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August 22, 2023

Auburn-Opelika’s Pines Crossing on track for November opening

By Gregg Dewalt, Alabama Golf News Editor

Aging Indian PInes course needed a facelift

AUBURN – One of Auburn-Opelika’s iconic public golf courses is on track to reopen in early November with a new name and a new look.

According to course general manager Fred Holton, the newly named Pines Crossing remains on schedule for an early November opening, approximately 11 months after the course shut down for a complete overhaul courtesy of architect Bill Bergin.

Formerly known as Indian Pines, the 18-hole course that straddles the Auburn/Opelika line will not be recognizable by golfers who have played there since it opened to the public in 1976. Before that, it was the original site of Saugahatchee Country Club, dating back to 1946.

Despite losing acreage to the airport next door, Pines Crossing will play 700 yards longer than the old Indian Pines course.

The course overhaul is the product of the FAA requiring the adjacent Auburn University Regional Airport to expand its safety zone. To do that, the airport needed some land from the golf course.

Holton said the project has been in the planning stages since late 2015/early 2016.

“But when you have a lot of people involved in a decision, it takes a while to get it to come to fruition,” Holton said. “It took about six years to get everything ironed out, get the bids sent out, the financing in place and all of that.”

The total cost of the project is approximately $5.7 million Renovation costs are being paid by the City of Opelika, the airport, Auburn University, Lee County Commission and the Auburn-Opelika Tourism Bureau.

Pines Crossing is a complete redesign by Bill Bergin

Bergin’s new design for Pines Crossing retains little of the original routing and sports all new greens complexes, bunkering and teeing areas. The course will now play to around 7,000 yards from the tips.

“It will be completely different,” Holton said. “It won’t even be anything similar. It’s a really good design.”

Holton likes the playability of the new layout.

“Most of the bunkers are going to be to the sides of the greens, so it gives you that run-up option,” Holton said. “We’ll have up to six different sets of tees, so they can play whatever yardage they choose.”

According to Holton, the course was past due for renovations. And because it will basically be a new course, the time was right to rebrand.

‘We are going to be as good as anything around here’

“The course basically was as good as it was going to get,” Holton said. “It was old and it hadn’t had a lot of changes over the years. The irrigation system was over 40 years old; the bunkers didn’t drain well and the greens didn’t drain well. They weren’t constructed to USGA specs and it got to the point in the wintertime if we had a lot of rain we’d have to close a lot of days.”

Pines Crossing construction
Pines Crossing will include new tee boxes, greens, bunkers and a 300-by-150-yard driving range.

Even though the golf course lost a little more than 11 acres to the airport, Bergin found interior land that was not being utilized. His new routing resulted in a layout that will play about 700 yards longer.

The greens will feature TifEagle Bermudagrass putting surfaces. The tee boxes and fairways will be grassed with TifTuf, a drought-tolerant type of Bermudagrass.

“I just thought it was a perfect time to rebrand it because it’s going to be a brand-new golf course,” Holton said. “Indian Pines never had a great reputation of being a really good golf course, and now we are going to be as good as anything around here in public golf.”

Because there is a lack of public golf in Auburn/Opelika, the reopening of Pines Crossing will be welcomed by players in the area. Holton said in the post-Covid golf era, Indian Pines was running between 200 and 300 rounds per day at its peak. Last year, some 46,000 rounds were played there, he said.

“The tees were so small that they just stayed beat up,” Holton said. “It was hard for our staff to maintain them. They did as good of a job as they could. It was just time for a facelift.”

Bergin, who played golf at Auburn University and recently oversaw a renovation of the AU Club, also found room to expand the practice area. Previously, there was a net at the end of the range at about 200 yards to protect golfers playing two holes on the other side of it. But Holton said people still hit their drivers over the net and into players. That won’t be a problem now. Holton estimates the new practice range is spread over 10 acres and will be at least 300 yards long and 150 yards wide with five target greens.

“We’re going to have one of the best driving ranges around,” he said. “It’s massive. We can probably get 40 or 50 players on the tee at one time.”

Holton doesn’t consider Bergin’s work to be a renovation. Instead, he calls it a “re-do.”

“There’s no golf holes out there that are like the old holes,” he said. “It’s a new design, new driving range, new short game area, I’m not bragging because I’m here, but it’s going to be pretty darn good.”

Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News

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All photos courtesy by Gregg Dewalt

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