Golf Course Architecture - Issue 64, April 2021

69 characteristics to the North and South courses, The Preserve brought its own challenges. In particular, it had gained a reputation for being very difficult. “It was mainly used by players with a low handicap because the layout had a lot of penal aspects to it,” says Swanson. “If you miss the green, you could find a lot of trouble. We had to correct that and make it more playable because the everyday member would avoid it.” “The setting of the Preserve is more natural,” says Jones. “There is housing, but quite a few holes are framed by the natural preserve vegetation. The wind is a bigger factor on the Preserve too, it has a bit of a coastal feel to it.” Routed through woods, wetlands and marshes, as well as man-made lakes, there are only two holes on the Preserve where water is not in play. The challenge for the design team was to find a balance of keeping the low handicap players, who essentially had the Preserve course to themselves, happy, but to also make it playable and enjoyable for the everyday golfer. The solution lay primarily in the green complexes, and the introduction of aspects of design that had proved successful on the North and South course renovations. Entrances to the green have been opened, and a miss no longer hands out such severe punishment, with balls potentially coming to rest on closely mown surrounds that provide a choice of recovery options. With construction work on the Preserve taking place during 2020, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic threatened to deal a serious blow to progress. But having frequently worked on projects in Japan in recent years, where fewer site visits take place, Jones and Swanson were by now well accustomed to using technology such as drones to design from a distance. This, combined with the excellent relationship they had cultivated with Glase Construction and the club over the previous two renovations, allowed them to continue with little interruption even while travel restrictions were in place. The Preserve course reopened in November 2020 and is now attracting the entire membership base. “There are now more higher handicappers playing there, which is a real measure of our success,” says Swanson. This has been particularly beneficial for the club in coping with the rise in demand for tee times that has arisen because of the pandemic, allowing them to spread play more evenly across all three courses. Jones has taken particular satisfaction in “success breeding success,” with the positive results of each renovation delivering him and Swanson another commission at the club. He highlights that a major challenge of working at Florida clubs is the small window of time there is to get the job done. “Members don’t want it to close before the end of the season in April. And they want it back open before Christmas,” he says. “So, if you have a major storm, for example, you’ve got a problem.” Jones credits a strong team – designers, constructors and the club’s team of greens committee chairs Jay Sandza and Rich Antonelli, general manager Brian Bartolec and course superintendent Eric Ruha – for delivering a positive outcome under this pressure. Not just once, or twice, but three times. “This has been a ‘triple play’ and if we had not been successful on the North, the club would still be sitting on the other two,” says Jones. “It becomes easier to get a ‘yes’ vote once you have completed a project very successfully,” he says. “Creating three distinct challenges for the members to play has been a progressive move for the club.” GCA Photo: AdVenture Southwest Florida Photos: Hunt Group Productions The short sixteenth on the North (top) and the par-five seventh on the South, which were renovated in 2017 and 2018 respectively