Jemsek Golf Design will carry out a multi-year course renovation project at the Caujaral Club in Barranquilla, Colombia.
Originally designed by architect Joe Lee, the course is one of the most celebrated in South America. The new project will see the reconstruction of all greens, tees and bunkers, as well as the course’s irrigation system.
Joe Jemsek of Jemsek Golf Design spoke to GCA about the project, one that is close to his heart.
“I came into contact with the club after the death of my mentor Joe Lee,” said Jemsek. “He gave me my first opportunity in the golf design business. While I was at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, I worked as an intern in his office, learned to draft plans, and accompanied him to local job sites. When I established Jemsek Golf Design in 2007, I was granted access by his foundation to his archive collection of design documents. This collection includes documentation from over 100 courses designs by Mr Lee and his partner Dick Wilson. I made preserving their design legacy a founding principal of my new company.”
The front nine at Caujaral Club plays from a high bluff towards an expansive lake. Numerous holes run alongside the lake, and hole five plays from an island tee to an island green. The back nine offers greater topographical changes, and has views of both the city of Barranquilla and the Atlantic Ocean.
Jemsek rediscovered some lost treasures in the course’s archives, including photos from the course's construction and this one of Roberto De Vincenzo playing the course in a tournament in 1969
Jemsek first worked with the Caujaral Club in 2011 after a dam failure flooded several holes on the course’s front nine. Working alongside the club’s board of directors, Jemsek Golf Design has developed a master plan for improvements over the past two years, which was formally presented to the membership last summer.
“The renovation will focus on improving course conditions and making the course playable for the members,” said Jemsek. “The course has a proud history of hosting top events and we will look at additional ways to challenge the best players, but my goal is to keep the course enjoyable and exciting for the average player. I believe the course consistently ranks No.1 in the country because the design rewards players who balance distance and accuracy. Several short par four holes lure good players into attempting challenging shots with high risks and great rewards. Greens are easily acceptable, but proximity to the pin position can be elusive due to greens design and consistent trade winds.”
GCA asked Jemsek about his views of the state of golf in South America. “With few public course, there is little access for new players to learn,” he said. “Private clubs have full memberships with waiting lists, but only 20-25 per cent of the members actively play golf. New events like the Latin American Amateur Championship will elevate the status of golf as a sport but without affordable access, new developments will have to be supported by foreign tourists.”
Jemsek did reveal however that he has been in discussions with a group interested in developing the first public course in the Atlantico region of Colombia, and is working on a plan for a short course and driving range that could grow as the local market demand grows.
“These types of feeder facilities are critical for new player development,” said Jemsek. “The region is a great tourist destination. It’s three hours from the southern US, has a warm tropical climate, and unlike other parts of the country, is safe for foreign tourists.”