Architect & Project Spotlight: Nathan Crace & The Refuge
Nathan Crace, ASGCA is a bit of a Renaissance man (he’s written a few books) and is the Golf Course Architect for The Refuge in Flowood, Mississippi. The Refuge is a unique project. It’s a public golf course with a destination resort feel that is owned by a municipality and affiliated with the adjacent Refuge Hotel and Conference Center by Sheraton.
How did you get into golf course architecture?
I grew up just outside Louisville, Kentucky, and my father was a general contractor so I was always around equipment. When I was 10 years old, I built a three-hole, par 3 golf course on our property and Dad supplied me with the sand for the bunkers. Nobody in my family played golf and I learned how to play by reading Jack Nicklaus’ book “Golf My Way” and playing on the course I built. I knew early that I wanted to be a golf course architect, so I went to Mississippi State for the Professional Golf Management program there because I wanted to learn the business of golf from the inside out to make me a better golf architect. The turfgrass and architect side just came naturally since that was something I had always loved.
What do you like most about design?
I still really love the smell of the soil when we start construction, there is just something about that smell that gets my creative juices flowing. I do all my drawings by hand and then we transfer them to CAD, so I guess it’s a combination of working with the soil, routing and mapping the course and seeing the transformation we create. I like to think of the legacy I’m creating too. When I’m gone, my children and grandchildren will know I was there and made something they can see.
Tell us about your Refuge project.
We started this project in 2017. The course was existing but there was a developer that was building a $50 million hotel on an adjacent piece of property and the City of Flowood (which owns the course) believed the course needed to be upgraded to compliment the new hotel. It was time anyway because the course was 20 years old. We hope to open the course later this fall along with the hotel. Eagle Golf from Florence, AL was the prime contractor, and they used Sports Contractors Unlimited for greens construction and the shaping. We installed Better Billy Bunker as a liner and Premier Play in all the bunkers. The local sand in Central Mississippi is brown and round and looks like brown sugar. When I proposed Premier Play, it was an easy decision. The color was exactly what the course needed to make it stand out and look like the upscale course that it is now for both the public, members, and hotel guests. We get 6 ft of rain a year, and the sand looks great. We can’t wait to get the course open for play!
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