Bob Gillespie



New name, new look: Greenville course celebrates its 20th birthday with a makeover

Posted 9/29/2011 4:11:00 PM

Since 1991, golfers living in or visiting the Greenville area have played and enjoyed Verdae Greens Golf Club, a hilly, testing public-access layout near Interstate 85 that for nine years hosted the then-Nike Tour’s Upstate Classic. Now, for its 20th birthday, the Willard Byrd-designed course has a new name, new greens, new look – and a whole new vibe.

The renamed Preserve at Verdae, located at The Embassy Suites Greenville Golf Resort, has completed a $3 million “eco-friendly” renovation, which began in 2006 when its greens were converted over two months from bentgrass to MiniVerde Ultradwarf Bermuda. The new greens are drought-resistant and therefore more easily and economically maintained without sacrificing the smoothness and playability of bent.

The second stage of renovation was completed and the course reopened Memorial Day weekend. Over the years, the 18-hole Verdae course has averaged about 34,000-35,000 rounds annually.

By adding more natural grasses and landscaping while preserving existing wildlife habitats, the renovation reduced maintained acreage by about 12 percent. In turn, The Preserve cut fuel usage by 500 gallons and water use by 6 million gallons in 2011. Over the next three years, the staff plans an additional 20-25 percent cutback in maintained turf.

“You set goals for a golf course the same as you do for any business, and adopting environmentally friendly practices was the right thing to do,” general manager David Nelson said. “Golfers have a better experience on a better-quality, more scenic golf course, while at the same time we’re able to save money.”

Despite the changes, including a new irrigation system (installed in 2007) and repairs to a stone retaining wall at the fifth hole, “Golfers say it looks like it has always been there,” Nelson said.

In addition to course upgrades, the clubhouse also was renovated. The Preserve’s practice facility has a multi-level tee box, chipping area and practice bunker, and a large putting green.

The 1,100-acre property (which also has businesses, homes, condos and a senior center) is the only hotel/conference center/golf resort combination within a 60-mile radius. Though the course sits six miles from the bustling Greenville downtown, buildings are visible on only one hole.

“It’s one of the few Embassy Suites in the U.S. with a golf course, and about 20 percent of our business comes strictly because we are a golf resort,” Nelson said.

The course features steep drops and rises in elevation and numerous water hazards, with accuracy demanded on most shots. The dogleg-right par-5 18th, for example, demands a tee shot that avoids water all along the right side, then a second shot of 220-240 yards uphill to a three-tiered green.

The Upstate is perhaps best known for its upscale private courses such as Greenville Country Club’s Chanticleer course and The Thornblade Club, but The Preserve at Verdae aspires to offer a similar level of golf to local players, resort guests and vacationers.

“The golf course is a living, breathing entity, and golf is about the romance of the game, the history of the game and the experience of the players,” Nelson said. “If you’re not constantly trying to improve and make changes that are noticeable to players, they’ll go elsewhere.”

The 20-year-old but also brand-new Preserve at Verdae is testament to that philosophy – and well worth a look. Click here for fees and more information.