Coore & Crenshaw’s latest design is on Lake Martin

Birdies, bogeys and beauty at the new Wicker Point Golf Club at Lake Martin

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have designed a number of holes that run alongside Lake Martin at Wicker Creek.

Bill Coore was designing golf courses — in his head, at least — from an early age.

“I grew up in North Carolina, and even though I played mostly on very rudimentary public courses, I also had the opportunity to play at Pinehurst and courses like that,” he says, referring to one of golf’s most revered locations. “Along the way, I found it interesting trying to decide why I like some golf courses better than others.”

The verdict? “I didn’t hit the ball extreme distances,” he says. “I depended much more on shot placement than I did on strength and hitting long distances. I gravitated more toward courses that would allow me to play against much stronger players and still have a chance. Courses like Pinehurst No. 2 allowed me to do that. It allows a wider variety of people to play and at least have hope they can succeed.”

That’s exactly what Coore and his partner in golf course design hope to do with the new Wicker Point Golf Club at Lake Martin. It’s being built now and is projected to open in summer 2023.

Coore’s design partner also knows a thing or two about golf courses. Ben Crenshaw is a 19-time winner on the PGA tour, including two Masters titles.

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Coore had been in golf course design about 13 years when, in December of 1985, he formed a partnership with Crenshaw.

“It has been one of those beyond fortuitous occurrences that we did this,” says Coore, who, with Crenshaw, has designed golf courses around the world. “Most people who know us think that we’re highly compatible both in terms of personality and golf design philosophy.”

Ben Crenshaw, left, and Bill Coore. Photo courtesy of Coore & Crenshaw.

Wicker Point is Coore & Crenshaw’s first design in Alabama, and Coore says the Lake Martin setting, on a development by Russell Lands, is “stunning.”

“The Russell Lands people were just fantastic,” Coore says. “They said, ‘Come and see if you can do something interesting here. … See if you can create a course that would provide some interest and enjoyment to a pretty wide class of golfers, meaning skill level, and showcase what we have here at Lake Martin.’ … We tried to lay out a course that, although it’s hilly, we hope is going to be accommodating from a play and enjoyment standpoint and at the same time be a complement to this really stunningly beautiful place.”

Crenshaw, whose grandparents lived in Andalusia, and Coore are both “old-fashioned” when it comes to course design, Coore says, eschewing modern tools like drones and computer-assisted design in favor of topographical maps and first-hand eyeballing of the land.

“Technically speaking, we’re dinosaurs,” Coore says with a laugh. “We came here and started walking different places along the lake. … We were getting a feel for how the land flowed and trying to ascertain what might be the best way to put a sequence of golf holes together on this property. We came up with a very early routing, and to this day, that’s pretty much stayed the same.”

Wicker Point Golf Club begins to take shape along Lake Martin.

The 18-hole golf course definitely takes advantage of its surroundings, Coore says.

“There are a few holes right on the lake,” he says. “Even the holes that are slightly inland, you will have lake views on most of them. … The two or three that don’t have views are, from our perspective, two or three of the most interesting holes on the course.”

As with all of the Coore & Crenshaw courses, there are a couple of goals the designers have for Wicker Creek.

“One is to create a golf course that we think could be interesting to play for as many different classes of golfers as possible,” he says. “Beyond that, we want the golf course to be a complement to the site. If you have a gifted site, you want the golf course to look like it belongs at the site. We want it to say, ‘This is Lake Martin.’ We want you to know where you are.”

Coore says designing golf courses like Wicker Creek is a “dream job” for him.

“It’s great to have a job that’s both a hobby and a job,” Coore says. “Every golfer would love to do what Ben and I have a chance to do. … We’ve been fortunate to work in a lot of different places, but this one is kind of special.”

Alec Harvey is executive editor of Business Alabama.

This article appears in the December 2022 issue of Business Alabama.

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