WEST — Owners of the historic Winnapaug Golf Club are working with a design firm linked to a golfing legend and a Providence-based group of architects to restore the course and design a hotel and suites for the property.
When the multi-year project is complete, the course, which was founded in 1922, is expected to continue to attract golfers for decades, provide extended-stay accommodations and suites, and further contribute to the city’s tourism economy. said Nick Scola, who along with his wife, Jill, owns the course.
“Our goal is to have him here for the next 100 years and we’re working very hard to get there,” Nick Scola said in a recent interview.
Scolas’ Winnapaug Golf Group announced in April that it was working with Nicklaus Design, the golf course design company founded by legendary golfer and golf course designer Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus Design will focus on restoring the classic Donald Ross design of the course. The company has designed courses in 46 countries and 40 states over the past 50 years.
The Scolas acquired a stake in the course in 2018 and became full owners of the property and business about a year ago. The couple’s adult children, Nicole and Bobby, are helping with the renovation project. Bobby helped design a new logo for the course.
“I have been a golfer since I was 16 and our children were championship golfers. We spent most of our days golfing here and at the old Pond View which is now the Weekapaug Golf Club” , said Nick Scola, who is also a lawyer. who practices in Connecticut.
George Buck, a former owner of the course, helped the Scolas with the course’s water and well system. “We’re much greener because of his help. We owe him a debt of gratitude,” Nick Scola said.
The 18-hole, par 72 course on Shore Road measures approximately 6,400 yards and offers remarkable views of the sounds of Long Island and Block Island and the Atlantic Ocean. Restoration work on the course will meet the exacting standards of Nicklaus Design and the Donald Ross Society, an organization founded in 1989 to promote recognition of Donald Ross, his golf course architecture and the preservation and restoration of the courses he designed .
“In our discussions with the Scolas, we simply ask that the course restoration work is done correctly, to the standards and quality originally adopted by Donald Ross,” said Donald Ross Founder Michael Fay. Society, in a press release. by Winnapaug Golf Group. “We understand that restoration and development is necessary to keep the century-old course functional and economically viable into the future. Visualizing the course in 2022 as it looked in 1922 is our wish.”
To help ensure Donald Ross’ vision remains at the heart of the restoration, Chad Goetz, Senior Design Partner for Nicklaus Design, is working in conjunction with the Winnapaug Golf Group, Course Superintendent James Trichter and the Donald Ross Society.
Trichter, originally from Australia, was hired by the Scolas about a year ago. His most recent job was as assistant superintendent at The Concession, a Jack Nicklaus Signature course in Bradenton, Florida. The project will include, Scola said, studying Ross’ original drawings for the course, which are housed at the Tufts Archives in Pinehurst, NC.
Scola interviewed four or five design companies over about 12 months, but “didn’t find anyone we liked”. On the advice of his children, he contacted Nicklaus Design.
“At first I thought they would be beyond us financially and otherwise. Turns out they are just as interested as we are in restoring a Donald Ross course. This will be the first time the most great architect of the 1900s will be reimagined by the greatest architect of the 2000s,” Scola said.
The courses designed by Ross have a few distinctive features. The courses tend to be unique, Scola said, as each was designed to suit the terrain Ross was working with. The approach produces a natural feel with holes that build on top of each other and feel connected, but also unique. Ross designed courses continue to be ranked among the best by various golf magazines and websites.
“He doesn’t ask you to do special shots. He makes you think about every hole because every hole is different,” Scola said of Ross’ courses. “He gives you the chance to warm up on the first two or three holes, then on the fourth hole it got a lot harder.”
The courses also reflect a democratic approach. For example, a left dog leg hole is often followed by a right dog leg hole – meaning that golfers whose balls curve to the left and those whose shots fade to the right find holes they like. And, Scola said, Ross courses tend to be playable for men, women and younger players, Scola said.
“They appeal to all golfers,” he said.
Still, Scola said, certain aspects of the modern golf game make careful updating of Ross-designed courses an occasional necessity.
“They’re basically going to step into the shoes of Donald Ross and imagine what he would do today with modern clubs and balls,” Scola said.
The Scolas are committed to the standards of the Donald Ross Society and, through their relationship with Nicklaus Design, have agreed to meet that organization’s standards for at least 20 years.
In addition to the work on the course, other plans include a new clubhouse with pro shop, restaurant and banquet hall that will host weddings and other events. Plans also include a hotel and one- and two-bedroom suites along the route.
The hotel and suites, some of which will be sold as “condotels”, will help make the golf course financially viable for the next 100 years, Nick Scola said. Condotel residents will be required to be members of the golf club – a common practice in Florida and other resort areas.
In another common practice at golf hotels across the country, some suites and rooms will be sold as condominiums, allowing owners to place them in a rental pool when the units are otherwise unoccupied.
“If you have that membership, the golf course will never fail because it’s not on one person, it’s on 300 or 400 people. Spreading the risk of development over a large number of people makes the course sustainable indefinitely and that’s what we want. We want it to last a long time,” Scola said.
The concept, Nick Scola said, is similar to the Ocean House model of providing a mix of hotel rooms and private condos in the same property.
“These condotel owners have a vested interest in making sure the property will stay beautiful forever,” Scola said.
The hotel and suites will also add much-needed accommodation and boost the tourism economy, said Jill Scola.
“We think there is a need,” she said. “I mean you look at how real estate has just blossomed here and people are interested in moving to this area. Unfortunately so many people are overpriced in some areas and this will hopefully attract a larger group. of people who would also like to take advantage of this area.”
The Hotel and Villa Bed and Breakfast, another Shore Road amenity the Scolas own, will offer “stay and play” packages and help extend the town’s tourist season beyond the traditional June to August, the Scolas said.
The hotel and suites will be designed to fit into the environment, Nick Scola said. To that end, he hired Union Studio Architecture and Community Design, a Providence-based company that focuses on New England coastal community projects. The company has worked with the Scolas to develop proposed design standards that will soon be presented to the planning board and city council for consideration. Council involvement is necessary because in order for the project to proceed, the city’s zoning bylaws will need to be changed.
“We are willing to have a higher standard. These buildings will be beautifully designed,” Scola said.
The family worked to put together a dream team of designers, lawyers, developers and other experts.
“We leverage the intellect and experiences that these people bring to make sure it’s thought through to make it really enjoyable and to create longevity. The breadth of experience and knowledge that they have has been incredibly hard-hitting,” said Nicole Scola.
The course’s centenary celebration has been postponed until next year due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.