Parkland G&CC: Making memories

  • Parkland G&CC Letsche
    Parkland Golf & Country Club

    Letsche’s work on the par-five eighteenth included reshaping the tee complex, bunkers and green

  • Parkland G&CC Letsche
    Greg Letsche

    New bunkers were a key part of Letsche’s plan, in order to add more strategy to Parkland

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Parkland Golf and Country Club weaves its way through a real estate community in the city of the same name in south Florida, alongside the northeast border of the Everglades.

The course was laid out in 2004 and has seen just one significant project – to reduce bunker sizes – since.

“The renovation has been a long time coming,” says Joe Postel, the club’s director of agronomy, explaining that the club decided it was time to revisit the design. Florida-based architect Greg Letsche was selected for the project. “The members were drawn to Greg, due to his body of design work and the fact that he is a local guy and would be very hands on.”

While the renovation plan came together quickly and the course closed for the project to begin in April 2023, a last-minute change was required. Construction was originally planned to begin on the eighteenth hole but, thanks to a burrowing owl choosing to nest in one of the bunkers, work began elsewhere. The club’s members embraced ‘Bunker the Owl’ and even set up a webcam so others could follow its progress. But the owl and some heavy rainfall aside, work moved at pace.

Parkland has several attributes that are common in Florida: homes adjacent to almost every hole, water featuring throughout the layout and minimal elevation change, so Letsche had to focus his creativity on the individuality of holes.

A primary goal of the project was to make holes more memorable. “Several holes used to be too similar to one another, so it felt like you would be playing the same hole multiple times,” said Postel. “Greg did an outstanding job in giving every hole more of an identity via planting, rebunkering or reshaping greens.”

“Parkland had so many holes that went left to right, there were four or five that were practically the same design,” says Letsche. “The biggest changes came at the fifth and twelfth. The fifth has been redesigned to play as a driveable par four, which they did not have before. It will be a very strategic hole, almost similar to hole ten at Riviera in terms of risk and reward.

“The twelfth has changed to the point that it looks nothing like it originally did. Fairway bunkers were eliminated and trees have been planted. It has a completely different visual and stands out tremendously well compared to what it was.”

Letsche has also tried to strike a better balance between playability and difficulty. “We have achieved this through the judicial use of bunkers, placing them in strategic areas for the better players,” he says. “The original design had an extraordinarily large amount of bunkering, close to 140,000 square feet. With the summer rain, that amount of bunkering proved to be detrimental maintenance-wise with a lot of hours put into fixing washouts. The project completed a few years ago reduced the sand square footage to 40,000 square feet. Although it made sense to do that, they had dumbed down the bunkers and lost a lot in terms of aesthetics and the playing experience.”

Letsche has added about 50,000 square feet of bunkers to reintroduce more strategy and reshaped or relocated existing hazards while also creating a new aesthetic to Parkland. Capillary Concrete was installed time minimise the time required for maintenance.

Each green has also been redesigned to create more pinnable area and opened up for ground-game approaches that were limited on the previously perched greens. “It used to be pretty penal around greens, with balls rolling off into deep bunkers, but now it is more fun for all levels,” says Postel.

This article first appeared in the January 2024 issue of Golf Course ArchitectureFor a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.