SARASOTA, Fla. — Last week, a worker drove a yellow construction vehicle around a future putting green, unrolling a hefty roll of sod. Another employee walked ahead of the vehicle, removing the plastic mesh that held the roll together.
They and other construction workers have been laying sod on some parts of the front nine holes of the Bobby Jones Golf Club — an important step in a more than $12 million project to renovate the nearly 100-year-old course.
The city of Sarasota is reducing the number of holes in the golf complex from 45 to 27 and turning some of the property into a nature park. The complex will have an 18-hole course, a 9-hole short course and a practice facility.
The construction work began in February 2022 and is expected to be completed this fall, according to Richard Mandell, the project’s architect.
What has been accomplished so far?
Mandell and the construction company, QGS Development, are restoring the 18-hole course designed by celebrated golf architect Donald Ross in the 1920s.
The workers have installed grass on all areas of the back nine holes, except for the putting greens, Mandell said. They also have started to place grass on the front nine holes. The team has also been working on the short course and practice facility.
Earlier, workers built a few weirs, which are dam-like structures that control the elevation of water in the golf complex’s ponds. When there’s a heavy rain event, water rushing through Main B Canal will be diverted into the golf course when it reaches a certain elevation, Mandell said. Water will temporarily stay in the golf complex instead of flooding areas downstream of Bobby Jones.
The project also has a wetland restoration component. Plants in the wetlands will filter stormwater before it enters Phillippi Creek and eventually Sarasota Bay. The construction crew has created the wetlands, but the plants haven’t been added yet.
Why was it delayed?
Mandell had originally hoped that the 18-hole course would open to the public last November, but the project experienced some setbacks. There were delays in the issuance of permits, and then they had to deal with a rainy summer season.
What’s left to be done?
In addition to having to finish the grassing of the 18-hole course, the contractors must finish shaping the short course and then place grass on it.
The property’s clubhouse still has to be constructed as well, but golfers will use a temporary clubhouse during that process. City spokeswoman Jan Thornburg said the temporary clubhouse will be ready by the time course reopens in the fall.
Sarasota County-based Fawley Bryant Architecture is preparing conceptual drawings of the permanent clubhouse, which will be presented to the City Commission in the next few months. Thornburg said the temporary clubhouse is anticipated to be there for two years, but that timeline could change.
Mandell said there will be “a great product” once the renovations to the course are complete.
“It’s gonna exceed people’s expectations,” he said.