A seven-year project – from feasibility study to planning and finalization – has concluded for ASGCA Past President Erik Larsen, with the re-opening of St. Johns Golf Club in St. Johns County, Florida. Larsen worked in concert with longtime Director of Golf/General Manager Wes Tucker and his staff, St. Johns County, its Board of County Commissioners and Wadsworth Golf Construction Company of Plainfield, Illinois.
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. St. Johns County opted in 2021 to approve funding on an $8-million renovation to develop an 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 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 fun,” 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 “Job one was to fix the golf course, which suffered from poor drainage, broken irrigation, outdated features and contaminated grass.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 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 around, all which will create more fun and social interaction.”
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 square, 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 or Northeastern United States and provide a rare offering for a public course or any course in the Southern United States. An expansive short-game area and finishing and beginning holes and the practice area situated much closer to the clubhouse are also part of a completely new complex. 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 shortest tees.