City of Sarasota breaks ground on Bobby Jones renovation

  • Bobby Jones GC

    Renovation work has started at the municipal Bobby Jones facility in Sarasota, Florida, led by Richard Mandell (pictured far right)

  • Bobby Jones GC
    Richard Mandell

    Mandell is converting the existing 45 holes to an 18-hole Ross restoration and a nine-hole adjustable short course

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Ground has been broken on Richard Mandell’s renovation of the municipal Bobby Jones Golf Club in Sarasota, Florida, which will involve the restoration of the club’s eighteen Donald Ross holes, an adjustable short layout and updated practice facilities, and the creation of a nature park.

The municipal facility currently has two eighteens – the 6,000-yard American course and 6,700-yard British course – and a nine-hole layout. The original eighteen holes constructed on the site (now the back nines of the two main courses) were designed by Donald Ross in 1925.

Over the past decade, the number of rounds played at the facility had declined and course conditions were gradually deteriorating, prompting city officials to reconsider their options.

Mandell plans to restore the greens and original variety and visual interest of the eighteen Ross holes. He will also widen fairways, regrade rough areas, rebuild tee complexes and rebuild bunkers.

In addition to restoring the Ross eighteen, Mandell will improve drainage throughout the site, which would often flood. The holes of the original Ross front nine were built below the floodplain elevation and require raising to stay dry.

There will be a short-game area and driving range on the east side, and a nature park that approximately covers 110 acres. On the west side of Circus Boulevard there will be an adjustable short course.

Read more about Mandell’s approach to the project in our coverage from January 2019.

At the ground-breaking ceremony held on 4 March, Mandell said he hopes the new, mixed-use property will help grow the game of golf. “That park is a window into golf for people that don’t know about golf. My plan, not my hope, but my plan is that people will see the golf course from the park and say, ‘you know what, I want to try that game’.

“Golf is a great game, and municipal golf is what brings generations together. The park concept is a grow the game initiative.”

The renovation is also an opportunity to contribute to flood control and improving water quality for the community. “One of the most functional aspects about this project is the water quality improvement,” said Hagen Brody, commissioner of the city of Sarasota. “This is a watershed that filters water from about 5,000 acres of Sarasota and Sarasota County. Through this property, about 2.6 billion gallons of water makes its way into Philippi Creek and into Sarasota Bay. As a coastal community, it is just so important that we make sure only the cleanest water enters our bays and estuaries.”

The city expects the 18-hole course to open in November 2022, with the nine-hole short layout to follow in January 2023.