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Olde Sycamore Back in Shape


Olde Sycamore Golf Plantation in Charlotte, N.C., celebrates its 10th birthday this year with a new management firm, upgraded course conditions and an increase in rounds played.

Owner B.V. Belk, who developed the course in 1997, has spent the last two years gearing up for 2007. He authorized a complete bunker renovation last year, increased the maintenance budget and brought in the course's designer, Tom Jackson, to review the entire layout.

"We reaffirmed our commitment to make it one of the best courses in the Charlotte area," Belk said. "I felt we had to get the golf course in excellent condition, so we've been working hard on that. Tom Jackson came back and went over every hole to see what we could do to make it better. He recommended a few minor changes and we've done those. The greens are in great condition now. The whole course is about as good as it can be."

Belk gives a lot of credit to superintendent Mark Burnette, who came to Olde Sycamore in 1999 from Myers Park Country Club. Mark's wife, Tina, a certified horticulturalist, is also part of the team. "Mark has turned the golf course around," said Belk. "He watches after it like it was his baby, and his wife does all of our tree planting and flowers. Come out here in April and you might think you're in Augusta. She does a wonderful job."

Another key factor in the Olde Sycamore renaissance has been the addition of Signet Golf Associates of Pinehurst to oversee day-to-day operations. Signet took the reins in February. "They have people in their company who specialize in certain areas. It's just not one opinion. As a group they analyze each department, keep up with the numbers and devise good marketing plans," Belk explained. "I can see that it's running a whole lot smoother."

Although he oversaw the club the last few years, Belk decided the time was right to focus on his core business - commercial real estate - and let Signet focus on golf. "Running a golf course is a full-time job if you want to do it right, so we've got a good team out there now," he said. "I'm real happy with the way things are going."

In July a familiar face returned to the management team. Ted Staats, the club's general manager from 2002-05, was brought back by Signet in the same role. "This gives our firm the benefit of having someone on-site who understands member relations and how to create a first-class experience for members and guests," said Peter Dejak, president of Signet Golf. "Ted had positive results at Olde Sycamore before leaving to pursue other opportunities and we feel he can duplicate that success in his current tenure."

Head golf professional Doug Ballenger sees the improvements on a daily basis. "Signet has put the professional touch to a good property. They've put a shine on it," Ballenger said. "Rounds are up and membership is starting to increase. This has always been a good course, it's just been a matter of taking it to the next level and getting the word out."

After re-focusing on the course the last two years, Belk is pleased with Olde Sycamore at the 10-year milestone. "We have a good club with good members," he said. "I see a bright future."

Semiprivate Olde Sycamore is a par-72 Tom Jackson-designed course that serves as the centerpiece of a master-planned community straddling the Mecklenburg-Union county line in southeast Charlotte near I-485. For more information or a tee time, call 704/573-1000, or visit www.oldesycamoregolf.com.