Nathan Crace aims to give Florida’s Tiger Point a new ‘coastal look’

  • Tiger
    Tyler Teston

    Nathan Crace of Watermark Golf has started a renovation project at Tiger Point Golf Club in Gulf Breeze, Florida

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Nathan Crace of Watermark Golf has started a renovation project at Tiger Point Golf Club in Gulf Breeze, Florida.

In February 2021, Tiger Point’s East course – originally designed by Jerry Pate in 1965 – was sold to Capstone Golf; and at the same time, local entertainment entrepreneur Scott Zepp purchased the clubhouse and two holes of the former Ron Garl-designed West course. Portions of the West course had already been sold in 2012 by the city of Gulf Breeze, following financial difficulties and hurricane damage, for a future school site and a green space for the community.

Capstone Golf brought Crace in to oversee a naturalisation project and a bunker renovation of the now semi-private East course. The new owners also wanted a new look and an aesthetic more befitting of the course’s coastal setting.

“Every golfer in the Florida Panhandle and in south Alabama has heard of Tiger Point,” said Crace. “In its prime, everyone in the area had Tiger Point in their rotation of courses to play. When the city of Gulf Breeze decided to sell the course last year. The first thing the new owners asked themselves was, ‘how can we make Tiger Point unique and return it to its destination golf status?’. That’s how our conversation began.”

While the golf course weaves in and out of the surrounding housing development, waterways and the beachfront, Capstone Golf wanted Crace to instil a coastal theme and to tie the aesthetic through all eighteen holes.

“There’s been a welcome shift in golf course architecture over the last 10 to 20 years toward sustainable design that produces a more natural look while improving operations by reducing resource inputs and labour in areas that don’t come into play,” said Crace. “We can achieve that and increase the aesthetic of the course by creating naturalised areas throughout that not only bring back the coastal feel, but also enable the staff to re-focus those input savings in other high traffic areas of the course such as greens, tees, fairways and bunkers. The goal is to connect these new areas throughout, so you have that theme on all 18 holes.”

To provide a coastal look, Crace will use a mix of different plantings and native grass types to add layers of texture and colour to the course, starting with the holes closest to the clubhouse. “There’s a great view of the property from the clubhouse because it sits on top of this big hill that’s not indicative of the rest of the area,” said Crace. “But as you look out over the course, you see primarily a sea of green bermudagrass with homes and the Gulf of Mexico in the distance. We want to break that up and make the view more exciting with layers of colour, contrast and verticality. By mid-summer, the look from the clubhouse and playing one, seventeen and eighteen will be dramatically different. You won’t know if you’re in Gulf Breeze or in the South Carolina Low Country.” 

Crace will begin renovating some bunkers this year, with the goal of keeping the course open for daily play. “The existing bunkers are worn and demand too many resources to keep them playable and looking good,” he said. “We will soften the edges on all bunkers, re-size and re-shape most of them, and relocate others to be consistent with the look that the new owners want.”

“We’re excited about the possibilities ahead at Tiger Point,” said Brian Jones of Capstone Golf. “Nathan shares our vision of the tremendous potential this property has and what it can become with the right approach. We’ve already seen an increased interest from golfers and the community in what we’re going to do to really set Tiger Point apart and with our semi-private model, we’ll be looking to build our membership base while still attracting outside and public play. Needless to say, we hit the ground running.”