Smyers-designed Bridgewater Golf Club in Lakeland scheduled for early 2006 opening

Golfers and ospreys may soon find life a little more enjoyable in Lakeland, Fla. The Bridgewater Golf Club, now under construction, is expected to be completed in January and it will turn some nasty land into a golf course and wildlife habitat.

The Steve Smyers-designed course is being built on the site of an old phosphate plant. The planned 7,300-yard course will include 260 acres of lakes and wetlands, much of it restored from its phosphate mining damaged condition.

"It was a swamp probably about 50 years ago," Smyers told TravelGolf.com. "They go in there and dig up the phosphate in spoils and level it off. When they leveled it off, they didn't do a very good job - they created all these bird baths in the soil and some isolated wetlands. They were very stressed. We'll restore those distressed areas and integrate it into the golf course."

In addition to turning overgrown marsh into water-cleansing and wildlife-enhancing habitat, it also makes earth available to add movement on the course and built up areas of the flat terrain.

"It's typical Florida land, not real dramatic," Smyers said. "But, the course is unusual for Florida; there's not going to be any homes around it. It's going to be a core golf course. We've got about 40 acres of wetlands that we're creating, so it's kind of a meandering link of wetlands that comprises a good habitat for wildlife and provides a unique environment for golfers to interact with the environment."

The course itself will be a wildlife corridor, with upland grasses in addition to the wetlands and forested areas - already ospreys and hawks are considering moving in.

Smyers had the first Audubon certified course at Wolf Run in Indianapolis and the owners are considering seeking an Audubon stamp of approval for Bridgewater.

Smyers is known for designs that make walking easier and this course will be no different. It will also be very open.

"I'm not going to call it a links golf course, but it will have the playing characteristics of a links course," Smyers said. "On several holes, there will be three to five different ways to approach the hole locations, and when you miss the greens you'll have several different options of how you might want to get it up and down.

"The ground game and options are integral parts of this golf course. We've got a site that's fairly open - 200 contiguous areas - with no buildings or trees to knock down the wind, so wind is also going to be a very integral part of the game there."

Bridgewater will be a daily-fee, semi-private course, located about 15 miles from Disney World. It will emphasize junior, senior and beginner's golf.

Smyers, who lives in Lakeland and served an apprenticeship with another Lakeland architect, Ron Garl, is married to former LPGA player Sherrin Smyers. He's a Houston native who played golf for the University of Florida.

Smyers is considered a traditionalist and he's studied architecture in England, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa and Australia. He's known for minimal earth-moving and an emphasis on bump-and-run shots, well-sculpted bunkers and the use of native grasses.

He's probably best known for his Southern Dunes Golf and Country Club in Haines City, which opened in 1993, and Old Memorial in Tampa, which opened in 1997. He also did a major renovation at Isleworth Golf and Country Club outside of Orlando, home of Tiger Woods and other PGA pros.

He's done two executive courses in Lakeland, including his first solo effort.

"We live in Florida and I guess you could say I'm a Florida guy, but a majority of our work has been outside Florida," Smyers said. "In fact, I've built on every continent."

John G. Walton Construction of Mobile started shaping the course in March. The course is scheduled to be grassed in August and be open by January.

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