Golf Course Renovation Progress

Improving Upon Excellence

Renovations to Begin on DragonRidge Golf Course

By Charlotte Evans

On May 1st, The DragonRidge Golf Course will close for several months to undergo a major renovation project. The 24-year-old golf course consistently ranks as one of the best in the State of Nevada. Improving upon excellence can be a daunting challenge, but David Druzisky, who is one of the original architects of the DragonRidge Golf Course, says he’s thrilled to lead the project.

“This is the first big renovation of one of my earlier designs,” says Druzisky. “As an architect, you never want to be done with anything. You evolve with your ideas and experiences and you want to keep applying those things. No matter what property I worked on that I go back to, I see something I wish I could improve. This opportunity is rare, and it’s exciting.”

DragonRidge General Manager Larry Wright agrees the renovation will bring new excitement, creating an even more pristine and playable course. “Because of his prior experience building the course in collaboration with [acclaimed golf course architect] Jay Morrish, we feel very comfortable with David at the helm of this project,” says Wright. “David is well-respected in the business and is a member of the ASGCA (American Society of Golf Course Architects.)  He understands the construction management component and the greens complexes.”

Druzisky notes that the upcoming renovation process may appear chaotic on the surface. “We’re basically going to tear up the golf course at the greens complex and the tees,” he says. “We’ll dive in right away and the greens will be gone in short haste. We’re going to make a big mess, and then we’ll put it right back.”  As it evolves, he says onlookers will see that the project involves surgical precision and artistry.

Much of the work that’s going to be done will involve restoring the initial design from when the golf course first opened. “In all desert courses, once you start applying water, it’s really easy for things to get overgrown, blocking sight lines that previously existed,” says Druzisky. “We will start with taking out vegetation to open up the golf holes to the way they were originally.”

In addition to vegetation, Druzisky says housing construction impacted the course over the years.  “I never imagined all the development on holes 13, 14, 15 and 16,” says Druzisky. “I am now reflecting on what will bring the focus back to the golf hole, instead of the broader context of the scenery. We can always find ways to improve upon what we do.”

There will be some shaping and moving of dirt on the course as the green surfaces are restored. Players can expect more interesting pin locations, but Druzisky says the renovations will not make the course harder. “The last thing you want to do is make a golf course difficult because then people don’t enjoy it,” says Druzisky.   “I’m creating an experience, and golf is just part of that. The things that make this golf course challenging are already in place, such as the desert, the elevation changes, the slopes on the greens.”

“Our Members may have to learn a few new shots around the greens,” says Larry Wright, “but most of what improves their experience will be subtle and effective.  They will find the course more playable and interesting.”

When you’re improving upon excellence, Druzisky says rule number one is, don’t screw it up.  “I think it’s really important to understand, as an architect, that I’m coming in here fast, doing some things, and then leaving. That prospect could make some people nervous,” says Druzisky. “I was happy to have the chance to present our plans to the golf membership, so they know I don’t want to do something that is going to make their lives difficult.”

The response from DragonRidge Members has been very positive, and many are eager to enjoy the results. “I had a few members come up to me [at the golf course presentation] and say, “I remember a lot of that now that you bring it up, and it was better then. It’s great you can bring some of that early stuff back.”

Improving upon excellence is a skill Druzisky first learned from his father who is a retired Golf Course Superintendent.  “I make sure I’m staying true to what I’m doing.  Sometimes that involves staying true to my dad’s understanding of what I should be doing. (laughs) He makes sure I stay on the straight and narrow.”

Druzisky’s father worked on prestigious golf courses for more than 50 years, including courses in Palm Springs and Phoenix.  “It’s been a blessing for me to have that core understanding of these facilities from my dad’s perspective,” says Druzisky. “From my mother’s side, I inherited creative genes, which is also integral to what I do as a golf course architect.  I was lucky to be able to combine what I gained from both my parents into a career I love.”

Druzisky’s passion for the golf club environment began as a child in Palm Springs where he spent a lot of time at Tamarisk Country Club. “Dad was Superintendent.  It was a neat time in Palm Springs. A lot of Hollywood stars and producers would come into the club. Frank Sinatra would hang out. The Marx Brothers lived next door to us.  My mom would see Lucille Ball at the grocery store,” recalls Druzisky. “Those early days were interesting, but they also gave me a depth of knowledge about the dynamics of country clubs and the industry.”

After graduating from The University of Arizona with a degree in Landscape Architecture, Druzisky worked his way up in the industry on projects led by notable golf course architects such as Bob Cupp and Robert Trent Jones. “You can get into this trade in many different ways,” says Druzisky.  “Most people now go to school for Landscape Architecture to get a design process understanding, but in reality, we all go work golf course construction or maintenance for up to eight years before we ever do anything in architecture.”

In 1999, Druzisky was teamed with renowned golf course architect Jay Moorish to create the DragonRidge Golf Course.  “We were thrown together at the eleventh hour.  The design was already done but Jay came on board and helped me embellish some things and red line some things. We were fairly on the same page, so it wasn’t a difficult marriage.”

During construction, Jay Morrish would fly in for the day from Texas and Druzisky would pick him up at the airport.  “We’d come out to walk the property together, talk about every detail, and then we’d go to dinner and he’d share his stories of working with legendary people in the business.  He was very generous to me and I was fortunate to have him involved.”

For Druzisky, having the chance to build upon his own legacy nearly a quarter century after creating the DragonRidge Golf Course brings a youthful thrill.  “At age 57, it feels kind of like a midlife crisis moment,” laughs Druzisky.  Just like someone whose purchased a new Porsche and is eager to take it for a spin, Druzisky makes no bones about being eager to start course renovations.  “I’m looking forward to getting everybody off the golf course so we can take it over and do what we need to do.”

The course is expected to be closed May 1st until late November 2023.  Once it re-opens, Druzisky says golfers will know the multi-million dollar project was worth the wait.  “Players will be able to get out of the golf course what they want to achieve, no matter their skill level, and the golf course should accept their challenge to the fullest extent.”

In addition to noticing the course improvements, Druzisky says Members may ultimately feel a greater sense that they are part of the DragonRidge Golf Course history. “We all play on golf courses that are 125 to 300 years old in other parts of the world,” says Druzisky.  “These facilities are going to be here long after we are gone.  It’s great when you get to leave a legacy.  It’s even greater when you get to share it with those who enjoy it most.”

Golf Course Renovation Photos – May 7th Update

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