First Tee boost for new-look Osceola

First Tee boost for new-look Osceola
Sean Dudley

The city of Pensacola in Florida has invested US$750,000 in a makeover of its Osceola municipal golf course, and the renovated course will reopen this week.

Architect Harrison Minchew of Signature Golf Design led the six month project, which included the construction of four new holes. Florida-based Lepanto Golf Construction was the contractor.

Three of the four new holes are par threes, so the reworked course will play to par 70 rather than its previous 72, though it remains approximately the same length, slightly more than 6,400 yards from the back tees.

Osceola now includes a First Tee facility, with a full-service, 40-person practice area, complete with a new putting and pitching green and separate sand bunker. On the course itself, Minchew, who spent much of his career working at Arnold Palmer's design firm, has reconstructed green complexes, which are now grassed with MiniVerde Bermuda, added new bunkers and rebuilt the cart paths

PGA Tour player Joe Durant has close ties to the course. “I grew up playing Osceola,” said Durant. “I’ve probably played it a thousand times. It is very exciting to see the improvements. The new driving range and practice facility are great. The added length with the new tees, new bunkers, several new holes, and character designed into the greens will make the golf course enjoyable to all types of players.”

Minchew’s project is the biggest reshaping effort since Osceola opened in 1926. According to reports, US$500,000 of the cost was provided by local option sales tax revenue, while the remainder will be paid back from course revenue over a five year period.

“This place is near and dear to a lot of people’s hearts,” said Minchew. “The entire golf course will have a new look. The greens were nondescript and now they are strategically re-contoured and much more playable. The turf quality is going to be completely different as well. Now even the best golfers will have an enjoyable challenge from the new back tees. Everyone is very excited about it.”