Indian Valley Golf Course has not only survived, it has thrived.
Even after more than four decades, some of the original golfers at the 18-hole layout near Burlington keep coming back.
This might be considered a renaissance for the facility, which is owned by the City of Burlington. A major greens renovation a few years ago seemed to give the course new spunk, not to mention a new golf experience.
“It has changed,” said Dick Dodson, who has played at the course for more than 40 years. “When the greens were rebuilt, in my way of thinking, it became a much better golf course. More of a challenge than it was, but it has always been a pleasant golf course to play.”
Dodson, a member shortly after the club opened and before it became publicly owned, said he likes the people the course attracts.
Indian Valley has stood the test of time, even with economic factors making sometimes-harsh realities for the golf industry. Through this, there have been upgrades that have made the course even better, according to Tony Laws.
Laws is director of the Burlington Recreation and Parks Department, which oversees the course’s operations. There was a decision to close for a few months in 2010 to have the greens renovated. That short-term hitch brought long-term stability, Laws said.
“For a municipal course, I’d say it’s one of the better ones in North Carolina,” he said.
Derek Cobb, who runs the daily operations at the course, said something needed to be done to deal with the greens a few years ago on the Ellis Maples-design.
“We would lose the greens in August,” Cobb said. “And then that would mean we would lose play in the fall. We were losing four months of revenue.”
Not any more.
Course architect Kris Spence from nearby Summerfield was hired to oversee the greens renovation, though some of the work was done in-house. Spence spearheaded a renovation at Greensboro’s Sedgefield Country Club, which is home to an annual stop on the PGA Tour, so Laws said city officials knew they would receive quality work.
At first, it was expected to be a project dealing with nine holes at a time – and even that was described by Laws as a gut-wrenching decision. Soon after, Laws and his staff determined that having all 18 greens renovated at the same time would be the best route.
“The economy was so bad and we decided to go ahead and do the whole thing,” Cobb said.
The course was closed in 2010 from early July to late November.
Plus, modern piping was installed for drainage and that was another positive by-product of the project, Laws said. It came at a price tag of about $300,000 for all phases.
Now, the greens are discussed with a positive tone. Cobb said the uniform putting surfaces are something golfers appreciate.
“Anytime someone is going to play golf, the first thing out of their mouth is, ‘How are the greens?’” Laws said, pointing out the rave reviews the course’s greens receive. “This has brought some sort of revival at Indian Valley and we’re real proud of that.”
The par-70 course, which is a few miles from downtown Burlington, is located along part of the Haw River, playing to 6,536 yards from back tees.
It’s the home layout for Williams High School and Western Alamance teams along with a place for practice rounds for Elon’s men’s and women’s teams. North Carolina High School Athletic Association regionals have been held at the course. For several years, it has been the home base of the Alamance County Amateur – both on the men’s and women’s sides.
And, as recent as March 2013, it’s the eastern-most site for The First Tee of the Triad’s growing youth program.
Consider it a stopping place for all ages, particularly with a steady senior clientele.
Dodson, now age 80, continued to walk the course for rounds until about six months ago. Still, he said he can’t think of a better situation for his golfing itch.
“(I play) about three times a week, weather permitting,” Dodson said. “I hope to play many more years to come. The fellowship with the guys I play with is hard to beat.”
And there’s Bobby Loy, who was the club pro shortly after the course opened. He spent more than two years in that role until March 1972, and even though he now lives in Sanford, he keeps coming back.
Loy said he senses not only a link to the course but to the people who frequent the layout. And then there are those greens.
“They’re in tremendous condition,” Loy said. “The greens are probably the best they’ve ever been. It’s nice to play.”
The course was constructed under the direction of developers Lex Albright and Irvin Porterfield with the idea of building houses around it. That plan hatched to some degree, but was eventually tempered by logistics.
Nine holes opened in 1969, with another nine added a couple of years later.
When finances got in the way, the course was eventually sold to the City of Burlington in 1973 and later reopened. By then, Loy had moved on, but he said it turned out to be an ideal situation.
“It was a great purchase,” Loy said. “It’s a great public facility. They’ve got a great thing going.”
A new clubhouse was built in the late 1980s.
With all that, the most dramatic alterations came with the first greens project since the course was built.
While scoring might be more difficult than in the past, Dodson said he believes the makeover has lent more credibility to the course.
“I think the greens are harder to putt,” Dodson said. “As long as it doesn’t get too tough.”
Indian Valley operates with four full-time employees – Cobb and three others, who maintain the course.
For a facility that had skeptics several years ago about its viability and the logic of the city owning and operating such an undertaking, it has prospered at a time when it hasn’t come easy in golf circles.
“It has turned out really good for us,” Laws said.