Capital Canyon Club in Prescott, Ariz., reopened its course in July, after an extensive seven-month renovation of an 18-hole layout that had been dormant for two-and-a-half years.
Some people just can’t resist a challenge. As Exhibit A, consider the staff at Capital Canyon Club in Prescott, Ariz.
In May the facility, formerly known as Hassayampa Country Club, reopened under new ownership after a seven-month renovation at a property that had filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors two-and-a-half years earlier. The golf course reopened for play by the Fourth of July weekend.
|Golf Scorecard: Capital Canyon Club
Location: Prescott, Ariz.
Golf Holes: 18
Course Designer: Tom Weiskopf
Property Type: Private
Year Opened: 2015
Golf Season (Peak): April thru October
“It was definitely a challenge every day I showed up for work, but that’s part of what made it so much fun,” says Golf Course Superintendent Jamison Bushman, who started his job on October 1, 2014. “I really liked the challenge right off the bat and the high standards that [the new owner] was looking for in a short amount of time.”
Rebirth and Rebrand
Bushman, who took on his first superintendent’s position—and first renovation project—with the job, inherited a property where only the greens had received minimal care during the time the course was closed. Maintenance of tees and bunkers had been abandoned completely, and the fairways and rough had only been mowed occasionally, to keep the weeds under control.
“For him to take this on as his first project was pretty amazing,” notes General Manager Laura Scrivner. “He’s a hard worker, and he immersed himself in it.”
Bushman did have plenty of support throughout the renovation. Capital Canyon Club, whose name reflects Prescott’s designation by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 as the United States’ first capital of the Southwest Territory, is managed by Troon Privé, the private club division of Troon Golf. And Bushman had full faith in the rebirth and rebranding of the property under Troon’s leadership.
“Troon’s expertise and experience is really what made this happen,” reports Bushman, a Prescott native who previously worked for Troon at Pinetop (Ariz.) Country Club. “I knew what kind of project Troon would put its name on.”
From the corporate office to the agronomic staff, Troon provided the resources to make the renovation a success, adds Scrivner, who has been with Troon for 18 years and at Capital Canyon Club since April.
Both also give credit to new owner Jerre Stead, an information technology executive. “He has a special place in his heart for this piece of property,” says Bushman. “He was completely committed to the project.”
“Jerre’s vision for the club is long-lasting,” Scrivner adds. “We’ve hired talented, friendly, energetic people, and we’re getting trust from former members.”
With new leadership at the helm, the staff at Capital Canyon Club expects the property’s future to be as rich as its past, which dates back to when a group of returning World War I veterans and community leaders decided to create Hassayampa as Northern Arizona’s first golf and social club in 1919. A site was acquired two miles from downtown Prescott and Jock McLaren, a golf pro from Scotland, was hired to create nine holes on an 85-acre parcel that boasted tall Ponderosa pines, deep ravines, and granite rock outcroppings.
Hassayampa enjoyed a prestigious reputation for 50 years until it closed in 1969. The original course then remained dormant for almost 30 years until a group of local golfers and citizens urged Desert Troon to acquire the property, along with additional surrounding land, in the early 1990s. The development company then hired former British Open champion and PGA Tour player Tom Weiskopf to design a new 18-hole course.
While six of the new holes were overlaid on the property’s original holes, the other holes were extended into the higher elevations, to take advantage of the spectacular views of the San Francisco Peaks. Two environmentally sensitive natural creeks were also included as new features.
The new Hassayampa Country Club golf course opened in July of 1998, and the clubhouse opened in April of 1999. But both closed when the club entered bankruptcy in 2012.
While the new Capital Canyon Club is positioning itself as a family-friendly property with amenities for all ages and interests, golf will remain the centerpiece of its activity. “Golf is the heart and soul of the club,” Scrivner explains. “It’s great to see what it’s done for the whole community.”
Bushman agrees. “Golf is the staple of the country club,” he adds. “We have a beautiful clubhouse and restaurant, but it all revolves around the golf course.”
Making Up for Lost Time
Preparing for the club’s core activity by providing a golf course in pristine condition was no small task, however.
The modicum of care that the greens received while the property was dormant wasn’t enough to prevent the onset of disease and contamination. In addition, the greens had shrunk to a much smaller size than originally designed.
As part of the renovation of the greens, reports Bushman, “We really wanted to keep it in line with the original design [of Weiskopf, who also consulted on the restoration].”
The crew followed underground tracer wires around the greens to restore them to their original size and shape. “We had to poke around and dig where we thought it would be,” Bushman explains.
The maintenance staff also removed the ryegrass and bluegrass that had contaminated the greens and resodded the putting surfaces where the diseased and contaminated turf was removed. The crew aerified and topdressed the greens extensively as well.
All of the turfgrass on the tees had died, and the trees were covered with weeds. Most of the grass in the fairways and rough was dead, and these areas had significant bentgrass contamination and weeds. Many of the irrigation heads were damaged, and most of the drainage was clogged and in a state of disrepair.
“We didn’t totally redo the irrigation system,” says Bushman. “We went through it head by head, and fixed or replaced things that were broken.”
In addition, all of the irrigation system’s isolation valves were replaced, and drainage was repaired and replaced as needed. The bentgrass contamination was sprayed out, and the fairways and rough were re-seeded. Extensive aerification and topdressing were performed on these areas as well.
|Course & Grounds Profile:
Capital Canyon Club
Staff: 18 crew members
All of the bunker sand was also contaminated, and significant plant and weed growth were evident in every bunker. The liners and edges were damaged as well. During the renovation, the bunker damage was inspected and repaired as necessary. The bunkers were cleaned, and all of the existing sand and liners were removed and replaced. The floors of the bunkers were reshaped, and the bunkers were re-edged.
The lake banks were also overgrown with vegetation, and sedimentation has made the irrigation lakes much shallower. The two larger irrigation lakes were dredged, the damaged lake banks were repaired, and vegetation along the lake banks was removed.
The practice areas received attention through the renovation project as well. The chipping practice area was enhanced with a large putting green, and the original putting green area was converted to an event lawn, where members and guests can now enjoy outdoor social activities.
Back on the Map
From its vendors and agronomy team to its budgeting and business acumen, Troon threw its full support behind the project to help complete the renovation in such a short amount of time. “I relied on Troon’s resources and expertise on a daily basis during the renovation,” reports Bushman. “The project manager made site visits regularly.”
He also had no maintenance staff when the project got underway, so he started hiring crew members. He had hired everyone on his staff of 18 by the time the renovation was halfway finished. The property also used outside contractors to renovate the bunkers and tees and to troubleshoot the irrigation system.
Director of Golf Paul McLoughlin, who has been at Capital Canyon Club since March, had to put his team together as well. “When a club has been dormant for almost three years, it’s a challenge to get a staff in place to deliver a good product,” McLoughlin explains. “But most of the staff that was here in the beginning is still on board. We’re not spending a lot of extra money on training and turnover.”
Troon’s resources and commitment to the property have played an integral role in his staff retention, McLoughlin adds. “Their standards are key for all of their projects,” he adds. “It’s very much an A-to-Z of support for golf operations and the club.”
Scrivner also praised the backing of the corporate office. “Our sales and marketing team helped us get the place back on the map,” she explains. “Rebranding hasn’t been easy, but we’re getting our name out there.”
For Bushman and the course-and-grounds department, the biggest challenge was opening accounts with vendors and getting the new equipment package in place. “All the equipment that was here was rundown and in pretty bad shape,” he notes.
But he never shied away from the challenges, and says the project was a great learning experience. “I learned a lot about building teams and about myself and my capabilities,” he says. “I learned about overall construction and the logistics [of a major renovation], beyond just course maintenance.”
And because crew members came on board during the renovation, they are more invested in the upkeep of the course, he adds. “We want to make it better every day,” he states.
The community has taken note of all the effort. Capital Canyon Club had about 250 members, many of whom live in Prescott, by the time the golf course held a grand opening in early October. “A lot of them were former members of Hassayampa who hadn’t seen each other in the last couple of years,” says Scrivner.
They were also able to see that the natural features of the golf course were still intact, and Bushman says he has heard nothing but positive comments about the conditions. “The terrain is second to none,” he says. “No other golf course has the views we have of the city and surrounding areas.”
Sustainability, Scrivner notes, will be the top long-term goal for the Capital Canyon course-and-grounds department. To that end, Bushman adds, “We constantly monitor irrigation and adjust the run times of the water.” Following an integrated pest management program, the grounds crew performs preventive applications to control insects and weeds. “It’s the focal point of all of our maintenance,” Bushman says. “You identify a target problem, and you address it.”
The next project, says Scrivner, will be to increase the native areas, which are located between the tees. Crew members put down seed for native vegetation in the fall and planted wildflower seeds to add color to the course, she says.
Sending a Message
Given the history of the property, helping to convince former Hassayampa members, and the public at large, that Capital Canyon Club would be a viable entity was Scrivner’s greatest challenge. “Early on, a lot of people were skeptical we could get it open,” she explains. “It’s a brand new club, but at the same location. We’ve had to convince everyone that we’re here to stay. The golf course is in better condition now than it ever was, and word is spreading.”
She also believes that the rebirth of Capital Canyon Club has been good for the community, by stimulating the construction of more new homes and other properties.
In addition, reveals McLoughlin, many people who joined as social members have converted to golf memberships. “They will come to clinics or take private lessons or attend a demo day, and are gradually switching over to golf,” he reports. “We deliver a consistent product that meets or exceeds their expectations. Members are spreading a positive word-of-mouth for us, and that’s exactly what we want.”
Scrivner, in fact, says that while she has opened other new clubs during her career, she’s never been involved in a resurrection like the one taking place at Capital Canyon. “To be quite honest, it doesn’t happen very often,” she reports. “It’s been extremely rewarding and wonderful to see the passion of the people who are joining, or rejoining, the club. We’re really going to be engaged in the community, and I think the club has an amazing future ahead of it.”