by Golf Digest. The Players Club at Foxfire in Columbus, to which he added nine holes, is rated among Golf Digest's 201 Best Places To Play in North America. And he has three other designs in Ohio listed by Golf Digest as Places to Play Chapel Hill Golf Course in Bangs, The Links at Echo Springs in Johnstown, and Liberty Hills Golf Club in Bellefontaine. His Widow's Watch Golf Course in Lexington, Ky., hosted the 1999 Lexington Open on the TearDrop Golf Tour.