A $6 million golf course renovation at The Las Vegas Country Club bridged the gap between one of the city’s most traditional layouts and modern technology.

 

A year ago, the 43-year-old golf course at The Las Vegas Country Club (LVCC) was beginning to show its age. Despite the best efforts of the club’s course and grounds department, course conditions were poor, and the 20-plus-year-old irrigation system was failing.

“It was time for an upgrade,” says General Manager Ryan Shaw. “We won’t settle for poor course conditions, so we had to go out and fix it.”

The membership agreed, and voted to shut down the course for a renovation. LVCC hired Golf Course Architect Mark Rathert to lead the design and daily project work, while Wadsworth Golf Construction Company would do the heavy lifting. LVCC then named Kent McCutcheon, who has overseen nine golf course renovations, including five in the Las Vegas valley, as the club’s new Golf Course Superintendent who would direct the grow-in efforts.

All of these decisions proved to be smart moves. The eight-month, $5.4 million project was finished on time and under budget.

The story doesn’t end there, though. LVCC also sold a whopping 50 new memberships, at a time when the golf course—one of the main draws of the property—was shuttered.

Golf Course Scorecard


Club Name: The Las Vegas Country Club
Club Web Site: www.lasvegascc.com
Holes: 18
Designers: Ed Ault (1967), Mark Rathert (2009)
Type: Private
Year Opened: 1967
Golf Season: Year-round
Fairways: Bermuda
Greens: Bent

Keeping in Character
The renovation project accomplished a full list of tee-to-green objectives, and everything else in between. LVCC rebuilt all of the course’s greens and bunkers, as well as some tee complexes; installed a new state-of-the-art, wall-to-wall irrigation system, and altered some of the landing areas.

The greens were reconstructed to USGA recommendations and the shapelier, deeper bunkers were filled with bright white sand, to provide top-notch aesthetics and playing conditions.

The design of the new greens and bunkers maintains a classic look, but adjusted bunker locations now demand that golfers use better course management skills to navigate the layout. Players are also challenged by more visually dramatic finishing holes that call for greater strategy.

The seven rebuilt tee complexes now feature improved realignment and playability, as well as fairway grading improvements in landing areas that accentuate the new bunkers. The redesigned chipping area by the clubhouse, which can double as a 100-yard, par-3, 19th hole, provides better short-game practice.

The design team factored environmental concerns and aesthetics into the renovation as well. Non-turf areas were incorporated into the layout to reduce water consumption, along with landscaping features that include varieties of clump grasses with a wood mulch ground cover. The addition of an event lawn, which faces a lake with a cascading waterfall, provides a show-stopping backdrop for member events, business outings, weddings and parties.

Perhaps most importantly, however, the golf course has retained its original character.

“It’s the last of the parkland golf courses in the Las Vegas area,” says McCutcheon. “There’s no desert landscape on our course. Golfers from the East long to see grass out here, and this is really their only opportunity in the Las Vegas valley.”

Shaw agrees.

“The golf course is every bit as traditional as it was before. This club is built on tradition and history,” he adds.

Keeping Up the Good Work
Once the renovation project was complete, however, the work at the golf course, which reopened December 4, was just beginning.

“You can have a great
layout, but without proper
maintenance, it won’t succeed,”
—Golf Course Superintendent Kent
McCutcheon (right), who works closely
with General Manager Ryan Shaw (left).

“The golf course is only as good as the department that maintains it,” McCutcheon reveals. “You can have a great layout, but without proper maintenance, it won’t succeed. We strive to maintain the course day-to-day in tournament conditions.”

McCutcheon, who works closely with Shaw and Head Golf Professional Jason Edmiston, says he delegates many responsibilities to his assistant superintendents (Ron Ingram and Barry Levitt). He also enjoys the benefits of having an experienced staff. Most crew members, he reports, have worked at the property for from six to 26 years. Still, the last thing he wants is for the job to become routine to any member of his maintenance staff.

“They spend everyday at work, so I try to keep things fresh,” says McCutcheon. “They also know I’m not above getting out there to help them with the everyday jobs. We’re a team, and we’re all in this together.”

C&G Profile: Las Vegas CC


Annual Budget: $2.1 million
Staff: 20 full-time and 6 part-time employees
Staff Managers: Kent McCutcheon, Golf Course Superintendent; Ron Ingram, Assistant Superintendent; Barry Levitt, Assistant Superintendent; Jody Farber, Shop Manager
Irrigation System: Toro SitePro; 2,200 heads; 60 controls
Water Source and Usage: Three on-site wells; 700 acre feet per year, with annual well fees of $32,000
Equipment: 40-plus pieces of major equipment, primarily Toro; property leases most of its cutting units
Aerating and Overseeding: Aerations in March, May and September; overseeding in September
Duties and Responsibilities: All daily course maintenance duties, landscaping, in-house projects

Superintendent Profile: Kent McCutcheon


Education and Training: Nathan M. Bisk College of Business, Florida Institute of Technology; Lake City (Fla.) Community College, Golf Course Operations
Years at Las Vegas Country Club: 1
Years in Golf Course Management: 21
Previous Employment: Canyon Gate Country Club, Las Vegas; Bali Hai Golf Club, Las Vegas; Primm Valley Golf Club, Primm, Nev.; Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort; golf courses in Florida, Georgia and overseas
Certifications: GCSAA Class A; Nevada pesticide license
Honors and Awards: 2000—TurfNet Superintendent of the Year; 2000—Golfweek’s “Top 40 Under 40,” an award that recognizes the golf industry’s 40 most influential and innovative people under age 40.

The desert climate, where temperatures can range from 10°F to 120°F, presents the most difficult test for the LVCC staff. “We’re trying to maintain turf grass in an area where it’s not really supposed to be,” McCutcheon explains. “We deal with the highest highs and the lowest lows of any golf course that stays open year-round.”

Divine Rights
The biggest challenge of the renovation project was to finish it on time and under budget, McCutcheon and Shaw agree. But the design team, and the maintenance crew, were up to the task; the team grew in the bentgrass greens in just 78 days, McCutcheon reports.

The property, which has three wells and pumps its own water, even found an innovative way to help finance the project: selling 200 acre-feet of water rights for $2.4 million. “We own our water rights, and we can only use a certain amount a year,” Shaw explains. “We weren’t using what we had, so we sold some of the rights to help pay for the project.”

The general manager also emphasizes the ongoing commitment that the members of the maintenance crew made to the project. “They strive to maintain the beauty that was created here,” he says. “One wrong approach, and you can lose all of your greens. They know how important this course is to the club, and they have the tools and skills to keep it in top shape, year-round.”

LVCC added an event lawn, which faces a lake with a cascading waterfall, to provide a show-stopping backdrop for member events.

In fact, the advantages of the newly renovated course have spilled over into the surrounding gated community as well. Property values in the neighborhood have increased, McCutcheon says, and the new design has brought renewed luster to the area. “There’s a real buzz about this golf course,” he says.

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