Work continues on Arizona course

Published online: May 22, 2015 Golf News

PRESCOTT, Ariz.—Legendary pro golfer Tom Weiskopf visited the Capital Canyon Club, formerly Hassayampa Golf Club, on May 7 to meet with the new management of the picturesque 18-hole course that he originally designed and opened here in 1998.

Only three years ago, the private course tucked in the ponderosa pines of this gated, upscale community in west Prescott had gone into bankruptcy, closed, and eventually succumbed to Mother Nature.

Since the beginning of 2015, restoration work on the year-round course and its clubhouse has been ongoing, with a soft opening scheduled for July 1 (members only) and the official opening on July 4. Under course superintendent Jamie Bushman, steps taken to aerate the greens, redo the bunkers, re-sod the fairways and water the course with an upgraded sprinkler system are paying dividends.

Weiskopf of Scottsdale-based Tom Weiskopf Designs met with Capital Canyon's director of golf & operations, Paul McLoughlin, and its general manager, Laura Scrivner, to walk the course, which has been under the ownership of Jerre Stead since September 2014. Weiskopf and Chris Roderick, president of Weiskopf Designs, toted around their maps of every hole while those in the group took notes and asked questions aloud.

Should there be a new bunker on this hole? Should we trim this overgrown tree in the field of play? 

The 72-year-old Weiskopf, who won 16 PGA Tour titles between 1968 and 1982 and has become a respected designer of golf courses around the world, later returned home to write his final recommendations for improvements at Capital Canyon.

Weiskopf Designs will submit those recommendations to McLoughlin and Scrivner sometime soon. McLoughlin and Scrivner, employees of Troon Golf management company in Scottsdale, will then meet to review all the notes and decide what short-term modifications they can make to the course while setting long-term goals for the coming years.

McLoughlin, a 38-year-old from Ireland who has experience managing courses in Europe, America and China, and Scrivner sat down to discuss their thoughts on the par-71, 6,606-yard Capital Canyon course, which Scrivner said can accommodate a total of 250 golf members.

What follows are excerpts from a Q&A conducted at the clubhouse on Tuesday, May 12.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge in trying to get the course back into playing shape?

Scrivner: The course basically sat dormant for three years. They (operators after the bankruptcy filing) were doing extremely minimal maintenance for the first year or so. We had to rebuild the irrigation system, basically, and bring it up to date. But with the course, we had to redefine it again. We had to go redefine the areas that were there. The greens, surprisingly, survived pretty well. They definitely needed some love when we got to them. The tees had to be completely redone, so the tees were reseeded last fall. The majority of them have grown in great. 

McLoughlin: Irrigation heads were left not maintained, so that had a big effect on the agronomy. The greens at that time (last fall) were very spongy (instead of firm); they were getting overwatered.

Q: What do you still have to do to the course to make sure that you hit that soft opening on July 1?

 The fairways have been seeded, and they're coming in very well right now. Every one of the bunkers was completely rebuilt. Bunkers have to be maintained all the time. And when they were left for three years, just totally abandoned, they go bad. They probably needed to be rebuilt before it was shut down. I'm absolutely confident that the course will be in better condition later this summer than it probably ever was.

Q: What is Weiskopf's current role with the course?

 He gave us some new ideas, and he really helped us define some of the mowing patterns and things...

M: ...where the fairway is and where the rough is.

S: We walked and we painted a lot of it. We marked where things were going to get mown. Right now the fairways and the rough are all one, so you have to redefine the fairways. I loved the comment that he (Weiskopf) made. He said, 'I'm a better designer now than I was 15 years ago when I originally designed the course. And 15 years ago, I was a better designer than I was 10 years prior to that.'

It's a beautiful golf course, but he said there's some changes that we could make that will make this golf course even better than it ever was.

Q: What makes this golf course unique when you compare it to other courses in Arizona?

 Where I grew up you have a lot of links golf (by the sea; open with less trees) and you have a lot of parkland golf. This is parkland. You've got spectacular views looking down on Arizona, and you've got the San Francisco Peaks in the background.

It's a real members' course. They like to come back here because the distance of the golf course is very reasonable (for the average golfer). We want to bring the fun back to golf.

S: The views are incredible. I spent most of my life in Durango, Colorado, so elevation changes and mountain golf courses are something I'm familiar with. But I just moved here from the East Coast, from Delaware. The elevation changes and the forced carries, and stuff like that, are pretty amazing on this golf course.