In a guest opinion column in the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune, Golf Course Manager Sue Martin detailed the history of the nearly 100-year-old property, outlined the operating challenges it now faces, and invited “golfers and non-golfers alike” to come to meetings on June 13 and 14 to “continue the community conversation about how to drive Bobby Jones toward a triumphant centennial in 2027.”
In a guest opinion column in the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune, Sue Martin, Golf Course Manager at the city’s Bobby Jones Golf Club and a 13-year employee of the City of Sarasota, detailed the history of the nearly 100-year-old property and outlined the operating challenges that it now faces.
Martin concluded the column by announcing that the city is hosting public meetings on June 13 and 14 to outline steps in the club’s current master plan “to continue the community conversation, from golfers and non-golfers alike, about how to drive Bobby Jones toward a triumphant centennial in 2027.”
Here is the full column that Martin wrote for the Herald-Tribune:
Bobby Jones Golf Club’s mission statement says in part that we will “grow the game of golf by providing an enjoyable experience on well-maintained courses in a price range that is affordable to all residents and visitors of the City of Sarasota.”
For nearly 100 years, that is what we have done. Originally opened in 1926 and renamed on Feb. 13, 1927, after the amateur golf legend, the city-owned Bobby Jones Golf Club has helped solidify Sarasota’s reputation as the “cradle of golf” in the United States. During that time, the course has served generations of residents and visitors of all skill levels.
We are also proud of our history as the first golf course in Florida to desegregate. Bobby Jones has been an economic generator, an environmental gem, an attraction and a source of community pride in our city.
As the only government-owned golf course in Sarasota County, we offer a unique experience at an affordable price. Our average rate for the whole year is $23, well below most courses in the county and around the nation. And while the average rate for a full round of golf at courses in the county during high season (roughly Christmas to Easter) is more than $82, Bobby Jones’ highest seasonal rate is $49.
Featuring 45 holes on three unique courses and the historic designs of famed course architect Donald Ross, Bobby Jones has something for everyone, from beginning golfers to serious players. Paul Azinger honed his skills at Bobby Jones before going on to earn 12 professional titles on the PGA Tour. Our club hosts seven annual tournaments, as well as various camps, clinics and golf lessons.
We pride ourselves on the excellent customer service that we provide to all who visit us. Bobby Jones has been voted Sarasota’s top golf club in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Readers’ Choice Awards 20 times over the past 22 years. It continues to be a community favorite.
During the Great Recession, tough financial decisions led to lower maintenance levels at the course. Now, many capital improvements are long overdue. Studies by our consultant, Richard Mandell Golf Architecture Inc., and by city staff have found that Bobby Jones’ tee boxes, sand bunkers, fairways, irrigation control system, irrigation heads and piping are all more than 30 years old and should have been replaced years, if not decades, ago.
As part of an important regional floodplain, the course was designed to draw excess water away from nearby residences. But poor drainage, combined with an aging and failing irrigation system, forces the closure of the courses when it rains, sometimes for days at a time, which negatively impacts the aesthetics of greens and fairways and ultimately the bottom line for Bobby Jones.
The Bobby Jones Golf Club mission statement also says that we will strive to be “a financially self-sustaining enterprise account operation,” and I am confident that we can return to be self-sustaining again when it comes to operating costs.
Improvements are needed, though, and we want to continue the community conversation about how to drive Bobby Jones toward a triumphant centennial in 2027.
We’ve heard from over 100 of our patrons and neighbors over the past year during six walking tours and multiple community meetings about the recommendations in the Bobby Jones Golf Club Master Plan, and we appreciate their feedback and ideas so far.
For golfers and non-golfers alike who haven’t yet provided input, have more to share or have questions, the city is hosting a series of public meetings:
Wednesday, June 13:
- 2 p.m. at Payne Park Auditorium, 2100 Laurel St., Sarasota.
- 5:30 p.m. at Robert L. Taylor Community Complex, 1845 John Rivers St., Sarasota.
Thursday, June 14:
- 10 a.m. at City Hall, SRQ Media Studio, 1565 First St., Sarasota.
- 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, SRQ Media Studio, 1565 First St., Sarasota.
Whether you are a Bobby Jones regular or haven’t visited us in years, we want to hear from you about this incredible 300-acre swath of urban parkland. How do you envision the course in the future? What is most important to you?
Your feedback will help us set a path for the next 100 years at Bobby Jones Golf Club. We look forward to hearing from you.