The NCGA’s officials and membership had another cause for celebration during Thursday’s ceremonial “Grand Re-Opening” festivities for the Association’s home course, Poppy Hills. Not only is the revamped and revitalized Poppy Hills Golf Course set to reopen for play on April 4 after a 13-month renovation, the course will be hosting professional golf again after an absence of five years.
During the press conference for the course’s grand re-opening, Amanda Evans, Director of Sponsorship and Marketing for the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, announced that Poppy Hills will join its Del Monte Forest neighbor, Pebble Beach Golf Links, as host course for the Champions Tour’s 2014 Nature Valley First Tee Open, to be played September 26 to 28, 2014, replacing Del Monte Golf Course in the partnership. The Tour’s agreement with Poppy Hills runs through 2016.
Evans stated that the new role is, “…a great fit between the tournament and this course”, referring to the philosophical similarities between the NCGA’s Youth On Course program and The First Tee.
Poppy Hills was in the rota for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am from 1991 to 2009, after which the remodeled Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club took its place.
Remarkably, Champions Tour officials agreed to the change while Poppy Hills was still in the midst of the year-long renovation project which has just concluded, seeing in the midst of the work the bones of the greatly transformed course that was being shaped. A good part of the focus of the renovation project was on improving drainage to alleviate the soggy conditions that often plagued the course in February, when the AT&T is held, making the course unpopular with the professional field in the event.
The revitalized course has been widely praised in the wake of Thursday’s preview for the media and VIPs. The revamped layout has a more natural look, with generous fairways, and natural waste areas in place of water-needy rough. The course will play firm and fast, even in wet weather, and is designed to allow fair play for the average golfer while still challenging the more accomplished player.