Project Fact Sheet Project Name: Wisp Golf Course Expansion Construction Budget: $2.2 Million Project Location: Wisp Resort, McHenry, Maryland Quick Project Summary: For 30 years Wisp Resort thrived as a full four season resort in the scenic and environmentally sensitive Youghiogheny River valley and Laurel Highlands. Over the years, little was done to revive the property and keep it competitive within the Eastern U.S. resort market. The Wisp Golf Course is a 1970s public facility located at the base of the ski mountain next to the environmentally sensitive Deep Creek Lake and Hoyes Run River. The course is a picturesque and dramatic landscape, but similar to many older courses, has suffered the tolls of time with regard to quality, safety and environmental stewardship. The design team improved the safety and quality of the existing course by relocating four holes to an adjacent property. In addition, they enhanced several environmentally sensitive features, including wetlands, an existing historic spring house and a state-designated “Tier II” trout stream, one of the most sensitive streams in the entire state. Purpose of Project: The design team evaluated the existing public Wisp Golf Course to identify areas to return the course to a more natural state, improve water quality, wildlife habitat, playability, strategy, and safety, and to find areas for potential residential development. To make the golf course safer and more playable, the team recommended purchasing an additional neglected 71 acres adjacent to the existing golf course. After several design iterations the design team proposed moving four of the existing golf holes to the new property in Phase One and a total of seven golf holes in full build-out. The movement of the golf holes allowed space for the client to develop ski-in residences during the winter that face the golf course during the summer. The new golf holes contain design elements that relate to the existing golf course, and provide a new character, strategy, and layout for the course. The course was re-routed to compensate for the redevelopment of the land.
Role of Landscape Architect: By assessing the entire Wisp Resort Property, the landscape/golf course architect developed a holistic development plan to enhance the existing golf course, create valuable ski-in/ski-out residential product, and generate a valuable return on the client’s investment in the additional property.
The process began by assessing the quality of the existing golf course. Due to the advancement of golf club and ball technology, several of the golf holes had become too difficult for many golfers because of their narrow, tree-lined fairways. Additionally, the two most difficult holes were located directly at the base of the existing ski area. These holes along with two others were removed from the existing golf course. The old holes are now planned for future ski-in/ ski-out residential development.
Designing the new property was challenging due to several environmentally sensitive features including thriving wetlands, four man-made ponds, a naturally fed spring house, and Hoyes Run, a Maryland “Tier II” trout stream. Protection and enhancement of these sensitive features became the primary goal throughout the design process. In Phase One, the landscape/golf course architect carefully sited the four new golf holes around these features along with 22 new golf-amenitized home sites and a large development parcel for future residential phases. The design team conducted several additional site visits to ensure that the enhancement of the environmental features was upheld during construction. Special Factors: Spring House A Spring House protecting the head-water of a natural spring had been erected on the property that happened to lie in the middle of the proposed development area. The design team extensively explored the integration of the dilapidated spring house into the golf course. Rather than capping and piping the natural spring to another location, the design team decided to incorporate the Spring House into a visual and historic element of the new golf course. The house was renovated and incorporated it into the strategy of the golf hole, and now appears as an old farm structure left on the property. The team chose to remove the wooden members of the structure down to the stone foundation of the building. The existing runnel was also incorporated into the strategic design for the hole. Spring water is then diverted around the green and discharges into a series of bio-filter swales and enhanced wetlands that filter the water before entering into the Hoyes Run trout stream, ultimately discharging into the Youghiogheny River. The spring house and stream now function both to cleanse storm water runoff and strategically challenge golfers. Great care was taken during construction protect the spring and as a result, the water still flows from this source with the same water quality. The result is an aesthetically pleasing and unique golf hole that is both a cultural and environmental asset to the property.
Design Style Existing site conditions in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas of Maryland dictated the placement and design for the new golf holes. They were designed to reflect a similar style to the existing course that paid homage to the cultural significance of the area, yet offer new strategic golf options with a flair for modern golf. With the expectation that the existing course will be remodeled within the next five years, the design team pushed the boundary on the design style of the new holes. The new holes (#11, #12, #13 and #14) create excitement and anticipation for golfers and hint at the future possibilities for the entire course.
New Territory for Garrett County, Maryland This was the first golf course applied for and permitted in Garrett County, MD with the Department of Environmental Protection. The design team worked collaboratively with the local engineer to design a rigorous sediment and erosion control plan (E&S Plan) to ensure zero sediment was transported during construction. Coincidentally, the construction season came with record rain falls that tested the limits of the E&S Plan, yet the controls remained intact, protecting the adjacent trout stream and wetlands.
Trout Stream and Wetlands The project was able to maintain all existing wetlands without any impact. Given the amount of required program and compact quality of the site, the design of the golf course landed close to the Tier II trout stream. The stream was given special consideration in the design process to not only protect the stream but also to enhance water quality. First, a fifty-foot setback was upheld during the entire process to ensure a substantial vegetative strip can filter any sediment or contaminants before entering the stream. Secondly, only hand-clearing was conducted in areas where golf holes cross the stream, such that no grading of any sort was conducted within the fifty-foot buffer. Lastly, where crossings were necessary, bridges were designed in a manner to avoid negative impact to the stream and wetland areas. Free-span bridges were used and placed at an elevation that would not harm the wetland.
Significance: The landscape architect faced a multi-faceted design problem. The existing golf course was outdated and unsafe, the client wished to expand their residential product, and a new parcel of land held many sensitive environmental features. The design offered solutions to all of these problems while upholding sustainable environmental practices. The Wisp Golf Course Expansion demonstrated to the Maryland Department of Environmental Protection that a golf project can be constructed in an environmentally sensitive manner that is upheld through design, construction, and into the routine maintenance of the golf course. The design of the project maintained water quality throughout the sensitive site. A dilapidated Spring House was reworked and highlighted as part of the golf course to give homage to the past. The four new holes demonstrate how you can respect the environment, the history of the site and the traditions of golf in a way that focuses on forethought and improvements, rather than stagnancy. The well thought-out expansion has generated excitement with the local golfers, as evidenced by increased play since the grand re-opening. This further reveals how newly designed golf holes can successfully blend with an existing golf course and enhance the overall playing experience.
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