Major renovations have breathed new life into city’s second-oldest course
Nestled in the southwest corner of Lee County between U.S. 1 and 15-501, The Golf Club at Quail Ridge is Sanford’s second-oldest course. It’s also the area’s newest, depending on your perspective.
The Ellis Maples-designed course underwent a complete restoration in 2017, reviving its status as a well-regarded tract that can compete with the courses just to the south in the Pinehurst area.
Quail Ridge originally opened in 1967 and was hailed as one of the top courses in the state at that time. A native of the Sandhills, Maples studied golf course design from the master, Donald Ross. His father was Ross’ construction superintendent, and the younger Maples was already well-known for his designs when he laid out the Sanford course, having designed the Country Club of North Carolina, Pinehurst No. 5 and Grandfather Golf Club, among many others.
The course hosted the 1968 ACC Golf Tournament, won by Wake Forest by 31 strokes. Jack Lewis won individual honors in a star-studded field of future pros. It also hosted U.S. Open qualifiers in the 1970s.
But time took its toll, and by the early 2010s, the course had fallen into disarray. The grass was all but gone from the fairways. There was more sand than grass on the greens. An attempt to put it up for auction resulted in no bids.
Mike Hendley, who was a golf pro at the course when it opened, and fellow investors Lib Kelly, Jack Maxwell and Chuck Smith knew the potential was there. They bought the course and hired the right people to rebuild it.
After almost two years of work and nearly $2 million, Quail Ridge reopened in 2017 — its 50th anniversary — with a new clubhouse and pro shop, enhanced restaurant/grill, new Champions Bermuda greens and wall-to-wall Tiftuf Bermuda fairways. The bunkers have new sand, and the fairway topography now includes rolling hills befitting the Sandhills region.
The investors rebuilt every hole, including the signature No. 2, the most challenging hole on the course known for its heart-shaped sand trap.
“Honestly, I knew it was a doggone great golf course,” Hendley said after a late-June round about why he chose to make the investment in the course.
The hard work paid off almost immediately. Golf Advisor named it one of the country’s Top 10 most improved courses, and the course has been busy since reopening.
“We’ve been very blessed since the renovation,” said Hendley. “The course now is as good as any in Moore County, if not better.”
The COVID pandemic brought new interest in golf, with more people looking to spend time outdoors rather than cooped up in their houses because of safety protocols. The momentum has carried the sport to today, and Quail Ridge is as popular as ever. Popular golf package deals with Tobacco Road and several other courses in the Pinehurst area have kept its fairways full.
In early June, Quail Ridge was also announced as a host club for the Boys 10 Division of the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship, which is the world’s largest and most prestigious junior golf championship with over 2,200 players from nearly 60 different countries. The renovations will be tested by 10-year-old boys from around the world, bringing thousands of families to the area the week of July 31-Aug. 7.
The course honored its founder, Winfred Shaw, with the dedication of a monument and plaque honoring him in June. Sanford Mayor Rebecca Wyhof Salmon praised the rebirth of the course at the ceremony.
“The city of Sanford is so appreciative of the owner group at The Golf Club at Quail Ridge, who have worked diligently to return the golf club back into one of the best in Lee County,” said Salmon. “This rededication is a wonderful tribute to one of our community’s great business leaders and his family. It is great to see golfers from throughout the United States, and now the world come to play the fairways in Sanford.”
Hendley said Shaw would be pleased with the current state of the course and its future. “Business is very good right now, and I don’t see it changing,” Hendley said. “I see nothing but good things. We have a great staff.”
The design: Quail Ridge was designed by course architect Ellis Maples who created more than 60 golf courses in the South. True to his form and style, the course takes full advantage of its location on the highest piece of land in Lee County. Each hole has its own unique terrain and views. The well-bunkered, bent-grass greens give golfers at all levels the challenge they’ve been looking for.
The Golf Club at Quail Ridge offers terrific views and challenging play for golfers at every skill level. Well-groomed fairways and greens keep Quail Ridge difficult yet friendly, and the staff can offer tips and tricks for playing your best round. Quail Ridge is a terrific choice for your regular rounds of golf or a new destination for you and friends when visiting Sanford. — NBC Golf
- Opened: 1967
- Architect: Ellis Maples
- Holes: 18
- Par: 72
- Length: 6,875 yards.
- Rating/Slope: 72.85/127
- Cost: $50-$75
- Description: This Sandhills classic has been described by PGA professionals as “having stood the best of time” and “will challenge the most accomplished pros without punishing the weekend golfer.” Newly restored, this layout stands poised to thrill golfers the next half century.