by Pete Wlodkowski, AmateurGolf.com
Golf architect Rees Jones made his latest site visit to the South Course at Alameda’s Chuck Corica Golf Complex this on August 25, 2016. And while grow-in has yet to start, all of the major infrastructure is in place.
Less than a year from now golfers will tee it up, having no idea how the formerly-flat fairways of the South Course turned into a gently rolling topography reminiscent of golf in the Australian Sandbelt. First timers — and there will be plenty, trust me — are going to find it very playable. The public course was built for everyone to enjoy, and it will continue to be; very walkable, and for those who ride, the smoothest cart paths and curbs they’ve ever seen. (They’re Golf Board-friendly too.)
Longtime Alameda golfers are going to be amazed, and not just by the minor modifications to the layout. Endless truckloads of dirt recovered from various tunnel digs and other Bay Area construction projects have raised the course, where drainage was always a major issue. This also allowed the fairways and green approaches to be shaped into gently rolling terrain that takes the words “forced carry” out of the equation. Even the best players are going to need to learn to land short of the green on many approach shots (especially when playing downhill or downwind). This same reclaimed dirt made it possible to implement a modern drainage and water-harvesting system, preparing the South for long dry spells and the heavy rains that often follow. Add in drought-tolerant turf grasses on the fairways, and native strains in the out-of-play areas, and the result is a course playable 365 days per year.
Jones, the designer of Torrey Pines South — which hosted the 2008 U.S. Open — really likes that.
“The Jack Clark South course will be playable every day that the sun shines,” he said. “And it will play differently every day, depending on the wind, the season, or the weather.”
If you’re an golf fan, you’ve seen courses like Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath on TV, hosting the world’s best players. And if you carry around a golf “bucket list” then surely the Melbourne and the surrounding area is on it. (Having just come back from a trip Down Under I can tell you first hand that you should bump it to the top of that list.)
The topography allows golfers to play the ground game, particularly on approach shots into greens or off the tee on Par-3s. Jones, known as the “Open Doctor” to many golf insiders, loves the idea of making a course the tournament golfers enjoy. But at Alameda, all levels of player will be able to find a way to make par — as long as they can get creative with their approach to the green. He told me that the course will certainly be an excellent tournament venue. But it was clear that what also excites him about Alameda’s South Course isn’t the prospect of winning a spot in U.S. Open rota, or on various “Top 100 Courses” lists. A noted environmentalist, Jones hopes that the course will capture the attention of those handing out awards in the environmental category as well.
But having an Australian Sandbelt-style course in the San Francisco Bay Area, open to the public? It’s going to put the City of Alameda on the golfing map. Golfers who visit the area are going to have one more must-play public course to check off their list. It’s too early to put an exact opening date on the calendar, but current plans call for the first pars, birdies, and eagles to be made on the South Course late summer of 2017.