Mike Sanders Enjoys Return to Legacy
OK, you can come on out and test those new Legacy Golf Links greens for yourself. But be careful and make sure that it isn’t on a day when course superintendent Mike Norton wants to get cute with the Stimpmeter reading.
Legacy has joined Hyland Golf Club in switching from the popular bentgrass greens to Bermuda. And while the grass on the two courses isn’t exactly of the same strain, the results at both places have been sensational so far.
Legacy showed off its new greens in a media day and 20th year celebration on Tuesday and everyone was duly impressed. Not a discouraging word was heard from the full field that tested the greens or tasted the barbecue and chicken that followed.
Mike Sanders, a developer who made his name and fortune in the Sandhills before retiring to the heaven that is Hilton Head Island, returned to witness the celebration and was excited with what he saw.
“I love this golf course,” Sanders said, “because it’s just so natural. When people play this course, they just seem to want to come back and play it again. And now, with these new greens, they’re going to be able to enjoy it more year round.”
Sanders was instrumental in the development of Legacy. He had completed a stint at National Golf Club 20 years ago and moved on to the new project, located just outside Aberdeen on U.S. 15-501.
Jack Nicklaus had designed National and Sanders was so impressed that he wanted to stay with the design company. But at Legacy, they took a gamble. They hired Jack Nicklaus II to be the designer.
It was Jack II’s first design effort and it has always been one of the favorite courses for both locals and tourists.
“We had just completed National and the Governor’s Club in Chapel Hill with Jack,” Sanders said, “and we were looking to do something that was more along the semi-private or public line. We didn’t feel we were really gambling, because Jackie had been involved in the design part of National and the Governor’s Club and we were comfortable with the company.
“But with Legacy, we wanted to make it a straightforward course that was playable. We wanted it to be a fun, but challenging course that people would want to come back to play. That was the concept behind our thinking.
“And it worked, because this is a fun golf course. I don’t know of a golf course anywhere that has a better set of par-3 holes.”
Sanders is living the good life at Hilton Head, where he’s a member of Belfair Plantation and spends as much time chasing his four grandchildren as he does a golf ball. But when he was contacted about the new greens project at Legacy, he was more than willing to drive up and lend his expertise.
“I came up in June and helped mark the edges of the greens,” he said. “Over the years, the greens had lost some of their size and shape because of the encroachment of the fairway grass and we wanted to recapture the original design.”
Sanders isn’t surprised at how well the new MiniVerde greens are being accepted in the Sandhills.
“Both courses at Belfair have gone to the MiniVerde,” he said, “and it’s been great. It’s exciting to see these new grasses being developed.”
Sanders still has a love for the Sandhills and for both National Golf Club and Legacy. “It’s nice being back here,” he said. “A lot of memories.”
It’s going to be interesting over the next few years to see if other area courses opt to go to the new Bermuda grasses. Carolina Trace in Sanford has already taken the plunge and others are seriously considering following suit. The stigma that was once attached to Bermuda greens because of strong grain and less than ideal surfaces is ancient history.
Course superintendents across the southern part of the country are sleeping easier, no longer sweating bullets over losing their greens to the heat.
And the beauty of it is that the speed of the greens can be as quick as desired. Want to test your putting skills with a Stimp reading of 13? No problem.
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