Jacksonville Beach Golf Club in Florida is to reopen on 6 October, following a renovation by golf course architect Harrison Minchew.
The municipal course, which lies just a few miles north of TPC Sawgrass, is operated by the City of Jacksonville Beach and is adjacent to its Wingate Park sports complex, which comprises several softball and football fields. The goals of the renovation project were to attract more rounds and make the facility an economically viable golf and entertainment venue.
Minchew has added tees to make the course play fairly for golfers of differing abilities. He said: “If a scratch player would have a 155-yard eight-iron to the green after a 260-yard drive, then there is a tee for a shorter hitter that, after a 190-yard drive, will have a 120-yard eight-iron shot. This concept was used in relocating all tee areas. The course can be set up so the higher handicap and shorter-hitting players can use a similar approach club as a scratch player playing the back tees.
“We eliminated several forced carries over water hazards that only impeded play for higher handicap players,” said Minchew. “All green sites have been totally redesigned with expansive apron areas to promote a variety of short game options from chipping to putting. Apron areas have the same Platinum paspalum turf as greens.
“There are mature live oak and native palms that define the holes. I have incorporated large native sand areas planted with native grasses and flowers to give a native dune feel to the course.”
According to Minchew, the final three holes are essentially new holes: sixteen is a 435-yard par four, seventeen is a downwind 335-yard driveable par four and the closing hole is a 520-yard double-dogleg reachable par five, flanked by a large lake down the entire right side of the hole. “The finish of the course will be very memorable,” he said.
“The challenges of the project were typical of many older golf facilities,” said Minchew. “The design of course features was simplistic. The course had very old varieties of turf, greens built with native soil, a substandard irrigation system and pump station along with a poor water supply.
“The water supply is treated effluent that typically has higher than normal levels of salts. Corrective measures such as a new pump station with injector pumps to treat the water were installed along with most of the irrigation system being replaced and/or updated.
“Given the salt, Platinum paspalum, the newest variety of salt-tolerant turf, was planted on the greens and apron areas. With the Platinum paspalum greens and closely mown aprons, the variety of design features of green sites are beautiful, well-defined and striking in contrast to the surrounding areas.”
Work also included the upgrading of the driving range, short game area, practice bunker and surrounding chipping and pitching area, which accommodates pitch shots of up to 60 yards. Minchew mimicked the green and pitching area at Augusta National used for the Drive, Chip & Putt competition.
A 35,000 square foot area for a future putting course, scheduled to be constructed within 12 months, was shaped and grassed with Platinum paspalum. The driving range is located 30 feet from the clubhouse and is the first thing seen entering the club. The hitting stations were enlarged by 50 percent, and the facility includes a grass tee and area for a teaching academy.
Space has been made for the future expansion of a restaurant venue adjacent to the golf areas.
“The approval of the master plan for the course received unanimous approval from the city council,” said Minchew. “The director of parks, Jason Phitides, guided the project through the government process so I could concentrate on the design aspects of the project.
“MacCurrach Golf Construction, who perform all improvements at TPC Sawgrass, provided an excellent construction team. They exceeded their scope of work in an effort to give back to public golf in the area.”
Trevor Hughes, assistant superintendent from Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, was hired half way through the project and he successfully dealt with the effluent irrigation supply.
“It just seemed the stars lined up on this one and the local support and buzz about the project is tremendous,” said Minchew. “I recognised early on the potential of the project and experienced enthusiasm from so many local golfers and people in the golf industry.”
Minchew founded a non-profit organisation, Jacksonville Beach Golf Association, which has been supported by local businesspeople. “Our mission is to subsidise the course and to ensure junior golf thrives here. Individuals within the PGA Tour have given background support and I am hopeful after the opening we will get their full support. Mason Seay – son of Ed Seay, who was Arnold Palmer’s golf design partner for decades and my mentor – is a freelance producer of many golf documentaries and has produced a piece on the project to support the Jacksonville Beach Golf Association.”
Watch more: Mason Seay’s video ‘Renovating the Jacksonville Beach Golf Club’.