Officials break ground on public golf course project

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If all goes according to plan, St. Johns County residents and visitors will begin teeing off in October at a newly renovated, “must-play” public course in Elkton.

On Wednesday, Jan. 5, county officials, staff and members of the public gathered at St. Johns Golf Club for a groundbreaking ceremony marking a new chapter in the life of the 33-year-old course. The project will give the landmark venue a major facelift.

In April, the County Commission approved funding for the renovation, with that money coming from recreation impact fees, the transportation trust fund, the utility fund, the bed tax and the general fund.

The project will cost $8 million with $6.2 million for course renovation performed by Wadsworth Golf Construction Co. of Plainfield, Illinois, and about $900,000 for clubhouse and cart barn renovations performed by DiMare Construction of St. Augustine.

The need for the project is manifest. The course and clubhouse are showing the effects of heavy use —1.8 million rounds have been played there since they opened in 1989. The clubhouse, built to serve 35,000 people annually, saw use by 62,000 last year alone.

Statistically, 65% of rounds played on the course were from local golfers, with the remainder being visitors. In addition to individual golfers, the course has been used by teams from Pedro Menendez and St. Augustine high schools and St. Joseph Academy. It has also operated in partnership with First Tee of North Florida, and four leagues call it home.

But the course’s popularity and the ravages of time have left the drainage and irrigation dysfunctional, the grass brown and various attributes in need of re-creation.

According to course director Wes Tucker, the contractors will re-do the greens, tees, fairways, irrigation, drainage, bunkers and cart paths. The clubhouse will be roomier and ADA compliant.

“It will basically be a brand new golf course when we finish,” Tucker said.

County Commissioner Henry Dean predicted that, once done, the course will be one of the better ones in Northeast Florida.

The new course has been designed by Erik Larson of Ponte Vedra-based LarsonGolf.

“The golf course must have, in my opinion, its own identity and its own character unlike anything around,” he said, adding that he wanted it to be a “must-play” course.

He projected that construction would take between six and seven months and that growing would take about three months.

The course is par 71, with par 35 on the front nine, par 36 on the back.

County Commissioner Paul Waldron said he was at the original opening and called the course a “great asset to the county.”

On the club’s surplus property, the county plans to build a new fire station and sheriff’s substation.

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