Steve Smyers returns to Old Memorial for six-month renovation

  • Old Memorial

    A visualisation of the proposed fifth green at Old Memorial…

  • Old Memorial

    …and the same green before renovation work

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Steve Smyers has returned to Old Memorial Golf Club in Tampa, Florida – a course he originally designed in 1997 – to oversee a six-month renovation project.

“The primary catalyst to Old Memorial taking on this project was to keep it established as one of the top private golf clubs in Florida. Collectively, our goal is to restore and enhance the greens, green surrounds, and other playing surfaces to provide a top tier and memorable experience.”

Smyers oversaw a bunker rebuild and a regrassing of the course in 2015, but due to the acidity and bicarbonates in the recycled water, the Florida stone – used as a gravel layer – was beginning to break down, not allowing for proper water or air movement.

The scope of work includes the rebuilding of greens, surrounds and approaches, landscaping, as well as replacing the irrigation system. “While much is going to be restored and enhanced, there will be alterations to improve aesthetics and shotmaking,” said Smyers. “We will also be addressing some fairway and rough work that will coincide with turf reduction and strategy.”

On the fifth hole, Smyers is slightly raising the green and extending it to the edge of the lake. The alteration will enhance the target from the fairway, while connecting it visually to the lake. As a result, the green will become more inviting.

“Golfers will notice a completely different and enhanced experience than before the renovation,” said Smyers. “The greens, approaches, and fairways will play and present themselves significantly better.

“With the enhancement of the earth between the greens and approaches, we can create a more inviting and appealing visual for the golfers. These enhancements include subtle changes to the greens, the addition of mounds and hollows to the surrounds, and the alteration of bunkers edges and surfaces.”

Irrigation will be replaced with a state-of-the-art system designed by Altum Irrigation Design and installed by Leibold Irrigation. Greens will be grassed with new TifEagle and surrounds will be converted from Celebration bermuda to TifGrande bermuda.

“Because of the coronavirus outbreak, Old Memorial has moved up the start date of this summer’s renovation,” said Smyers. “The scheduled start was 6 May, but we will now be commencing work on March 31.

“The coronavirus has had a significant impact on the world. It has affected every person either directly or indirectly. Old Memorial is no different. Due to its sizeable national membership and the risks of travelling, there was an unprecedented amount of cancellations in golf rounds, lodging, and dining.

“Therefore, the leaders of the club took the calculated decision to close the course down and begin construction over a month early. From a construction standpoint, this will allow us to get ahead of the rainy season, and from a maintenance standpoint, this will allow course superintendent Sam Muller more time to grow and prepare the finished product for the season in the fall.”

Clarke Construction will be responsible for construction work and the course is expected to reopen in mid-October.

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