CINCINNATI – Xavier’s golf teams will look toward the spring season with even more anticipation than usual.
That’s because the Musketeers expect to be in their new indoor practice facility by February.
Maketewah Country Club has partnered with nearby Xavier University in a master plan and renovation, with the club’s new practice facility as the centerpiece of efforts to revitalize a century-old club with a rich history.
“With this new first-class facility just five minutes from campus, our teams will be more competitive because we can practice year round,” Xavier men’s coach Doug Steiner said, “and our ability to recruit has improved tremendously.”
Maketewah, a 1910 Thomas Bendelow design that was modified by Donald Ross in 1929, has hosted a local U.S. Open qualifier for the past 40 years. Among the course’s distinctive qualities: strategic use of angles, challenging greens, rolling terrain and both nines ending with par 3s. However, at 6,680 yards and a par 72 (72.3 rating, 131 slope), Maketewah (MACK-eh-TEE-wah) has struggled to keep pace with the modern game.
Architect Brian Silva, hired to guide the update, implemented a two-phase plan.
• Phase I, begun in the summer, focuses on the practice center: a 10-acre short-game area with a 6,000-square-foot putting area plus four 3,000-square-foot greens, seven bunkers and a chipping area. Phase I also includes expansion of the practice range. It is expected to be completed by February.
The indoor facility, in a new 10,000-square-foot building, will include four hitting bays with doors that open onto the course, a 4,000-square-foot putting green, offices for the Xavier coaches, men’s and women’s team locker rooms and a lounge. The indoor facility also will include a Cobra/Puma regional fitting center.
Bob Philion, the president of Cobra-Puma Golf, was one of Steiner’s first recruits and graduated in 1993.
“It was about a year-and-a-half project raising the money,” Steiner said, “and he was the final piece of the puzzle. It’s a really good match for Cobra/Puma.”
• Phase II, scheduled to start in fall 2013, will focus on the golf course: improvements to tees, fairways and bunkers, plus a new green on the 458-yard, par-4 sixth hole, with more room for air movement.
Silva has relied upon a more offset style of scatter-shot bunkering rather than placing the hazards left and right alongside standard landing areas.
Bendelow and Ross were not as predictable as today’s course architects, Silva said. Their bunkering was more random, and they let the land dictate where bunkers might naturally form, such as with Ross’ well-known cross bunkers that appear just 100 yards in front of the tees.
“Bunkers give life and interest to the landscape and are not just for landing areas and around greens,” said Silva, whose work includes updates of Ross designs The Biltmore Golf Club in Coral Gables, Fla., and Mount Washington Golf Club in Bretton Woods, N.H.
Xavier has contributed $850,000 to the project, through 43 donors, Steiner said, at a minimum of $5,000 each. Phase I is estimated at $2.2 million. The budget for Phase II not finalized.
Maketewah’s new par will be 71, with four sets of member tees ranging from 4,956 to 6,577 yards, plus the “Bendelow Tees,” which will allow the course to stretch to 6,927 yards and a par 70 for collegiate competition and U.S. Open qualifiers.
Dave Bahr, Maketewah’s head professional, says local amateurs have expressed interest in the new facility, and the club has seen a modest spike in membership since construction began.
“The ability to practice year round will be a great attraction to those serious about improving their game,” Bahr said.
Foremost among them will be Xavier’s golfers. The men open the spring season in the March 10-12 Pinehurst Invitational; the women begin play in the Feb. 18-19 Le Triomphe Collegiate in Broussard, La.
Al Kanters is a Golfweek’s Best course rater and Cincinnati-based business consultant.