Sanford Golf Design begins major rebuild at Bonita Springs course

Sanford Golf Design begins major rebuild at Bonita Springs course
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

Sanford Golf Design is starting a major rebuild of the Spring Run Golf Club in Bonita Springs, Florida.

Architect John Sanford and his team will replace worn out infrastructure with a new irrigation systems, establish new drainage for the course, rebuild the deteriorated cart paths, and reposition tee boxes, greens and bunkers.

Sanford recently worked alongside Jack Nicklaus’ design firm to put the finishing touches to the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Park in New York City, using his particular expertise in working on former landfill sites.

Of the Spring Run course, Sanford said: “The golf course was built 15 to 20 years ago so it’s not that old but it needs upgrading. It’s what I call a developer’s golf course. They skimped on the infrastructure, so the guts of it are falling apart.”

Mike Zigler, Spring Run’s general manager, expressed his concern that the irrigation system may have been as little as 57 per cent efficient. Green depths did not meet industry standards, and the number of daily rounds in winter months, usually in excess of 300, placed severe pressure on the greens and fairways.

“This project has been three years in the making,” said Zigler. “We were looking for a different way to go. We wanted some fresh ideas. We were thinking more in the way of graphic design to show our members what the course would look like and we’re very happy with John’s ideas, design, landscaping, and graphics.”

The 18 hole, 6,989 yard golf course is at the centre of a residential community in Bonita Springs, located on Florida’s West coast. The existing routing will remain the same due to the constraints of nearby property, though Sanford said that each hole will be different and each will have a distinct character and strategy. The club will only lose its off-season, as the project will be completed in November.

“We never looked at this project as an opportunity because the economy is improving, but rather as a project that needed to be done now,” concluded Zigler. “With the new course being ready for the winter season of 2014, Spring Run will be in a strong position to take advantage of the improving economy and housing market in Bonita Springs.”

Sanford and his team will work with dirt already on site, and the existing lakes and ponds, which handle all the storm water retention and drainage, will be unchanged. Spring Run’s fairways will be sloped inward in order to contain errant shots and speed up play.

“When we started the master plan, I said as long as we are putting in a new irrigation system, new drainage, we are going to build all new greens and bunkers, it doesn’t cost more money to give you a great course with strategic quality,” explained Sanford. “If you build a green and you put it here or over there it is the same cost. The same goes with tees and bunkers. We were able to show the club that we could not only improve the infrastructure and conditioning, but also the aesthetics and the strategic quality of the golf course. Sanford said because the club initiated the master planning process a year in advance, he was able to get the master plan approved, completed his detailed design and document stages, and put the job out to bid months ago. We were able to negotiate with the some of the best contractors and get the club very good value, for a comprehensive reconstruction of the golf course.”

Sanford and his team received particular acclaim for their work on Granite Links, a golf course reclamation of two Boston area landfills that was honoured by the American Society of Golf Course Architects with a Design Excellence Recognition award. Sanford Golf Design is also currently working on renovation projects at the Kona Country Club in Hawaii, and at Kosaido Country Club near Sapporo, Japan.

“One of the things that I’m proud of is that we are going to completely rebuild this golf course, including all infrastructure, for about US$3 million,” added Sanford. “Five or six years ago a job like this was US$5 or US$6 million bucks.”