The new owner of the Cat Island golf course, which has been closed since 2019, says it plans to reopen in the fall.
During the closure, the course near Beaufort has managed to retain “its bones” despite poor maintenance, according to the golf course architect who worked on the original and is now leading its restoration.
In June, Resort Development Partners, a firm specializing in operations and strategic planning for resort communities, purchased the Cat Island Club from Cat Island Group LLC, which had previously purchased the property in a public foreclosure sale, then was criticized for selling memberships without reopening. the lesson.
The 18-hole golf course in the waterfront community of Lady’s Island had been closed since January 2019.
After months of neglect, the course had fallen into disrepair, said Tim Mervosh, a Beaufort resident who serves as the general manager of Resort Development Partners.
“It felt like a corn maze trying to get down the fairway,” Mervosh said of the weedy condition of one of the holes.
Mervosh hired John LaFoy to help revitalize the golf course to the classic original design by George W. Cobb, with an emphasis on restoring the beauty and natural ecosystem of the surrounding tides.
Cobb, a prolific golf course architect, had roughed out the hole locations but, in fact, it was LaFoy who did most of the work. LaFoy, also a golf course architect and past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, worked for Cobb at the time. He was around 40 years old.
LaFoy, now 75, who lives in Greenville, is thrilled to be back. Usually, when golf courses are built, adjustments are made during the construction phase, but LaFoy was not so lucky when building Cat Island. It opened in 1985.
“I’m doing what I wish I could have done 30 years ago,” LaFoy told the Beaufort Gazette and Island Packet on Thursday. “I consider this a second blow.”
When he first saw the course after so many years, he was in a tough state. The greens were just weeds and sand. In fact, weeds were everywhere. LaFoy was shocked – that the course wasn’t in worse shape.
“The bones from the golf course,” LaFoy said, “were still there.”
Like an artist, LaFoy adds his touch to the green complexes, including the bunkers.
“It’s a new golf course,” LaFoy says, pointing to his drawings that show design changes he says will add character.
Golfers, he adds, will appreciate being rewarded for their good shots, which the new features will demand.
He added dips and bridges to the greens and more shape to the bunkers, which were once oblong.
It’s essential work, says LaFoy, quoting CB Macdonald, who built the first 18-course golf course in the United States and who once said that greens are to a golf course what the face is to. a portrait.
“That’s how important they are,” LaFoy says. “So we’re working on the face of the golf course.”
New drainage systems are being installed in the bunkers. The fairways have been mowed. New grass has come in around the bunkers. Greens, which have been fumigated, have new grass.
It’s a long process to fully restore a golf course, Mervosh says.
“You can’t neglect your home for three years,” Mervosh says, offering an analogy.
With its heat, salt, mold and alligators — you name it — the Lowcountry is tough on a golf course, he says.
But a soft opening of the golf course is expected in October, Mervosh says, adding that he had to overcome not only challenges with the course’s fitness but also skepticism from golfers.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Mervosh said. “We are building a golf course. We told everyone what we were going to do and we are doing it.
The new owners are selling private memberships with an initiation fee of $12,500 with monthly dues. Subscriptions are available to residents with homes on the course and to those living off the island. The course will no longer be open to the public. Mervosh says there is a market for a private course that is not located in a gated community.
Cat Island is known for its variety of trees and water views, including the three par threes and two par threes in a row.
LaFoy, the golf course’s architect, says the course was designed as part of a housing development, but is unique in that the houses aren’t as intrusive as on some courses.
“You don’t really feel like you’re surrounded by houses,” LaFoy says.
LaFoy didn’t get much respect when he tried to play the course in the mid-1990s. He was in the area for a funeral. When a friend of his asked if the golf course architect could get a discount, LaFoy recalled with a laugh, “they said no.”
LaFoy admits he probably would have restored the course for free, but adds that he didn’t tell that to Mervosh, the general manager.
“Everything is starting to fall into place,” LaFoy says of the restoration.