Ridgewood to shutter Saturday for nearly a year for renovation project

ART STRICKLIN Special to the Tribune-Herald

Waco’s Ridgewood Country Club’s 18-hole golf course will shut down Saturday for nearly a year as the course undergoes a total renovation from architect Tripp Davis, something members say is necessary to retain the premier private club’s status in the Waco area.

“It’s something we absolutely needed to do,” said 27-year Ridgewood member Jerry Miller. “I love the greens here, but they’ve reached the end of their life cycle.”

“We’re investing in the next 30 years of Ridgewood with short-term pain for long-term gain,” added current Ridgewood board member Taylor Bledsoe.

While the clubhouse is closed to all golf, Ridgewood head pro Jimmy Cunningham and general manager Bill Horton have set up discount rounds for members at various local courses around the Central Texas area, including Cottonwood Creek. They’ve also set up some longer golf trips.

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Cunningham said the budget for the renovation, which will include new bunkers, fairways, tee boxes and modern Tift eagle greens, is approximately $5.2 million, with an expected completion date of late October or early November 2023, weather permitting.

To pay for the project, the privately held course is assessing the hundreds of members based on age, with older members paying less and younger members paying more. The clubhouse and other club facilities will remain open during the golf course renovation.

“We tried to be fair with everybody where young members like me pay the full amount and older members like my dad don’t pay as much,” said Bledsoe, 38.

Waco’s Randy Mull has been around Ridgewood since 1973 when his parents joined the club. Mull said that the redo would help sustain the course and golf in Waco for many years.

“We have a chance to redo some things on the course which need to be fixed, like adding a creek on the 9th and 11th holes, taking away the lake on No. 3 and redoing the bunkers and fairways,” Mull said. “As you get older, you get set in your own way, so this will allow us to play different courses in the area, and then we’ll have a new course at Ridgewood in the fall.”

To commemorate the pending course’s shutdown, Ridgewood is hosting a most unique golf tournament on Saturday where the 18-hole course will be converted to a dozen par-3 holes for an event where members and guests play across the layout. The club will award prizes on each hole, and the event will also feature food trucks and two large barbecue pits.

“Then, when the tournament is finished, the players can have a free-for-all at the course — carts on the greens, use any club in the greens or bunkers, whatever,” said Cunningham. “We’re not fixing any ball marks, they can take out their frustrations of course.”

Ridgewood celebrated its 75th anniversary this summer and has had other course upgrades and fixes over the years, including the installation of new fairways and greens. But this is one of the largest scale projects in the club’s history.

“We were going to be shut down for six months for new greens, so why not do nine months and get almost a totally new course?” Bledsoe said. “I think we have a great place here, but I think it will be even better when it’s finished.”

The process for Ridgewood has been a long one, as the membership approved the renovation and the hiring of Oklahoma-based architect Davis nearly 18 months ago. Then they have to negotiate with the US Corps of Engineers, which controls the nearby Lake Waco water. The lake comes into play on several of the holes. Ridgewood members also had to vote on and approve a budget for the project.

Ridgewood is a longtime amateur and college tournament host, including the Texas State Senior Championship and the former Southwest Conference Championship.

“Renovations like this are a necessary evil for all clubs like ours. It could be bad luck for the older members, but we will survive,” said longtime Ridgewood member Johnny Bledsoe.

Overall, the sentiment among Ridgewood staff and members seems to be one of excitement.

“I’m happy to see what the new course will look like. We’re going to be blowing and going January 4th and keep it going all the way through,” added Cunningham. “We’re ripping the bandage off the old course and coming up with the new.”

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