Golf is a game of habit, but Purdue officials are looking to make major changes to one of its renowned courses.
Beginning this fall, the Ackerman Hills golf course will undergo a serious facelift. The project as it is currently outlined came to fruition after mere maintenance upgrades were originally suggested. Jim Ackerman, the course’s namesake, was told of the planned maintenance changes and made a recommendation. He thought if the course was going to be under construction, course developers should also attempt to tend to other problems on the course.
Glenn Tompkins, the senior associate athletics director and one of the driving forces behind the project, acknowledges the issues developers are facing.
”There are some turf issues that have to be addressed,” Tompkins said. “There are a lot of dead or diseased trees that have to be replaced. Over a period of time, trees grow and can hinder sightlines. Some of these trees have grown so much on some of the par three’s that you can’t see the green so you’re forced into taking a sort of trick shot to try and get on the green. The sloping of the greens is another issue. Because some of them are so severe, we can’t mow them down short.”
According to a Purdue press release, the issues that project developers are looking to fix include: “turf varieties, drainage, irrigation, tee box areas and tree placement and replacement.”
Maintenance issues aside, aesthetic modifications, as well as design changes to improve play and give the course a more modern feel, are also planned.
”We’re wanting to make it a more current and standard kind of course rather than a short course,” Tompkins said. “There are golfers who are big hitters who don’t really enjoy the course that much because they almost never get to take the driver out of the bag because it’s just too short. We now have an opportunity to lengthen it which would make it more interesting for that group of golfers. It’ll allow us to host some championship events that we just can’t right now. It was kind of a domino effect that was started by addressing maintenance issues.”
Purdue alumnus Rob McDonough, a frequent player on both the Ackerman Hills course as well as the Kampen course, agrees the course is dated.
”Ackerman Hills just kind of reminds me of the older style country club courses from the ‘60s and ‘70s,” McDonough said. “It is short, but it’s tight and it’s tree-lined. It puts more of a premium on accuracy and managing your game. It’s not one of those courses where you can go out on any given tee box and just grip it and rip it. It’s got some character to it and it’s been around awhile.”
The renovations are going to take a significant amount of time to complete. As of now, Ackerman Hills is scheduled to be shut down from late 2014 to the spring of 2016. Concerns have arisen amongst project developers: primarily, they are worried the lengthy nature of the construction process will turn off regular visitors of the course from returning.
”If you have a regular group of guys or ladies or whoever you play with and you’ve been playing at Ackerman, now you’re going to have to find some place else for a year,” Tompkins said. “So our concern is: are we going to be able to bring them back?”
Golfers like McDonough are exactly the kind of people who Tompkins worries will be discouraged. However, McDonough is enthused about the project and the long-term impact it will have.
”I’m really excited that this is going to be done,” McDonough said. “I consider it only a mild inconvenience that the course is going to be shut down. I will still come back and play Ackerman Hills eagerly after it’s renovated. For me, I’m excited they’re doing it and it won’t affect my opinion of coming back and playing either of the Purdue courses at all.”
Updates on the project, as well as photos, will be released by project developers throughout the entire duration of the project.
”We want to provide (golfers) with a product that will be exciting for them,” Tompkins said. “We want to keep it in front of them. We’re going to keep our website updated with photos and progress reports of the project.”
For people who think the essence of the course will be lost, Tompkins assures that the course is going to stay true to its parkland-style.
”People really like Ackerman Hills, so we want them to know it’s still going to be Ackerman,” Tompkins said.