Editor’s note: Like snowflakes, no two golf courses are alike. But through nature, quirks of design, previous land use and necessity, some golf courses are more unalike than others. Superintendent magazine has been reporting on a few of the game’s playing fields that have more than their share of quirks and distinct characteristics. This month, we look at Langley Air Force Base’s 18-hole Raptor Course in Poquoson, Virginia, part of Eaglewood Golf Course, which also includes the nine-hole Eagle Course.
Hurricane Isabel unleashed her savage force on the Atlantic seaboard in 2003, causing the greatest damage on the Virginia coast. Among the losses was the Raptor Course at Langley Air Force Base’s Eaglewood Golf Course. Architect Lester George and Wadsworth Construction were brought in to repair what Mother Nature’s fury had wrought.
Raptor Course: Poquoson, VA
Features: 24-hour driving range, pitching, chipping, putting and practice greens
Unique Fact: After a hurricane, 17,000 unexploded bombs from World War I were discovered on the course. It took about a year for them to be removed and exploded.
But much to the surprise (dismay) of Air Force officials and George, more than 17,000 unexploded bombs were found within the first 30 inches below the surface. The course was originally the site of a bombing range for testing before and during World War I. Renovation plans quickly changed as nearly half of the $5 million budget and nearly one year was dedicated to removing and exploding the bombs, some which weighed as much as 500 pounds.
“We had no idea whatsoever,” George said. “Once we uncovered a few of the bombs, we stopped and called in the Air Force Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit. We spent a large part of the budget and delayed the project a year to get rid of the bombs. The land was also used as a dump. In fact, we uncovered an old fire truck under the ninth fairway.”
George, who has more than 60 projects to his credit, called this work his “most stressful” as a “nervous tension” prevailed among the workers and Air Force officials. Despite the lost time spent on disposing the bombs, George never sensed a panic to cut corners or rush the job.
“This was as professional project as you could have had,” he said. “Wadsworth was excellent. They were the ones who had to uncover the bombs. The Air Force was thorough. We couldn’t afford any mistakes.”