Building a Golf Course
on Dauphin Island
Business Magazine of Golf,
Golfers to play in old pirate lair on Dauphin Isle
Reprinted from June, 1962 GOLFDOM, The Business Magazine of Golf,407
South Dearborn StreetChicago 5, Illinois
"Building the new Isle
Dauphine Golf Club has been the most challenging, the most frustrating
- and the most rewarding - experience I've encountered in over 39
years of golf course construction work!" says Charlie Maddox, head
of the Maddox Construction Co., Batavia, Ill.
Maddox refers to the
soon-to-be-completed 18-hole regulation golf course build on sand
and swamp on historic and scenic Dauphin Island in Mobile Bay, just
four miles off the Alabama coast. Until a few years ago, when the
Mobile Chamber of Commerce conceived the idea of developing the
four-mile long island into a resort and residential community, it
was unoccupied, except for a few occasional fishermen and Air Force
early warning station.
Last year, after the completion of the four-mile
Dauphine Island Bridge, visitors started to flock to the Island
to enjoy its recreational attractions, its beauty and historical
landmarks, some of which date back to the seventeenth century.
$1 million Subscribed
The Dauphine Island Plan was conceived, organized
and activated by a special committee of the Mobile Chamber of Commerce,
headed by Mr. S. Blakely McNeely, one of Mobile's better-known amateur
golfers. The developers subscribed over a million dollars to get
the project under way.
All available land was platted into streets,
parks, business areas and residential lots - and all lots were sold
within two days following announcement of their availability! Proceeds
from the sale of home sites on the island were allocated for use
by the various municipal departments (streets, water, beaches and
parks) and to the property owners' association.
This latter organization
was also granted sufficient acreage for the development of a private
club, the present Isle Dauphine Club. Money derived from the Property
Owners Association's share of lot sales was placed in escrow to
guarantee the construction and ten years operation of the club,
without further cost to the property owners!
Under this probably unique arrangement, present and future property owners
automatically become members of the new club without payment of
an initiation fee or any contribution toward the construction of
the club. The only cost to members is a greens fee charge of $2.50
per round. Guests recommended by members pay an 18-hold fee of $4.00,
which includes full use of clubhouse facilities.
When the Maddoxes,
Charles Sr. and Jr., first surveyed the proposed course site they
uncovers some discouraging facts that added up to seemingly insurmountable
construction problems: 1.) The site consisted almost entirely of
sand dunes. There was some good standing pine and a spectacular
beach of white sand. This same white sand covered the entire course
area with scarcely a trace of soil or organic material of any kind.
As a matter of fact, the only soil available to the builders was
contained in a swamp and a lake about four miles from the course
site. There were no roads over which dirt could be hauled and the
trucks and grading machinery could not negotiate the soft sand.
2.) Both the inland swamp and the swampy areas of the course site
contained much standing water - in some places to a depth of three
3.) The salt-impregnated sand of the beach blew and shifted
with every breath of wind - toward and onto the prospective fairways,
tees and greens.
4.) The existing sand dunes were sharp-crested and
difficult to grade, and in great need of topsoil for the establishment
Golf is Backdrop
On the credit side was incalculable beauty.
The Gulf of Mexico is visible from some point on every hole of the
golf course. The view from the crest of the sand dunes is particularly
breath-taking since all of the course lies beneath the viewer from
this point and the brilliant expanse of the Gulf presents a sparkling
backdrop behind the dark green of the pine groves.
Maddox, the finished course will be typical "old country" seaside
layout with sand bordering the fairways in the dunes area. To be
off the fairway is, literally, to be in a sand-trap. On many holes
the sand must be carried from the tee in order to reach the fairway
turf, in the manner of famed Pine Valley. Tees are long - up to
240 feet - and strategically angled to permit wide variation in
the length of the course (from 5,800 to 7,000 yards) and in the
play of most holes.
Greens average nearly 5,000 square feet, with
the largest nearly 8,000 square feet in area.
While many difficulties
were overcome in building Isle Dauphine, Maddox says the principal
problem consisted of building up the swampy areas for drainage.
The hauling of soil from swamp to course site was accomplished by
installing a water pipeline along a haul road to the beach. By keeping
the sand of the road wet, heavy equipment could travel to the beach
where natural wave action kept the surface wet and firm. Crawler
tractors, one pulling and one pushing, put topsoil in place on the
course where it was roto-tilled into the top 6 to 8 inches of all
planting areas. Rubber-tired earthmoving machinery required the
help of two to three crawlers each to negotiate high points on the
Tees, greens and fairways were planted vegetativley with
328 Bermuda, selected because it successfully withstands covering
with sand and is best adjusted to the conditions found on the island.
All swampy areas on the site had to be built up and fairways crowned
for drainage. Fill for this purpose was drawn from the lakes excavated
on the course.
An overflow drainage line, on pilings had to be extended
out into the Gulf to keep water in the lakes down to a workable
level while fill was being removed. A row of piling had to be placed
on either side of this tile overflow line and the line was lashed
to the piling with cable to deep it in place against wave action
from the Gulf.
Sand Wetted Down
Maddox says blowing sand from the
beach remains a serious problem. However, he reasons that wet sand
does not blow and wetting seemed to be the only way to stop the sand
from shifting while waiting for vegetative growth to take hold,
so a 4-inch pipeline was installed to water the area when the wind
The planting and seeding of vegetation carried out along
the dunes consisted chiefly of the use of aggressive native beach
grass which is being carefully nurtured by fertilization and irrigation.
Maddox also planted and seeded the vetches - Japanese clover, lespedezas,
Coastal and K37 Bermudas - all high-growing species, to help control
Mother nature's help was enlisted to solve another
serious problem. Because the beach on the Gulf side of the course
is relatively low, Maddox had to devise a way to prevent heavy wave
action from sweeping in onto the course. To do this, a new sand
dune is being created to act as a 'levee'. Maddox crews built a
row of brush, logs and pine boughs along the waterside to catch
windblown sand. As the sand collects and piles up to the top of
the brush-log barrier, bulldozers with bush-digger attachments are
used to lift the material above the piled sand, to catch and retain
still more wind-blown sand. This process will be repeated until
the new dune reaches the necessary height to insure against damage
from unusually high wave action in the future.
Maddox says the biggest
asset found on the site was the presence of several small fresh
water lakes which his crews enlarged to obtain fill and to make
them more effective reservoirs for future irrigation of the course.
He is convinced they are spring-fed since, during construction,
approximately 1,000 gallons per minute continuously flowed through
the overflow line to the Gulf without any appreciable lowering of
the lakes levels.
Fresh water from the lakes was used continuously
during construction to leach out the salt in the sand near the Gulf
When officially opened for play later this year, Isle Dauphine
GC will be among the most beautiful and challenging golf layouts
in the southern U.S. And it will be an outstanding example of what
can be accomplished with modern equipment, construction techniques
and ingenuity to build a golf course where it seems no golf course
could be built! -30-