As Trysting Tree Golf Club approaches its 30th birthday, the mid-valley staple is receiving a face-lift.
Nearly a decade’s worth of planning became a reality two weeks ago when ground was broken at the course, signaling the start of a major renovation.
The 18-hole public venue, which will remain playable during construction, has undergone few alterations since opening in 1988. But that is all about to change.
Holes five, 14 and 15 will be entirely new designs with freshly built greens. Several other holes will play differently.
The course’s driving range will also be expanded, and a new practice facility for the Oregon State men’s and women’s golf teams is in the works.
“We are trying to make the golf course a viable enterprise both financially and competitively for the next 30 years,” said Sean Arey, Trysting Tree’s head golf professional. “We are making an investment to make this golf course valuable for the next 30 years and not let it go away and die or evaporate.”
Renovation talk initially began in 2007 when the Oregon Department of Transportation unveiled a proposal to redo the intersection at the Highway 34 bypass east of downtown Corvallis. That project would’ve encroached on Trysting Tree’s fifth green and sixth tee complex.
The ODOT plan never materialized, causing Arey to table any renovations. Those thoughts resurfaced about three years ago while OSU was fundraising for the Ossey Golf Center, a facility that opened inside Gill Coliseum in early 2015.
“That got me thinking ‘if they can do that, we can do this,’” Arey said. “So I started working on the board about the possibilities of it. We already had scheduled to do an irrigation change on the golf course, so I figured this was a perfect time to do it and we might as well do all of this at one time.”
Arey convinced Trysting Tree’s board of directors and course superintendent Pat Doran to sign off on the project. He then got architect Dan Hixson back on board.
Hixson and Arey were golf teammates and roommates at OSU in the 1980s. That familiarity led Arey to reach out to Hixson when the ODOT proposal surfaced in 2007.
Hixson, who was a longtime pro at Portland’s Columbia Edgewater Country Club before switching to golf course architecture, took Arey’s offer.
“Every job has its own set of parameters, and this one really started from ODOT saying they were going to take two holes away,” said Hixson, owner of Dan Hixson Golf Design. “So from the original idea of eliminating two holes and adding two holes out there, this thing has evolved quite a bit. And for me, the idea of trying to put the puzzle together is fun.”
In 2009, Trysting Tree acquired a 26-acre parcel of land northeast of the 13th hole. The course’s new 14th (par-5) and 15th (par-4) holes are being constructed there by Milroy Golf Systems.
Along with a new par-5 fifth, four other holes will play differently: the fourth (current fifth hole shortened to a par-3), sixth (current eighth shortened to a par-3), eighth (current 15th shortened to a par-4) and ninth (shortened from a par-5 to a par-4). The new par-4 seventh will be the old 16th and the new par-5 16th will be the old 14th.
The end result will be a par-71 (35-36) course that will play around 7,400 yards from the deepest tees.
“We will have more tee options making the golf course shorter as well as longer,” Arey said. “At 7,400 yards plus or minus a few and par-71, that’s U.S. Open length. So if it doesn’t challenge even the best players, we’ve failed in that respect. But then on the other side, we are actually shortening the course and giving more forward tee opportunities to make all levels of golfers enjoy this course.”
Arey and Hixson are expecting the new 14th and 15th holes to be playable by June of 2017. The new fifth should be ready three months later.
The expanded driving range and practice facilities will come later on.
“We will be an 18-hole course all the way through construction,” Arey said. “We may have to shorten a hole to a par-3 on certain days of construction, but we will have 18 holes open to play with no temporary greens.”
Hixson, who is best known for designing Bandon Crossings on the Oregon coast and Wine Valley Golf Club in Walla Walla, Washington, is very open to outside opinions.
Arey, Doran and Board of Directors President Larry Giustina have all provided input.
“It evolves all the time and I rely on Sean a lot to make sure we’re matching what’s out there,” Hixson said. “I’ve found that, and I try to stick to this, is a good idea is a good idea. If someone else has a good idea, it’s part of my job as a designer to say ‘yeah, that’s much better than what I was thinking,’ because ultimately we want the product to be good.”
Groundbreaking was supposed to occur in early August, but a Federal Emergency Management Agency No-Rise Certification (Trysting Tree is built on a flood plain) set the project back about a month.
Mother Nature is the final hurdle.
“Ideally, we would’ve loved to get grass seed in the ground (last week),” Arey said. “Timing was everything. We have been pushed to the limit to start this project where we can get it completed and stay on schedule. But this is all really happening now. Nine years of wondering if we were really going to do it, and we are doing it.”