Club Pelican Bay in Naples, Florida, has selected Forse Design for a major overhaul of its 27 holes and practice facility.
Glase Construction will begin work on the club’s three nines – named Club, Pelican and Bay – in April 2019, re-grassing all playing surfaces and implementing a comprehensive improvement plan created by Ron Forse and Jim Nagle of Forse Design.
The $8.5 million project will also include a new irrigation system, new drainage and cart paths.
The club’s general manager Dave Mangan explained the rationale for the changes: “We’ve had our TifEagle greens for nearly 20 years, they are probably the oldest in the state. And our irrigation system ranges from between 20 to 30 years old. Bunkers are old and tired, and the faces didn’t show. And water is always an issue, we felt that we could decrease the overall turf acreage. We decided to take a look at the whole golf course and see what improvements could be made.”
Mangan said that Forse was selected for his eye for detail, ability to balance the needs of different players and quality of work on other projects: “His knowledge of the history of golf courses and how they were designed is second to none.”
Forse said that while the course is a whole new design, it is respectful of the original architect’s layout. “It’s a very solid routing that was well thought-out by Arthur Hills and provides a good variety in the sequence of holes,” said Forse. “It’s essentially a core golf course in a beautiful setting in a great Florida town.”
The routing will be kept largely intact, with some of the green locations changed in order to increase the total yardage from the back tees, take advantage of better settings and provide more interest and variety. “The orientation of some greens will also be altered to work better given the prevailing winds and available, unused property,” said Forse.
The new design introduces “more classic architectural elements in green complexes and bunkering,” said Forse, who intends to greatly improve aesthetics by ensuring green complexes are more visually prominent and bunkers are sand-flashed. He will also be introducing more contour and undulation around greens and infusing more variety into the course.
The club’s director of golf course operations Bob Bittner has been with the club since it first opened in 1980. He said: “Ron has shown a lot of respect for Art Hills’ original design of the golf course. We’ve talked about the changes at length.”
Bittner explained that many of the changes are required due to the advances in golf over the past forty years: “We had limited cupping areas due to the slope of the greens. They were originally designed to play at 10 on the stimpmeter.”
The club was impressed with Forse’s proposals to balance the needs of differing standards of golfer.
“We intend to widen the landing areas where the average player hits,” said Forse. “We’ll also open up entrances to greens to encourage more shot choices, make pin locations a bit more accessible – some are currently very difficult to get to – and introduce new forward tees.
“On the fourth hole of the Club nine for example, most members can never get their approach over a bunker front-right of the S-shaped green,” said Forse. “After the renovation, the entrance will be opened up, and a diagonal swale will run through a squared-off green. It will offer better playability and proper shot values.”
One of the key goals of the renovation at Club Pelican Bay, which is Audubon certified, is to reduce resources required to maintain the course. “Water is so precious,” said Bittner. “We would like to reduce maintained turf by 25 to 30 acres.” Native areas will be introduced throughout the course, notably between the eighth on the Pelican and eight on the Bay nines, and on the third and between the fourth and fifth holes of the Club nine.
“I think our members will love the changes, the balance of playability and the beauty of the natural areas,” said Mangan.
“I’m really enthused about it,” said Bittner. “It’s making you think about every golf shot. It’s already a great golf course and we’re making it better.”
The course is expected to reopen for play in November 2019.