Sunday, July 21, 2024

Curley has designs on new academy at River Club

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“For many golf courses, driving ranges are not a good use of space or resources,” says golf course architect Brian Curley. “On a lot of sites, the wisdom of using 12 acres or more of land and a lot of water just to allow people to whack balls is debatable.”

Curley has had the opportunity to put his beliefs into practice at the new, state-of-the-art practice facility, ‘The Barn’ at the River Club in Boise, Idaho. The River Club course was opened in 1916 as Boise Country Club, designed by Chandler Egan. It was renamed Plantation Country Club in 1930.

In 2018, the private course was acquired by California developer Will Gustafson, who hired architect Curley to reimagine it. Part of the project required reducing the amount of land occupied by the golf course to allow for 20 acres of future development along a busy east-west transportation corridor, State Street. Curley’s new design involves shortening the course from 6,376 yards, par 71, to around 5,800 yards, par 68. He says the changes will essentially equate to the removal of back tees, and will result in no loss of effective distance for the vast majority of golfers. 

Another significant element of the design is the addition of a well-appointed netted area for warm-up, designed to replace the driving range that was lost to development in the seventies. ‘The Barn’ is a unique practice facility with ten bays designed for year-round use. Four of the bays are equipped with Trackman to provide golfers with instant feedback on their swing. In Boise, where summer temperatures often approach 100°F, The Barn allows golfers to remain cool and comfortable, as they practice their swing under the misters and fans, while enjoying full bar and food service ordered via their smartphone.

In the meanwhile, a robotic golf ball retrieving vacuum keeps things tidy by retrieving the hundreds of golf balls, returning them to a large bin to be, once-again, distributed to golfers. In chilly winter months, The Barn transitions to a full service simulator building, with golfers swinging into screens with high-definition projections of hundreds of different golf courses, while heaters provide protection from the elements. The ability to convert The Barn from a summer to winter golf amenity is what makes it an invaluable asset to the River Club and its members.

“In many markets with seasonal golf climates, it is far more important to have a good golf course than it is to sacrifice course quality to accommodate a practice range,” says architect Curley. “In these circumstances, driving ranges are becoming thing of the past. Golfers, especially younger players, are perfectly content to hit balls into a warm-up net with instant statistical feedback. Watch Tour professionals like Bryson de Chambeau practice nowadays: they don’t actually watch the ball flight. They make the swing and turn straight to their Trackman to get the information they need. If a practice facility/simulator center is well done, it can be a major positive amenity that allows members to be active year-round. The combination of a high-tech, fair-weather warm-up facility that serves as a Simulator building when weather is foul is a winning combination that provides members with the best possible golf experience year-round.”

Curley’s new practice facility at the River Club, which officially opened last month for the golf season, occupies only half an acre of land, and features artificial turf which requires very little maintenance. “It is about a hundred feet deep to the net, a distance that makes it easy to get a feel for ball flight. While hitting, you look straight down a long corridor of existing golf so it feels like hitting into a fairway,” he says.

The Barn enabled Curley to satisfy the owner’s demanding design standards while optimizing the golfer’s experience. “The place rocks! This is the future! People are crazy about it!” he concludes enthusiastically.

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