The course at Fort Myers Country Club has reopened following a major upgrade led by architect Steve Smyers and associate Patrick Andrews.
Located on Florida’s west coast, the course was originally designed by Donald Ross, and the recent project has been influenced by the idea of Ross returning to design a course on the same site today.
“From the very beginning, our main goal was to update Fort Myers Country Club in the same way that Ross might, were he alive and designing a course on the same site today,” said Smyers.
“Ross was a master of using landscape forms to create space and develop and define interesting targets and challenges. Keeping that at the forefront of our thought process throughout this entire project, we made a conscious effort to remain true to those same patterns that were the hallmark of his career – patterns Ross employed in his design of green settings, bunkering and developing soft mounds, hollows and ridges, not only to create interesting landscape settings but to define shots that were interesting and stimulating to the golfer.”
Smyers and Andrews have added yardage to the course, taking Fort Myers from the 6,388 yard original Ross-designed length to a new distance of 6,801 yards, while keeping the same par of 71.
Numerous other elements of the course were updated as part of the first renovation the course has seen since it opened in 1917.
Modern hybrid bermudagrasses were introduced across the course, including Celebration fairways and ultra-dwarf Tifeagle on the greens.
Drainage was also improved through an intricate water management system of ponds, creeks and canals. This system now provides much needed water retention and serves as a filter for storm water runoff, thus improving water quality for the entire local area.
One important aspect of the project was the addressing of player safety. Smyers’ new design sees the repositioning of tees and landing areas to better accommodate the superior equipment in use today, as well as the improved standard of play.
“Ross always believed, and he even wrote, that a great golf course should be designed in direct relationship to the ability of the golfer,”said Smyers. “He devoutly believed an elite player should have a stern challenge through the way the golf course could be set up, whereas an older player and a higher handicap player could have a golf course they could easily move around. He also believed a great golf course should produce solid shot-making. It would require the player to hit a long and accurate tee shot and require them to hit a long and accurate long iron to several holes. There should be a blend of long and short holes so that a single round of golf should provide a total examination of one’s golfing abilities and require the player to hit every club in their bag.”
Smyers added: “It was those beliefs and convictions of Donald Ross that we used as our guide as we went about every aspect of updating Fort Myers Country Club, from the planning process all the way through construction and grow-in.”