Two Jacksonville-area courses plan major renovations

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Two Jacksonville-area golf courses are undergoing renovations, one involving a major reconstruction of a community course that almost qualifies as venerable.

Deerwood Country Club, the first gated, golf community in the city, is on the receiving end of a complete facelift after members complained about deteriorating playing conditions.

"It's a total, complete re-do of the entire golf course," said Deerwood general manager Rocky Staples. "Brand new irrigation system, brand new drainage. We dug up every square inch of dirt on the golf course and totally re-did every single hole out here."

Osprey Cove, in St. Marys, Ga., about 30 minutes to the north, is undergoing a less extensive makeover. The course is re-surfacing all the greens and changing the designs of No. 4 and No. 12.

The Deerwood course was originally built on a shoestring budget, which became obvious over the years when its infrastructure couldn't keep up.

"The course was built badly, and over time everything started to look really awful," said Michelle Pollina, Deerwood's marketing director. "We had drought for a few years so you really didn't notice the fact we had a drainage problem. When it actually started to rain again about two years ago, you really started to see the problem. Then, everybody started to complain. It became apparent we needed to do something quickly."

The club hired Michigan-based Cornish, Silva and Mungeam to create what will be essentially an entirely new course. The re-do is costing about $5 million, part of a more extensive $10 million renovation project that includes refurbishing the clubhouse. TDI International is doing the construction.

"We kept the core routing," Pollina said. "The holes themselves changed. In fact, every single hole has been changed. We changed the length on most of them. Previously, most of the par-4s were about the same length. Now, there's some variety."

The course, officials said, will be more playable. Doglegs have been softened, and about 30 bunkers were removed while others were re-designed. The course now measures 7,270 yards, longer than the previous 6,957.

Water was brought into play more, and the course now has a state-of-the-art drainage and irrigation system.

The lake on No. 10 now stretches the entire length of the hole and comes close to the green. Elsewhere, lead designer Brian Silva, Golf Week's architect of the year in 1999, tried to make better strategic and aesthetic use of existing terrain.

The George Cobb-designed course was built in 1961, but has lost ground in a highly competitive market.

"A lot of the older courses around here had been renovated," Pollina said. We were one of the old holdovers. We needed to do this in order to compete. There's a lot more movement and undulation in the fairways and greens that wasn't there before."

The design firm also did Red Tail Golf Club in Massachusetts, ranked one of the top 10 new courses you can play of 2002 by Golf Digest. It also did Black Creek Club in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Card Sound in Key Largo.

Construction is nearly complete and the official re-opening is scheduled for Sept. 3.

The Osprey Cove work was also prompted by deteriorating conditions.

"What has happened is that over a period of time, the greens have been mown in so they have gotten smaller over a period of 12-15 years," said head pro Jason Akel. " Now, we've increased them back to their original size. Some of them are up to 30 percent bigger."

In addition to re-shaping all the bunkers on the course, Osprey Cove raised the level of the green at No. 12, sloping it toward the left.

At No. 4, three oak trees were cut on the left side, and a bunker was placed between the water and the green.

"You're definitely going to be able to tell a big difference," Akel said. "Now, you're going to be looking straight into water, so I think, visually, it's going to be a little more intimidating."

The LandMar Group-owned course also improved its drainage with a new pump house and sprinkler heads. It will re-open for play on or about Nov. 1.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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