ASGCA President John Sanford, ASGCA (Sanford Golf Design), is ready to start work on a major renovation and restoration of the West Palm Beach (Florida) Municipal Golf Course, a facility originally designed by Dick Wilson.

Golf Course Architecture reports:

The developer’s plans include a renovation and sympathetic restoration, with architect John Sanford brought in by West Palm Beach Golf Links to lead the golf course architecture element of the project.

As well as the work on the course itself, proposals include the creation of a state-of-the-art practice facility with a large practice range, short game area and large putting green. Plans also include the development of a family entertainment and hospitality venue developed by Topgolf, as well as some residential buildings.

Speaking at a West Palm Beach Special Golf Commission meeting, during which the decision to award the contract to West Palm Beach Golf Links was made, Sanford said: “We view this golf course and this project as an incredible opportunity to return the course to the world-class status that it once enjoyed. Anything less would be an injustice to this property. Our plan is to utilise just 25 acres for the hotel and apartments. That leaves us a very unique 170 acres of core golf. No houses, no lakes, just core golf the way golf was meant to be played in a major in a major metropolitan area.”

Sanford’s plan sees a slight adjustment to the current layout of the course, but still uses 16 holes of the original Dick Wilson design.

“This allows us to honour Mr Wilson’s design with a sympathetic restoration and modernisation of the golf course,” Sanford said. “Our design incorporates the best practices of today’s sustainable golf course architecture model. We’ll have nice, wide, generous fairways, but outside of that it will be non-irrigated, with native grasses and no sandy areas. What this allows us to do is reduce water consumption, fertiliser, pesticides and herbicide inputs, and to be environmentally sustainable.”

Sanford said his design will result in fewer lost balls, helping to increase pace of play, but that many of the holes will still run north-south as Wilson designed them, limiting the effect that the sun has on player visibility while playing the course.

“We are retaining and actually enhancing the tremendous existing natural elevation of this golf course, which is very unique to south Florida,” he said. “We are also retaining the native vegetation, including trees and palms, that exist on the golf course.”

The developer’s proposal includes the creation of player development programmes and leagues, including Inner City Youth Golf Association and The First Tee.

“Our plan results in a world-class golf facility, that, when combined with TopGolf, will help grow the game of golf not only here in West Palm Beach, but all surrounding areas,” Sanford added. “It will be environmentally and financially sustainable for decades to come.”

Speaking on behalf of the developers at the meeting, Martin Perry of West Palm Beach Golf Links said: “If we were able to start by April of this year, we could deliver the course by December next year.”

West Palm Beach Golf Links will fund the entire development and is set to invest around US$86 million into the project.

The City of West Palm Beach will now look to finalise plans with West Palm Beach Golf Links. These plans will then be brought before a Special Golf Commission and be made available for public comment.

“This project could really be a game changer for West Palm Beach’s south end,” said Jeri Muoio, mayor of West Palm Beach. “I am really pleased that, now, we will have something that’s really going to energise people – young and old, residents and visitors – around our golf course. I’m excited to move forward with West Palm Beach Golf Links, as their proposal gives us a chance to do something really innovative and creative with our municipal golf course.”