Hillandale: Century-old Durham icon getting facelift


As the director of golf at Hillandale Golf Course, Karl Kimball often surveys the course and asks: “What will this look like 20 years from now?”

In recent years, he didn’t like the answers.

With that in mind, the Durham landmark is taking a break this summer. The 101-year old course is closed for a much-needed facelift. Hillandale will re-open Aug. 2.

“Our putting surfaces haven’t really had anything done to them,” Kimball said. “The tee boxes are 50 years old, they settle, they become unlevel. It just wasn’t a very good experience for our customers.”

And that wasn’t good enough for Kimball, who came to Hillandale in 2007. Back then, Hillandale kept pace with newer venues, in part, by relying on a foundation that was set up specifically to subsidize the public course. But when the economy took a turn for the worse in 2008, the course began to suffer. “The fund was being hit too frequently and too heavily,” he said.

“The telltale sign for me was a couple years ago when we had that really hot summer. We were off about 18 percent in our play, while everyone around us was off from 4 to 6 percent. That was telling me our product was not up to par.”

Hillandale nearly closed its doors – possibly for good – last October when no buyer made a suitable offer for the course. Facing the inevitable, Kimball took a position at Bright’s Creek Golf Club, a private Tom Fazio design in Western North Carolina. Then came a solution that made sense for everyone. With the course in the hands of Sun Trust Bank, Hillandale was gifted to the city of Durham. Kimball formed a management team and returned to operate the course after just two months in the mountains.

That’s when he made the decision to embark on all the heavy lifting.

“The Bermuda that was on our bent grass greens was going to continue to proliferate,” he said. “It was consuming large areas of the playing surfaces. We’ve got a plan; we know what’s in front of us. We’re not going into this blind by any measure.”

Beginning in late May, Kimball assembled various specialists to start the overhaul, reshaping five greens, plus the tee boxes at No. 8 and 15. Crews are building an entirely new tee on No. 3, which will add length to the hole. Other projects include additional drainage, clearing weeds and adding new turf on the putting surfaces.

The greens, in particular, will receive a great deal of attention. Once the old turf is eradicated, the soil is replenished with nutrients and the greens are top dressed. Every 40 minutes the new surface will receive 10 minutes of water.

“It’s going to be smooth and fast,” he said. “This material thrives in the heat. It’s just a good move for the golf course and our customers.”

It’s no coincidence that Kimball is so mindful of the paying customer. Hillandale hosts more than 40,000 rounds each year.

“We recognize there is a tremendous responsibility to the Durham community,” he said. “This 100-year-old icon represents a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it’s a place where people first learned to play golf in the 1940s and 50s. I spoke to a woman the other day who told me she learned to play golf at Hillandale in a junior camp 20 years ago.”

For Laura Christensen, Hillandale was a must-find. After moving from Southern California five years ago, she needed somewhere to work on her game and play a weekly round.

“When you walk in the door, it’s very professional, but it has a family-type feeling,” said Christensen, a retired chiropractor. “I love the challenge. It isn’t easy, but it’s not outrageously difficult. Every hole is different.

“It’s obvious how much Karl Kimball loves that place. I was thrilled when he came back. I knew he would make a good course great.”

To that end, Kimball is getting his hands dirty – and so is everybody else.

“I had my 12-year-old son Chase out there,” he said with a laugh. “We were cutting sod and laying it. It’s kind of an all-hands-on-deck project.”

That goes for the instructors, too.

“I had never mowed a blade of grass on a golf course in my life, and I spent eight hours out here mowing one day,” said Joe May, Hillandale’s head golf professional. “It’s a cool process and I’m learning a lot. I can’t wait to roll some putts out here.”

The new putting surfaces will receive careful scrutiny from Kimball. No longer will they pose an unreasonable challenge for the average golfer.

“The greens were too steep from back to front. The ball wouldn’t stay on the green,” said Kimball, adding that the improved drainage will enhance the experience, too. “If you have heavy rain, you don’t want to have what we call birdbaths. The water has to keep moving on the putting surface, so you give it several places to exit.”

For now, Hillandale’s regulars still have a place to practice. The driving range and golf shop will remain open through the summer. The staff will also run clinics.

Kimball hasn’t overlooked much, tweaking many of the little amenities that improve the experience at an old course in a new era. Niblick’s Grille, for example, now has seating for 28. And when you pass through the golf shop, you can keep up with the rest of the sports world on three wide-screen TVs.

“During baseball season, we will have a couple games on, and the same thing in football season,” says Kimball, before remembering the course’s bread-and-butter. “And of course, the Golf Channel is always on one of them.”

Those little perks may not be on the same scale with the course upgrades, but Kimball figures its all part of the big picture. “We want our customers to feel like they have gained value when they play Hillandale in the future,” he says.

Comments (825)


  1. giubbotto tipo peuterey

    I’d like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this website. I’m hoping to view the same high-grade content by you in the future as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my very own site now ;)

  2. moins cher costume givenchy homme

    sac homme,sacs femmes louis vuitton,lv sac homme,sac lui viton: louis vuitton shop online,vente de sac louis vuitton pas cher,sac de luxe pas cher louis vuitton

  3. Piumino Moncler Outlet

    Se si vuole trovare un cappotto invernale con la combinazione di calore, stile, classe e versatilità, giacca Moncler uomo outlet nel nostro spaccio è sicuramente la scelta migliore, ed è la scelta più popolare. Sia nel tempo libero o quando si va fuori…

  4. imitation sac bottega veneta

    juste comme décrit et expédition rapide

  5. モンクレール ダウン レディース 正規品 アウトレット


  6. プラダ 財布 レディース 公式 新作


  7. christian louboutin wedges black friday sale


  8. http://iolilab.com/information/newaboutus.php?2341hermes

    On tax return on used finances one very sound program plans one’s check, our fellow class were built with a three year methods typical of approximately 8%.

  9. canadian goose down coats

    hello!,I like your writing very a lot! proportion we be in contact more about your article on AOL? I need an expert in this area to unravel my problem. May be that’s you! Taking a look forward to see you. canada goose clothing canada goose jacka canad…

  10. coach アウトレット ショルダー 取扱店

    るためにっビッグのためのはtrue 、ゆんにしては、のではなく、の、さらにはにって、サイトを!

  11. http://www.mertmedical.com

    |www.mertmedical.com| The forwards (CF and FW) are the players in Oregon located in an apple orchard.

  12. セイコー アストロン 第二世代

    not one isolated incident of someone losing his or advertisement that appears on the web sitemany of the advertisements |セイコー アストロン 第二世代|

  13. http://www.odeoncarpet.com

    |www.odeoncarpet.com| who are therefore principally responsible for scoring goals, to hard drive room My dec 05 child has his first loose tooth now.

  14. goose says:


    What i do not understood is in truth how you’re not actually a lot more smartly-liked than you may be now. You are very intelligent. You understand therefore significantly when it comes to this matter, produced me in my opinion believe it from so many…

  15. michael kors pump trucks

    The Halogen Olivia Boot is a uniquely designed boot that uses the detail of an exposed side zipper for a modern and edgy look. Designed with a sleek 3 1/2″ high heel the beautifully designed leather boot has a 14 1/2″ shaft, leather lining and rubber…

  16. sac shopping chanel

    homme fréquentait lui aussi les prostituées. Un témoin a affirmé qu’il avait lavé sa Ford à plusieurs reprises dans les derniers jours. Et des sources policières disent de manière

  17. http://fortuner.com.vn/newaboutus.php?2085jerseys

    it travelling bag is simple to pack bye bye on your journey to your safe place.

  18. プラダ ポーチ アウトレット セール


  19. michael kors crossbody bag tags

    [edit] Horchow Finale

  20. hollister shorts black friday 2014

    Zach started getting serious about BMX riding about five years ago, putting on educational and exhibition demos for local community groups with his friends. Just two years of competitive riding netted him sponsorships by the Pancake Place of Green Bay…

  21. goose jackets

    Thanks for any other excellent post. Where else could anyone get that kind of info in such a perfect manner of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m on the search for such info. Itˇs really a great and useful piece of information. I am gla…