Red Ledges’ golf ‘park’ aims to change the game
12-hole Jack Nicklaus course dispenses with golf’s formalities
August 11, 2017
There is a dog on the fourth-tee green, a pack of teens throwing Frisbees in the fairway and a family of four on five, one toddler, one 8-year-old and mom and dad and nobody is wearing shoes. A runner jogs by in the middle of dad's putt and he gives a friendly wave.
Somebody call the club manager.
"Nobody's called yet," laughs Red Ledges manager John Johnson. "This isn't a golf course, it's a golf park. We don't have a lot of rules."
Red Ledges new Golf Park is part of a larger trend in golfing to demystify the sport and make it more accessible to families and the next generation. The park's designer is none other than the legendary Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, who has jumped on board with the concept, recognizing that the sport he loves is not engaging for newcomers because, well, it's just too hard.
"Jack understands that we've got to attract new golfers," Johnson said. "He knows we need to grow the game. We need to make the game easier and faster and lower the cost. Jack talks about making the game inviting to the beginning golfer and, while will always be a place for competitive, pro-level golf courses, he believes we've got to make room for people to fall in love with the sport."
To that end, Nicklaus himself designed the golf park at Red Ledges to compliment the challenging signature Nicklaus 18-hole course on the property. The park consists of 12, par three-only holes. There are at least four tee boxes on each hole and they are mown into the fairways. The fairways themselves are sloped and designed to channel the ball forward and there are no stern water hazards or sand traps on the way to the green.
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"Most courses require you to get the ball in the air at some point to get to the green," Johnson said. "You don't even have to bring a driver to our golf park. You can play it with two clubs."
The greens are large and are also sloped to move the ball toward the hole, umm, holes. There are two on every green—one a regulation 4.5-inch-diameter hole and a larger, welcoming 8-inch-diameter hole. Nicklaus' park invites walking and is mostly downhill and without difficult uphill shots. Red Ledges has also brought another innovation to the park, Golf Boards, surfboard like vehicles that make moving from hole to hole more fun, said Johnson, comparing the experiences of riding on the conveyances to surfing or snowboarding.
"You can rent a cart but, why would you?" he asks.
Gone too are the stuffy country club rules. There's no dress code. Sneakers, flip flops and even bare feet are encouraged, as are pets and family. The park also has a concurrent Frisbee golf range and Red Ledges hosts gatherings on the fairways concerts, kite flying contests and encourages picnics and other lawn games like croquet and bocce.
"This is a beautiful green space, we want people to use it," Johnson said. "They don't even have to come out and play golf. They can just hang out. Basically, it's a park and we want people to use it like one.
But what about the hazards of flying golf balls?
"We had our naysayers when we planned this," Johnson says. "But everybody gets it and people have all really played nicely together."
Red Ledges is a private community but sales personnel are happy to offer tours of the new park, Johnson says. To find out more about Red Ledges' Jack Nicklaus Golf Park, visit http://www.redledges.com or call Red Ledges for a tour at 877-733-5334.