SKIDAWAY ISLAND, Ga. - The Deer Creek golf course at The Landings will shut down for about eight months next year for a fairly serious renovation, and one of the changes that was discussed was adding length.
Whoa, said the members. The Landings, a large golf community outside Savannah, has a substantial contingent of retirees, and they didn't want their course to get longer off the tee as they got shorter off it.
"It will be longer," said Head Professional Ty Weller. "But the members ... didn't want it to be much longer."
The course is 6,949 yards from the back tees, but that wasn't really a concern. Seeing a member play any of the Landings courses from the back tees would be like seeing a wild gangster rap showdown at the community center: ain't gonna happen.
The tees go down to 6,618 yards from the tournaments, 6,149 yards from the clubs, which is where most of the male members play from, and 5,759 yards from the Deer Creek, or forward, tees.
So the golf course will indeed be longer, but not by much.
What will be substantially bigger, however, are the greens. A study found that the greens that were built in 1992 - Deer Creek is the newest of The Landings' six golf courses - had shrunk by 31 percent.
That should make those greens-in-regulation numbers grow by leaps and bounds.
"This is one of the two courses that is the most popular with the members," Weller said. "First of all, it's very forgiving off the tee."
The other members' favorite is the Oakridge course, which also cuts the wild driver some slack.
What they won't do, however, is change too much of the greens' contours. Like Oakridge, Deer Creek makes up for its generosity off the tee with a little wickedness on the greens.
There are a number of ridges that run through them, some resulting in subtle breaks, others in not-so-subtle breaks, like nos. 3, 4 and 13, for example.
Many of the fairways also narrow considerably as they approach the greens.
Maintenance crews also plan to re-do the practice area, along with cart paths and the irrigation system.
Also, not surprisingly in such a heavily wooded area, they will cut down some overhanging limbs as well as take out some bothersome trees.
Tom Fazio designed the course, and his architectural firm will oversee the renovation.
Like Oakridge, Deer Creek is about more than just the short game. There are a number of outstanding holes, like No. 5, a drivable par 4 if you dare try to carry the water that runs all the way to the green; No. 8, a picturesque par 3 framed by the marsh in back; and No. 9, with a substantial water carry off the tee.
Like all the Landings' courses, Deer Creek plays through a residential area with tantalizing views of the marsh, especially at Nos. 8, 9, 17 and 18.
No. 18 in particular is a beauty, a par 5 with marsh all the way down the right side, eventually creeping into the right fairway short of the hole.
Deer Creek is a beautifully-treed course now, playing through pine, moss-draped oak and weeping willow. It also gets more than its fair share of wildlife; wild boar is sometimes still spotted.
It has the Fazio trademark sculpted mounds, grass bunkers and big sand bunkers, two-tiered fairways and elevated tees.
The course, like others on the island, is not open to outside play.
The Landings on Skidaway Island is an exclusive, gated community on the barrier island, just outside Savannah. Residents here have the advantage of living on their own island while being 15 minutes from downtown Savannah.
They've worked hard here to preserve the natural beauty of the island, and it shows: giant oaks draped with Spanish moss, wide marsh views and hardwood hammocks dot the island.
It's a very active community, with more than 100 groups, including one of the largest ladies' golf organizations in the country.
It's a little puzzling why the Landings is not more well-known. It's won some prestigious awards: The Urban Land Institute recognized it as "one of the nation's best residential communities," Live South magazine ranked it as one of the "Fabulous 50 communities in the South" and Where to Retire magazine rated it a "top 100 master-planned community."
There is some dispute over the origin of the island's name, whether it came from Indians or English settlers, but in any case, after the Civil War, freed slaves set up a school with the help of Benedictine monks.
There are also three tennis centers and 34 courts, two deep-water marinas, a fitness center slated to be doubled in size, four swimming pools, two athletic fields, more than 40 miles of paved walking and biking trails and four clubhouse restaurants.
Then there is the Village, a family-style shopping center right on the island.
April 11, 2008