Serafin to Upgrade Ohio University Course

By: Mark Leslie

Predicting that the final version of Ohio University (OU) Golf Course in Athens will be "a tremendous nine-hole track," course architect Barry Serafin is set to begin work on the second and last phase of the project as soon as the weather allows. "We've received great compliments on the four holes we completed last year," said the New Albany (Ohio)-based designer, "and I think golfers will love the challenge, playability and aesthetics of the five holes we build this summer."

Serafin will be working on the project with James Burkart Associates of Columbus, a landscape architect and irrigation consultant who designed the new Hunter double-row irrigation system for the OU course. Quality Golf of Sunbury won the bid in early March to build the course.

Ohio University's golf course once was an 18-hole track, but over the years expansion of the campus and rerouting of the Hocking River by the Army Corps of Engineers converted it to a nine-hole course. In the last four to five years, the nine-hole course has been encroached upon by the new Ping Recreation Center, two new practice football fields, a new clubhouse, and new tennis courts. "Every time something was built around the course, a golf hole had to be changed to accommodate it," Serafin recalled. "The course was very chopped up. In fact, the nine holes now sit on a piece of land that should really only support five holes."

Serafin was engaged to solve the problem, in part using property across the Hocking River. Last summer, a 400-foot bridge was built across the river, allowing access to land where Serafin designed new holes 3 through 6. A finishing touch was a 110-foot-wide bunker on the new 3rd hole in which "OU" stands out in sand. The hole sits along the bank of the river, and the "OU" is visible from the dormitories across the river.

Play continued through 2001 on the existing nine holes. But this year the course will be closed to allow major construction. "We will change almost everything, from tee to green, leaving some corridors as they are," Serafin said. "Most greens complexes will be changed. And the push-up greens, which have little character, will be rebuilt as sand-based putting surfaces and enlarged to provide more cupping positions."

While the existing bunkers are flat and few in number, he will add some to every hole to provide strategy and direction. "We have completely changed the routing of the course, to eliminate some safety concerns and take better advantage of the existing topography," Serafin said. "Some selected trees will need to be removed, but I have tried to use the existing hole corridors where possible to take advantage of the large trees and give the new course an instant mature feeling. We will also add distance so that the course will play to 3,290 yards."

Quality Golf, he added, will be glad to see that when nearby OU Stadium was lowered about 7 feet, 20,000 cubic yards of excess soil were stockpiled next to the golf course. "That," Serafin said, "will make it easier to add contour, strategy and boldness to the design."

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, Kentucky, hosted the 1999 Lexington Open on the TearDrop Golf Tour.