E.A. Sports Today

Clearing the way

Cane Creek Golf Course officials prepare to undertake course-wide tree-removal project, the first phase of a major upgrade

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Starting Monday, the sound of golf carts motoring down the fairway on the back nine at Cane Creek Golf Creek will be replaced by the buzz of chain saws and thump of falling trees as workers begin a much-anticipated project designed to improve the playability of the city-managed facility.

Phase One of a three-phase capital improvement plan, approved by city recreation officials Wednesday, calls for the “selective” removal of “way over” 1,000 trees from throughout the golf course. Future phases include a four-acre lake for much-needed irrigation and the resurfacing of greens.

The project, being done largely with in-house resources, is expected to cost the city a fraction of what it would if done by outside contractors. Golf course operators are “very confident” it will make the course more profitable and, taking a cue from the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail model, stimulate economic growth in McClellan in the long run.

“This is a big, big step,” said Kenny Szuch, the City of Anniston’s director of golf operations and Cane Creek’s resident pro. “This is going to be the best thing that’s happened to that playing surface in a long time. It’s finally going to give us an opportunity to grow grass where there hasn’t been grass in 20 years.
“All that shade has just gotten bigger and bigger and bigger and just by being able to get sunlight in there and some air flowing that turf will finally start responding. You must have morning sun to grow bermudagrass and a large portion of the golf course gets no morning sun – none.”

The tree project will start behind No. 12 tee in The Hollow, the four-hole section across the road from the clubhouse, and work its way forward. Officials hope to have the tree-clearing project completed by Thanksgiving and the entire project completed by July 4.

The back nine of the course will be closed Monday through Friday for safety purposes while the tree removal is underway, but the front nine, clubhouse, grill and pro shop will remain open for play. The process will reverse when operation moves to the front nine. All 18 holes will be open to play on weekends and holidays.

Virtually every hole on the George Cobb-designed course will be impacted in the tree removal. Among the most dramatic effects are expected to occur in the tree line separating holes 5 and 6, the right side of No. 8 and hole 16.

The removal trees on 5/6 will promote turf growth on the hillside up the right side of 5 and eliminate the “dogleg effect” on the par-3 sixth. On No. 8, plans call to clear out the right side of the hole to the degree the bunker on the point will sit in the middle of the fairway and after clearing out the left side from 180 yards in making it a reachable par-5. And on 16, the plan eliminates the snap-hook off the tee and provides an alternate tee box.

“It’s going to put us in position to have a lot better turf and be able to have better hole layout throughout the whole golf course,” Cane Creek greens superintendent Rick Rounsavall said. “We’re getting rid a lot of the shade interference and almost equally important is air flow.

“It’s going to take people some time to adjust to it, but what they’re going to find is it’s going to be a much more playable, enjoyable golf course. This place will have a totally different view publicly, the playability will increase tremendously and the enjoyment of the golfer will go up phenomenally, I have no doubt about that.”

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