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St. Johns (Fla.) Golf Club Designed by Erik Larsen Reopening November 29
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, FLORIDA, – The First Coast of Florida just got a new addition to its superb golf offerings. Versatile golf course architect Erik Larsen (ASGCA) and St. Johns County are nearing the completion of a model public golf course project at the St. Johns Golf Club. The course is scheduled to debut with a Grand Opening on Tuesday, November 29, continuing Larsen’s work of creatively reviving golf during a period where renovation work is a strong trend.
Larsen, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident, and former Executive Vice President of Arnold Palmer Golf Design Company has been working on the St. Johns Golf Club project for seven years – from feasibility study to planning and finalization. Larsen worked in concert with longtime Director of Golf/General Manager and PGA Professional Wes Tucker and his staff, St. Johns County and its Board of County Commissioners, and Wadsworth Golf Construction Company. The St. Johns Golf Club redesign follows Larsen’s successful 2015 reinvention of the Atlantic Beach Country Club course and its infrastructure east of Jacksonville, the site of the 2016-18 Korn Ferry Tour Championship. Larsen has over 40 years’ experience in golf course design, having personally worked on approximately 100 courses reaching 23 states and 24 countries.
“The St. Johns Golf Club is a terrific example of publicly owned, accessible golf and interesting architectural work coming together to make the players’ experience much more enjoyable,” Larsen said. “Job one was to fix the golf course, which suffered from poor drainage, broken irrigation, outdated features and contaminated grass. This led to making St. Johns a properly functioning course. Then we brought the starting and finishing holes, the practice facility, and an additional ‘wee-links’ concept nearer to the clubhouse to allow people to interact more. We layered on a ‘throwback’ design style unlike anything in North Florida, all of which will create more fun and social interaction for all no matter their ability.”
The St. Johns Golf Club is in Elkton, Florida amid the 550-home Cypress Lakes subdivision 2 miles west of Interstate 95 at State Road 207 and approximately 10 miles west of historic downtown St. Augustine, Florida. St. Johns County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation (40 percent larger in the last decade, according to the U.S. Census Report), has some of the top-rated schools in Florida, and has been deemed the healthiest county in Florida over the past decade.
St. Johns Golf Club was established from potato farmland as a county-owned facility in 1989 and operated as a 27-hole course for years despite poor conditioning with nine holes going fallow a decade ago. After weighing whether to sell the land for housing, St. Johns County opted in 2021 to approve funding on an $8-million renovation to develop the new 18-hole course, with the money drawn from recreation impact fees, a transportation trust fund, utility fund, bed tax, and general fund. The county will use the excess 80 acres to build new fire and sheriff’s stations and establish to-be-determined amenities.
The work is the continuation of a national trend where the National Golf Foundation, the leading research firm in the golf business, estimates that at least 80 percent of all golf course work nationally in the past five years has been renovations with a total investment of more than $9 billion.
“This course is one of the real jewels of St. Johns County,” said Henry Dean, the chair of the St. Johns County Commission. “It’s a wonderful amenity and the public has demonstrated that, with about 35 percent of the rounds coming from out of the county. We were able to fund this not from the general ad valorem tax that affects homeowners but to utilize the 7 million visitors per year that come to the area. As a commissioner, I would be irresponsible to walk away from this golf course.”
Larsen brainstormed with St. Johns’ Tucker to use “traditional throwback” design principles by taking three overgrown holes and changing others drastically to produce new routing for a course which has attracted as many as 70,000 rounds in a year. Features include wide fairways, Biarritz, Punchbowl and Redan green designs and rectangular low maintenance “coffin” bunkers throughout. These tributes to architects C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor from the early 1900s are reminiscent of courses in the United Kingdom’s links-style layouts and provide a rare offering for a public course in the Southern United States. The course is made up of TifEagle bermudagrass greens, TifTuf bermudagrass fairways and Zoysia bunker faces. The course will play to par 71 and stretch from a maximum of 7,009 yards to 4,803 yards at the forward tees.
Greens fee rates were established in August by the St. Johns County Commission at very affordable levels: ranging from $25 for afternoon walkers to $59.50 for out-of-state visitors. For more information, please visit www.sjgc.com.
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