Liberty Lake Golf Course, long considered by many to be the ugly stepchild of Spokane’s three county-owned courses, is scheduled to undergo a major facelift this fall that will force the facility to shut down for a minimum of 18 months.
But once the nearly $5 million remodel is completed – by late spring of 2010, if all goes as planned – county officials expect to unveil a modernized Liberty Lake course that is slightly longer than the current layout and capable of holding its own against the best public tracks in the region.
The proposed renovation will include the installation of a new $2 million irrigation system, the rerouting of the majority of the existing holes, the construction of four new holes and the addition of three ponds, 28 bunkers and as many as 30 new trees.
For consistency purposes, the sand in the existing bunkers will be replaced and all of the existing greens will be stripped and replanted so their texture will match that of the new ones being built.
Par will remain at 70, but the yardage from the four sets of tees boxes will range from 5,033 (reds) to 6,664 (blues) yards, increasing the distance from the back tees by almost 300 yards.
In addition, architect Rick Phelps, from the Evergreen, Colo.-based firm of Phelps-Atkinson Golf Course Design, which is handling the renovation, plans to move quite a bit of dirt in order to rebuild greens and tee boxes and enhance the mounding on the course.
The idea, according to Phelps, is to modernize a course that is showing its age and present the public with a more challenging and aesthetically pleasing layout that will stand the test of time for the next generation of golfers.
“Certain things on a golf course wear out, just like the carpeting in your home,” Phelps explained. “Bunkers get old and tired, greens get worn. So our plan is to basically redesign the whole golf course – from touch-up things to blowing out walls and adding new rooms.”
The time frame for the construction work, which is expected to be bid out later this summer, is still up in the air. But the tentative plan is to close Liberty Lake’s front nine holes in mid-to-late September to begin work on the new irrigation system, and then close the back nine in late October.
The course is expected to remain closed until at least May of 2010. But according to head professional Kit DeAndre, the redesigned course that emerges from the long shutdown will be well worth the wait.
“My argument has always been that Liberty lacks a little bit of the visual distractions that most golfers enjoy – water, bunkers, terrain-change, things like that,” DeAndre explained. “But with these changes we have planned, we’re going to have those distractions, or challenges, that will visually present themselves and keep golfers thinking about how to avoid all the trouble.”
Phelps said the most impressive part of the existing Liberty Lake layout, which first opened in 1958, is the strength of its par 4s. And the new design, he added, is geared toward maintaining their integrity.
Hole No. 2, for instance, will remain a lengthy, 462-yard par 4, but the new fairway will be widened to the left and dogleg around a pair of new bunkers in an effort to keep golfers from hitting their tee shots to the right onto heavily traveled Valleyway Avenue.
And the same kind of changes will be made to the par-4 fourth hole, which runs adjacent to Molter Road, and the existing par-5 fifth hole, which will be converted to a 463-yard par 4 that doglegs slightly to the right around a pair of fairway bunkers that will be built in the vicinity of the old pump house, currently scheduled for removal.
“We’ve got, arguably, the best par 4s in town right now,” DeAndre said. “And, in my opinion (Phelps) has enhanced every hole that needed to be enhanced without sacrificing the strength of those par 4s.
“He addressed some safety issues by giving golfers more room to hit it left of the tee on several holes, which if where you’re going to want to hit it.”
The biggest changes will be on the front nine, where Phelps plans to construct four new holes, the first being the nondescript par-3 third.
That hole currently plays just 150 yards to a flat green located near a small pond that rarely comes into play.
That pond, under the new design, will be enlarged, and the existing tee box will be moved to the left, forcing golfers to deal with a forced carry of almost 200 yards off the tee to a newly constructed green.
“Rick wanted to change the par 3s, because they all play about the same length,” DeAndre said. “And in the case of No. 3, I think he’s taken one of the weakest holes on the course and made it one of the strongest.”
The other par-3 on the front nine, the 188-yard seventh, will be scrapped in favor of a 164-yard hole that plays over a portion of the large new pond that will be added between the sixth and eighth holes.
Other new holes on the front nine will include No. 6, which will change from a relatively benign 497-yard par 5 to a difficult 427-yard par 4 that plays to a green protected on the right by water, and No. 8, which will change from a 370-yard par 4 to a 541-yard par-5 featuring a peninsula-like tee box situated on the northwest side of the enlarged pond near the third green.
The most noticeable changes on the back nine will be on the 12th and 14th holes, which will share a double green, and on the 328-yard, par-4 18th, where a newly constructed pond that guards the right side of the fairway and right front of the green, will add a major risk-reward factor – especially for big hitters considering trying to drive the green – off the tee.
The other new pond, which will be added for drainage purposes and is not included on the diagram of the long-range master plan, will be located between the first and ninth holes.
Still, the major component of the redesign will be the new irrigation system, which will replace the antiquated one currently being used by course superintendent Todd Harper.
“Todd does such a great job with our golf course right now, despite all the challenges he faces with our existing irrigation system,” DeAndre said.
“And now he’s going to be presented with a facility and irrigation system that will everything so much easier to deal with.
“I think its great that our country officials have decided to leave more of a legacy here at Liberty Lake, and I think the general public is going to be extremely pleased with the endeavor they are undertaking.”
Local journalism is essential.
The journalists of The Spokesman-Review are a part of the community. They live here. They work here. They care. You can help keep local journalism strong right now with your contribution. Thank you.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.