The Joe Lee-designed nine-hole course at the Jensen Beach, Fla. property, built in 1983, has undergone an $850,000 facelift. Anticipating some member resistance to the project, sheriffs were on hand for the first meeting. But a team headed by a club President with a degree in Agronomy steered it through in a cost-effective fashion.
The members of Island Dunes Country Club in Jensen Beach, Fla., faced a dilemma surrounding the club’s Joe Lee-designed nine-hole golf course earlier this year, reported TCPalm.com, the website for Treasure Coast Newspapers.
The Island Dunes course, located just west of the ocean and along the St. Lucie River, was built in 1983 and was in need of some TLC, TCPalm.com reported.
“We couldn’t grow grass anymore,” said club President Bob Kirkland, who should know, TCPalm.com noted—Kirkland has a degree in Agronomy.
Kirkland and club Treasurer Dave Gordon, along with course designer Harry Bowers, Managing Director Kandace Morgan and Superintendent Jack Hester, headed a 6 1/2-month project to bring Island Dunes back to what Lee had in mind 35 years ago, TCPalm.com reported.
From the start, it was a controversial project. “At our first club meeting, we had two sheriffs on hand … with guns” Kirkland told TCPalm.com
But Kirkland and Gordon were steadfast in their belief that the $850,000 cost was a good investment for the club’s 500-plus members, who live a few blocks away on the ocean. “We put our lives on it,” Kirkland said.
To stay under budget, Kirkland reached out to Bowers, who trained under legendary course designer Robert Trent Jones Sr. Bowers had worked on a similar project with Hall of Famer Raymond Floyd at the Palm Beach Par 3 municipal course, TCPalm.com reported.
Bowers became the project contractor to help cut costs and, more importantly, to use his 30 years of experience to cut the proper corners on the golf course that consists of five par-3s and four par-4s, TC Palm.com reported.
“Working with Robert Trent Jones Sr. helped a lot on this project because Joe Lee was in the same era,” Bowers said. “They were more into parkland-style golf. Not tricked up. They wanted the golfer to see the hole and think about it and how to attack it.”
The problem for Bowers was there was no design papers by Lee to use as a resource, TCPalm.com reported. “They were all lost in the 2004 hurricanes,” Gordon said. “We didn’t have anything.”
The renovation team relied on one of the few things on a golf course that can’t be swept away by Mother Nature: sprinkler heads, TCPalm.com reported. The heads provided a blueprint from where the original greens used to be, and Bowers connected the dots.
At the request of Kirkland, Bowers also read golf writer Ron Whitten’s book on “Gentleman Joe Lee,” TCPalm.com reported. “It helped me develop a theme for how Joe built his courses,” Bowers said. “We made a few changes like with the bunkers. Most bunkers in South Florida are too steep and too deep; they lead to slow play and they are costly to maintain.”
One of the biggest benefits of the project was the addition of five clear teeing areas that will help make the course playable for all skills and ages, TCPalm.com reported.