Changing course

  • FSU

    GCA speaks with Nicklaus Design’s senior design associate Chris Cochran (far right) about the project on the Don Veller Seminole course

  • FSU

    The men and women’s golf teams at Florida State University

  • FSU

    The redesigned Don Veller Seminole course is expected to open in autumn 2019

  • FSU

    The project included the construction of two practice ranges

  • FSU

    Jack Nicklaus in an interview with FSU director of golf Trey Jones

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

In August 2018, Florida State University started work on an $8 million renovation of its Don Veller Seminole course.

Originally designed by Bill Amick and opened in 1962, the Tallahassee course is home to FSU’s golf teams, and open to the public. With the construction team now about half way through the year-long project, GCA spoke with Nicklaus Design’s senior design associate Chris Cochran to find out more.

Can you tell us about the scope of work at FSU?

We are creating a brand-new golf course. The university needed to free up as much property on the southern portion of the existing golf course as possible, for future road expansion and possible commercial development.

After much study, Nicklaus Design was able to reroute the golf course to generate 35 acres of land for the university. Only one hole is left from the original routing – the eighteenth – but we were able to use the majority of the old golf corridors. All tees, fairways, rough, bunkers, greens and cart paths are new.

The old Don Veller course sat on about 210 acres, which included two driving ranges, a small short game area for the golf teams and a 7,147-yard par-73 golf course. The new golf course will be 7,800 yards and a par 72, sitting on 174 acres, including the two ranges and a new 12-hole par three course for the golf teams.

What is the property like?

I love the site. The golf course has over 50 feet of elevation change on it – which is a lot in Florida. The property is lined with 100-year-old live oaks and giant, stately pine trees. We were able to keep over 99 percent of these. We have cleared small pine and scrub areas where the new sixth green is, and for the second shot on the sixteenth hole.

I am excited that by simply rerouting the golf course and making use of some previously unused interior pieces of land, we will be able to transform what was a nice but pretty ordinary golf course that greatly favoured a slicer, into an incredibly well-balanced golf course that will be a real joy to play, and look at, for daily play, but come tournament time will be a very stern but fair test of golf.

How has it been working with the FSU team?

It’s been a lot of fun working closely with Trey Jones and Amy Bond – the men’s and women’s golf coaches at FSU. I’ve been picking their brains to find out what challenges their players, getting a better idea of pushing the limit of what these bold, young players are capable of.

We have already had several of Trey’s players hit tee shots for us to see if a landing area might be too tight for them or if a carry of a certain hazard has too much or too little risk/reward.

It is exciting to design a course that can change so dramatically, simply through course set up, especially regarding length for men’s and women’s tournaments, or for the teams if they need to prepare for a certain type of course. Many of the holes play appropriately for a collegiate player whether it’s from the back tee or one to two tees forward. For example, hole two is a really demanding mid-length par four, but also, two tees up, is a great short par four, full of options.

Who is involved in the project?

This is a Jack Nicklaus Legacy project, so Jack is involved, with Jack Nicklaus II taking on the majority of the responsibility for design strategy. I’m heading up the project, with design associate David Savic in the field full time.

Nicklaus Design has a long history of working with long time shaper and construction superintendent Tim Zirkle and shapers Joe Miller and Robert Garcia, Jr. Tim is running the project for Landirr Golf Course Construction and Joe and Robert are doing the shaping.

Watch: Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II speak with FSU director of golf Trey Jones about the renovation of the Don Veller Seminole golf course

The redesigned Don Veller Seminole course is expected to open in autumn 2019.

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