ELYRIA -- The 560 tons of sand were dumped in the parking lot. Then they were distributed to the 52 bunkers across Valley of the Eagles Golf Club.
For general manager Ray Metz, the arrival of the beach signified the light at the end of a very long tunnel.
“When they started putting sand in, it was, ‘Wow, we made it,’” Metz said Friday as The Chronicle-Telegram got an exclusive look at the course that has replaced Spring Valley Country Club. “That’s the reward.”
Spring Valley closed in 2013. Valley of the Eagles will debut Aug. 5 on the same piece of property on Gulf Road.
“It’s long overdue,” Metz said.
He’s calling the Aug. 5 opening a “preview.”
The clubhouse and Black River Tavern restaurant won’t be open, but the course is in good shape and will keep maturing. In the coming days, the last bunkers will be filled, white crushed limestone from the river bottom spread on the cart paths and the bridges painted.
The parking lot will be finished, but the course will still be considered a construction site. Metz said the city approved play, but the golfers won’t be allowed into the clubhouse.
For the reduced rate of $40, they will get 18 holes, cart, pop, water and snacks.
“We want to get people out here,” said golf professional Barry Friedman, who went to Vermilion High School and was an assistant pro at the legendary Pebble Beach Golf Links.
He’s looking for feedback and to start booking league play for next season. Tee times will be spaced 20 minutes apart for the preview and must be made over the phone at 365-1411. Construction continues on Gulf Road, but it’s open to the course if you enter from the south.
The golfer will be greeted by a fresh experience in a familiar setting. Nearly every hole is new, though certain spots and shots bring back memories.
The introduction is a mixture of intrigue, intoxication and trepidation. The change is obvious before the first Titleist has been sent into flight.
Welcome back meets prepare for something new.
“No. 1 is phenomenal,” said Darrell Morgan, vice president of operations for Troon Golf, which manages the Jack Nicklaus Design course. “It’s a really cool start.”
The first tee is elevated, and the hole heads in a different direction than No. 1 at Spring Valley did. It’s 335 yards from the blue tees (the second-longest of five sets) and doglegs sharply to the right -- a bunker sits at the corner 240 yards away --and a good tee shot with a slight fade leaves a 110-yard approach slightly downhill. The Black River runs along the right side waiting to swallow an errant shot.
The back nine parallels the front nine on an outside loop. For example, Nos. 2 and 11 are par 5s with elevated tees that mirror each other as doglegs left.
The layout features many memorable holes, including the par-3 fifth, which can play 276 yards from the tips over water and sand to an elevated green.
“It’s the only dogleg-left par 3 in the city,” half-joked Metz, who’s opened courses around the world for Troon, including in Dubai.
The course really gets interesting on the back nine as Nos. 11-18 run along the Black River. Thousands of trees were removed -- some were used for the bar and tables in the restaurant – and the cleaner look is obvious on the 426-yard 12th, where a majestic cliff lurks behind the green.
The course kicks it up a notch on No. 14, a 344-yard par 4. The tee is on an island in the Black River, and the golfer must play over a bank to the fairway. The approach is about 100 yards back to the left to a small island green.
No. 17 sits where Spring Valley’s No. 1 was but is longer and brings the river more into play. It sets up a strong finisher.
No. 18 is a par 5 that plays 512 yards from the blue tees. The green is shallow, two-tiered and sits behind water. The longer hitters will have to decide whether it’s worth going for in two, and even a layup to the perfect yardage won’t remove the nerves.
“It’s a nice finishing hole,” Friedman said. “It’s risk-reward. You definitely have to think about trying to hit over the water.”
“It has the look and feel of the entire back nine,” Metz said.
The pro shop will feature a row of simulators, with the first two bays used for warm-up until a driving range is created. It shares a building with the restaurant.
Once the building is open for business -- expected in late August -- the price for golf will climb to the normal rate of $60 for mornings, $45 for afternoons and $35 for twilight.
Valley of the Eagles wants to be considered an upscale public facility and believes there’s a market in Lorain County. Yearly golf membership is available at $1,900 for an individual, $2,800 for a couple and $3,100 for a family, with a $20 cart fee due each round. A membership bought now for 2018 will include the rest of this season.
The Black River Tavern will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and have a liquor license. It features a patio with garage doors.
While area golfers were frustrated by how long it took Valley of the Eagles to get up and running, Metz said the time was necessary for a project so expansive.
“You have to get rid of the old before you bring in the new,” he said. “I don’t feel like it’s a delay. It’s a process of eliminating the old facility and bringing in the new one.”