A look from behind the green at the new 18th hole at Highland Meadows. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
When you enter the grounds at Highland Meadows Golf Club this week, there will be noticeable changes all around the property.
The most significant is the new 18th green, which was shifted some 100 yards to the south. The hole is still a par 5 and can measure as long as 541 yards, forming the making of a possible thrilling finish.
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“I love par-5 finishing holes,” two-time Marathon Classic champion Lydia Ko said. “It’s great that it’s going to continue to be that way. The new green is more narrow. Even though it’s a par 5 that’s reachable, because of the bunker on the left and the fall off on the right, it’s not necessarily an easy birdie. They’ve done a lot of great work to make it an even better tournament for us.”
It was part of a $665,000 project, which included an expanded driving range, moving and rebuilding the ninth tee and green and the 10th tee, and constructing a new practice putting green near the clubhouse. The Marathon Classic donated $100,000 to the project, and another $100,000 came from the Sylvania Area Community Improvement Corporation.
Highland Meadows paid the remaining costs. Eighty-five percent of the club’s several hundred members voted in favor of the renovations.
The collaboration was part of a relationship that dates to 1989 when Highland Meadows and Sylvania first played host to the LPGA Tour. The community and sponsors have worked hand-in-hand for the past 28 years to ensure the tournament’s success.
“Our partnership has been tremendous,” tournament director Judd Silverman said. “Our board did not hesitate to make a contribution to the renovation project. I think it’s great for the club and great for the tournament. We’re very much behind the club in their effort to improve the facility, and we were happy to contribute to the project.”
Construction began immediately after the conclusion of Ko’s playoff victory in 2016. The previous fairway bunkers were removed, and the fairway was shifted to the right. Two new bunkers were added to the left of the fairway, and one was added to the right. Another bunker was added to the right of the second landing area leading up to the green.
“The more things we can do locally the better,” said Dick Balhoff, the club’s past president and project manager.
The driving range was a point of derision for years. The landlocked course was no match for modern technology, as golfers would send drives soaring over 50-foot nets that were less than 250 yards away. LPGA Tour players in particular had trouble visualizing shots and getting feedback because of the range’s size.
It also became a safety issue, with golf balls flying into the 17th fairway during the tournament. Highland Meadows estimates 1,200 range balls were lost per year after being hit into the Ten Mile Creek, which runs through the course.
The club opted on a permanent fix instead of a bandage — raising the nets to 100 feet at $182,000. The project was completed by local design firm Hills and Forrest — Shawn Smith designed the range — which constructed a 40,000-foot driving range teeing ground, more than doubling the previous size of 17,000.
“It will be great for Highland Meadows membership, and I think it will be great for the week of the tournament,” Silverman said. “It will be a huge improvement in the practice facilities, which is an important asset for any golf course.”