A silent beeper summons you from the driving range. Your golf
cart sports a complimentary bottle of designer water. Grey
Poupon? Just ask. You're at an upscale public course where you
needn't be a member to be a big shot.
Club men may scorn them as rent-a-clubs, but top-notch public
courses "fill a need," says USGA executive director David Fay,
who championed the selection of Bethpage Black, a public course,
for the 2002 U.S. Open. "Many people want the feeling of a
private club without having to dedicate their assets to it."
The phenomenon caught fire in Scottsdale, Ariz., where Grayhawk
and Troon North made millions by charging snowbirds $100 or more
for a round. Today, expensive public tracks are a booming
business that has wrought a change in design philosophy.
Architects must build courses that can compete aesthetically
with Augusta and Pebble Beach without frustrating affluent
duffers. Designer Brian Silva sprinkled Waverly Oaks in
Plymouth, Mass., with hazards that give the illusion of a
treacherous passage. Yet the course has four sets of forward
tees, and fairways wide enough to give the worst hacker a
chance. "We might drop a bunker in the middle of the fairway,"
says Silva, "but we'll leave a fairway-width landing area on
either side of the bunker. There are a couple of ways to get to
the green, rather than one royal road."
Waverly's owner, Mark Ridder, grew up filling divots on his
father's golf-course-cum-dairy-farm in Whitman, Mass. Young Mark
dreamed bigger, and when his 22,000-square-foot clubhouse is
finished, he will have spent more than $10 million to realize
his champagne dream of a public course. "This is it, the big
leagues, the real deal," Ridder says, looking around at his 242
acres of pearl-white bunkers, manicured bentgrass, full-coverage
irrigation--and not a single cow.
--John F. Lauerman
COLOR PHOTO: IRA WYMAN LONG GREEN Ridder spent millions on a posh public course. [Mark Ridder]