By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos by Kevin Gaydosh
FAYETTEVILLE, NC – It’s a hard thing to contemplate – but when you go to a golf course, how often do you really stop to think about the turf (unless it’s bad, of course)?
Turf grass is far from a dispensable commodity on a golf course, so it only makes sense that those who know best how to grow it would think seriously about going into the golf business – and that was the case for the father and son team of William and Joe Poole, who collaborated to bring upscale golf to the Fayetteville (North Carolina) area in the form of the Bayonet at Puppy Creek.
In the early 1990’s, the two Pooles owned and operated the Carolina Turf Company (in nearby Raeford – and Joe still owns it) as well as a substantial amount of farm land in the surrounding countryside – and for years had thought about combining their knowledge of turf with their love of golf to build a golf course. (Unfortunately, William passed away before their collective ambition was fully realized – but Joe carried on with the dream.)
Joe’s goal was to provide an outstanding public golf facility for the greater Fayetteville area that would meet the need for an upscale club for locals at a price that wouldn’t break their budgets. Fayetteville is a military town, after all, so there was demand for a quality golf facility – but only if it was priced to suit the population.
Poole probably figured the turf part he could handle – and the balance was left to renowned architect Willard Byrd, who had a great deal of experience in the southeastern part of the United States, having been involved with golf architecture (primarily in that region) for half a century. Byrd proved to be the right man for the job in helping the younger Poole carryon with the family vision.
|One of the prettiest views on the golf course is found at the tee of the par three 9th hole.|
From the start, Bayonet at Puppy Creek was to be a golf-first facility, though there would also be a real estate component. Poole told Byrd to pick out the land that he wanted to put the golf holes on, and they’d take the balance to use for the homes. Poole himself even selected one of the lots, and now lives alongside the fairway of the par five first hole.
The land Poole selected for his golf course was in a good location – close enough to Pinehurst to draw some of the visitors to the ‘Home of Golf,’ while also serving the Fayetteville market, which includes the aforementioned military members and also some of the traffic either on its way to or back from Myrtle Beach, which is about an hour’s drive to the south.
Bayonet’s land contains Puppy Creek, which earned its name as part of the legend of Daniel Boone. It’s not a real ‘happy’ legacy, unfortunately – Boone reportedly was forced to drown puppies in the creek because he couldn’t feed them, hence the name. Luckily, the people associated with the Bayonet at Puppy Creek are giving it a much more positive way to remember the name these days.
|The tee shot is the toughest part of the relatively short (476-yard) par five 15th hole.|
The ‘Bayonet’ part of the golf course name also has a story, related to Joe’s college days at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. The Citadel’s important ceremonies often include a bayonet (it is a military academy, after all) – and the golf course is near Fort Bragg – so it made sense to give it a unique name that certainly stands out.
It does just that – there are lots of courses named after hills, streams and rivers – but a bayonet? We even heard the Ft. Bragg troops working on their shooting skills the day we played – so we can attest that the facility name fits well with the atmosphere.
Looking at the golf course, Byrd said he wanted to create eighteen ‘signature’ golf holes – and though that’s a pretty tough standard to live up to, Bayonet does its best to fulfill it. A ‘signature’ hole is one that you’ll remember after having played the golf course, and there are a good many memorable holes at Bayonet.
|Looking back from the green of the par four 6th hole - like many holes at Bayonet, a straightforward challenge from tee to green.|
The most striking aspect of the layout is its ease of play and subtle difficulty. The driving areas are wide, the greens are good sized and the hazards are visible – which usually adds up to a fairly easy golf course to navigate. But like all well-designed layouts, shot-making is where you’ll make it or break it at Bayonet.
The back tees stretch to over 7000 yards, and carry with them a slope of 142 – which is certainly enough to satisfy anyone searching for a challenge. Likewise, there are two sets of tees that are less than 5500 yards and eliminate all the carries – so the course is very junior and beginner friendly as well.
General Manager Dyrck Fanning described it this way: “You can get all you want, or you can move up a tee and have some fun.”
|At 460-yards and with trouble on both sides off the tee, there's nothing easy about the par four 17th hole.|
The course has proven challenging enough to attract professional events such as the Hooters Tour, which visited three times in the late ‘90’s – and it’s also hosted USGA qualifiers for senior events and the U.S. Mid-Amateur. Future PGA Tour star and U.S. Ryder Cup participant Chad Campbell played at Bayonet while on the Hooters Tour, finishing second in 1998 – so you know the course is no push-over.
Fanning says they’ve also worked hard over the years to make the course even more ‘forgiving’ to average players: “Ninety-five percent of what we’ve done on the project in the years since I’ve been here has been to make the golf course easier. We want the people who pay the bills to be able to find their ball, and we think people like to come out and have a chance to make birdies. It’s a fair test, but we try to keep the higher handicap golfers in mind as we’re maintaining and improving the course.”
In addition to the quality of the golf course, Bayonet is also a great place to come and practice – and learn. There’s a full fifteen acres encompassing the practice area (which includes a putting green and a bunker area), with nearly two acres devoted to the teeing area – in other words, having a golf facility owned and operated by a turf-growing entity has its advantages. You’ll never want for a natural turf spot to practice, put it that way.
|The 474-yard, dogleg left 8th hole is Bayonet's longest par four - and you'll need to shape your drive right-to-left if you're to save any distance on this one.|
Head Pro Travis Hall is especially proud of the facilities: “The driving range is so spacious that we never run out of perfect grass to hit off of, and you won’t have to wait for an open hitting area, either. The short game area has a sand trap and plenty of space to practice any type of short game shot. We also have two very large putting greens that are always in excellent condition.”
Looking at the golf course, it’s set up in four distinct loops, while crossing Puppy Creek four times during the round. Despite the presence of the water, it doesn’t really come into play very often unless you’re off-line or mis-clubbed with your tee shots – and the greens allow for run-up approach shots on nearly all the holes.
Byrd put in sixty bunkers throughout the course, and challenging them off the tee will usually give you the best angles into the greens – but being in them will usually punish you. Isn’t that what a hazard is supposed to do?
|The 210-yard, par three 8th hole is rated the back nine's third most difficult - needless to say, it's a tough test to try and make par.|
Hole highlights include the par four fourth hole, with a downhill tee shot that should provide you with extra distance. Here’s your first introduction to Puppy Creek, as you’ll need to stay short of it off the tee (which shouldn’t be a problem), and then fly it on your approach shot to the green. Don’t go long on this hole, however, or you’ll find it’s very difficult to try and save par.
The par three ninth hole combines beauty and challenge as you’re shooting uphill to a small green protected by bunkers guarding the front-right and front-left approaches. It’s rated the front nine’s easiest hole, yet can bite you if you’re not careful.
On the back nine, the closing sequence of sixteen, seventeen and eighteen will leave a lasting impression.
|The par three 9th hole isn't long, but the green's a pretty small target and well protected by bunkers.|
Sixteen is a 199-yard par three with what Hall calls one of the course’s most interesting green complexes – primarily because of a large and deep bunker waiting on the right side to swallow a wayward tee shot. We’re told it looks very beautiful with the fall colors – and it ain’t bad when everything’s nice and green in the summer time, either.
There’s certainly no easy way home on the dogleg left, 460-yard, par four seventeenth -- which is rated the back nine’s toughest hole. There’s a mild water carry off the tee, a bunker guarding the left side of the tee shot landing area, and trees down the right side. This hole literally feels like it goes on forever – and quite a relief when you’re holed out and on to the next tee.
Eighteen is a reachable 517-yard par five – that is, if you can shape your shot around the bunkers that guard the dogleg on the right side off the tee. There’s enough room to run it up in front if you’re in good shape in the fairway for your second shot and have the urge to go for it on what could be the last full shot of the day.
|Head Pro Travis Hall says the par three 16th hole has one of the course's most interesting greens complexes - and with a two-tiered green, we agree.|
Needless to say, the course was in terrific condition, something the Bayonet folks are quite proud to promise every day of the year. “We keep the grass in good shape Monday through Sunday and January through December,” Fanning said.
Which just goes to show, when it comes to golf -- lay the turf, and they will come.
Note: For golf course photos, due to lighting conditions (early morning tee time), we were unable to shoot any photos of holes 1-5.
|A creek runs through the par four 8th hole.|
Where We Stayed
On our most recent visit to North Carolina, we decided to stay a bit off the beaten path at a place that we knew would be convenient to all the golf courses we were going to play, would provide plenty of room for our group (which included kids), some peace and quiet, and most importantly, all the comforts of home.
For that reason, we chose The Condos at The Pit (which was also one of the golf courses we played), located just south of the Village of Pinehurst and close enough to the area’s amenities -- yet far enough ‘away’ to make it feel like a real vacation spot (it’s about a 45-minute drive to Bayonet).
|There's plenty of room to run it up at the par five 18th hole, if you've got the distance to try and reach it in two.|
The Pit Condos are all located on the Pit Golf Course’s par three seventh hole, and are within walking distance to the clubhouse. These two and three-bedroom condos sleep two per bedroom (for golf groups) with two queen beds per room.
Each condo has a fully equipped kitchen with stainless steel appliances, flat panel TV in the den with VCR/DVD player, a TV in each bedroom, digital phone for free long distance, free high speed internet connection, full size washer & dryer, linens, towels, and a balcony with outdoor seating.
We took advantage of the balcony to enjoy the pleasant early fall evenings – highly recommended! The kitchen facilities also helped us manage meal-time in a convenient, budget-conscious way.
|The bedrooms at the Pit condos are a big step above your average hotel room.|
For condo rentals or golf packages, please contact Maples Golf Packages at 800-889-5323 or visit www.MaplesGolf.com.
Bayonet at Puppy Creek
349 S. Parker Church Rd.
Raeford, NC 28376
Phone: (910) 904-1500
Toll Free: 1-888-BAYONET
Course Owner: Joe Poole
Course Designer: Willard Byrd
General Manager: Dyrck Fanning
Head Golf Professional: Travis Hall, PGA
Professional 7021 142/74.1
Championship 6472 134/71.1
Regular 6019 127/68.9 139/74.0 (L)
Senior/Ladies 5310 116/66.2 128/70.7 (L)
Ladies/Junior 4453 111.66.7
Check the club’s Website for current rates.
Walking anytime weekdays and after 1PM on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
|Related Links||Comments on this article?|
Maryland National Golf Club
Hollow Creek Golf Club
Rocky Gap Resort
PB Dye Golf Club in Ijamsville
Whiskey Creek Golf Club
E-mail Jeff Rendall, Editor: