A former TPC network golf course is a great way to get a jumpstart on operating a country club, and Wakefield Plantation Country Club took control of the Hale Irwin design in Raleigh, North Carolina, upon launch. The routing traverses between a surrounding residential neighborhood and across rolling terrain common for the area.
Irwin used the hills to create blind approach shots to several greens, including No. 3 and No. 17, where false fronts will repel those scared of sending their ball into the unknown.
The course revels in a bit of TPC-heroic flavoring during the final holes on both nines, where players will need to carry the same creek to reach the respective greens. Although there is extra room beyond the creek on No. 9, the ideal angle into its tilted green will mean driving to a space between a pair of centerline bunkers and a large lake on the left. The demand is much more straightforward on No. 18, where the question is simply whether one can carry the water as it flows directly in front of the green.
The club also features a nine-hole short course playing to a par of 33.
My first and only round at Wakefield Plantation (WP) was this past fall, and the entire property could not have presented itself with better conditions. After a fall drought here in North Carolina, the turf was lush and firm at the same time, accentuating contours. From the fabulous practice facility to the 18th green, the conditioning blew me away. Bentgrass greens are increasingly rare in this area, and to putt on what would content were the truest putting surfaces in the Triangle this year was simply a delight.
Notwithstanding the immaculate conditions on the property and the wonderfully generous staff, my review of the golf course architecture falls closely in line with Richard’s comments below. I was fortunate to have my best round of the season that fateful day, but if I had been spraying the ball at all, I am sure my opinion of the course would be more sour. WP is a wonderful test for an elite player, but I am less sure it is the type of course that would excite me to play every day.
Most of the holes follow the general template suggested by Richard: narrow corridors, house-lined, with large, mellow green complexes. This said, a few stood out as requiring some strategic thought:
• #1: The first hole has a beautifully sweeping fairway from right to left, lined with golden fescue. The player who can successfully move the ball in this direction and take advantage of the slope could gain an advantage of up to 30-50 yards in the conditions I played.
• #6: This par five is bisected by a winding creek which also creeps its way up the left side of the hole for the second and third shots. The fairway is blind and forces the player to think about actually laying up on this very long hole from the tee. While demanding throughout, its strategy was very bold and architecture interesting.
• #12: Short par fours are my favorite genre of golf holes. Playing from the proper tee gives the golfer so many options thanks to uncharacteristic width near the green. Having the proper angle is crucial to get the approach shot close.
• #17: This uphill par four features a perched, turtle-back green surrounded with short grass. My heart was wrought with fear around the thought of having too much spin and watching the ball roll back 100 yards to my feet.
Despite some of these standouts, other holes still sit with me as being just too challenging. The 5th was so narrow, with a blind creek, that it is a miracle even tour players can find green grass. #8 left me beguiled with such an awkward turn down the hill after the dog-leg. And, all three par fives were essentially not-reachable for even a single digit handicap like myself.
While WP will not win any awards for course architecture, it is easy to see why so many players love the property. WP seems like the type of place that a great player could grow into an elite player. While the fairways and greens may not stand out, the tee shots themselves are a very fun challenge, enhanced further by such terrific playing conditions. If you receive an invitation, go play! If not, no need to lose sleep.
This course was originally one of the TPC course developments sponsored by the PGA tour. Essentially what you have is a housing development that happens to have a golf course inside of it. Although the setting is nice, the course is well conditioned, and there are no really bad holes in general the holes are fairly boring and lack much architectural interest. The greens have very little in the way of contour as well. It’s hard to evaluate how well the architect used the land because the course is so spread out. It is completely un-walkable due to 1/4 mile rides between several of the tee boxes. This would probably be a decent place to play if you happened to be in the area. Probably a fairly typical three ball rating on the Top100 scale maybe a three on the Doak scale.