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Bobby Jones committee recommends $14.5 million in upgrades

At a special meeting of the City Commission, the Bobby Jones Golf Club Study Committee will lay out its suggestions for improving the municipal golf facility

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  • | 3:35 p.m. December 14, 2015
The commission will discuss how to proceed with a potential master planning effort for Bobby Jones.
The commission will discuss how to proceed with a potential master planning effort for Bobby Jones.
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For the past 10 months, a group of Sarasota County residents have been tasked with developing a series of recommendations to ensure the future vitality of the city-owned Bobby Jones Golf Club.

Today, that committee will present its final findings to the City Commission. The group is recommending a master planning effort to reconstruct the courses, replace and improve drainage and irrigation, build a new clubhouse and create a player development center, among other suggestions.

In total, the estimated budget for the recommended capital improvements is $14.5 million. The group suggests taking out a $11.5 million bond to help fund the effort.

The commission created the Bobby Jones Golf Club Study Committee in 2014. The board expressed a desire to revitalize the 45-hole facility, which has seen its use decline as its infrastructure ages. Commissioners wanted to increase revenue while maintaining the course as a public facility targeted at all Sarasota residents.

This summer, Vice Mayor Suzanne Atwell said she believed the course should ultimately be fiscally self-sustaining — or else the city should consider bringing in a private vendor.

Members of the study committee quickly agreed on several points, including the need for updated irrigation and drainage. One more contentious point was tied to the history of the facility: The board was split regarding a proposal to restore the club's original 1925 18-hole course design, created by noted golf architect Donald Ross.

Ultimately, the study committee compromised. The group is recommending no changes to the footprints of the 18-hole British and American courses. The committee does suggest rebuilding the back nine of each course — which comprise the original 18-hole design — with “an eye to capturing the spirit of Donald Ross,” according to a summary of the recommendations.

The major expense, according to the group’s research, will be renovating the courses themselves. The improvements to the American and British courses will cost about $3.75 million each, the committee says. Other forecasted expenses include $3.5 million for the clubhouse and $1.5 million for the player development center.

In addition to the bond, the group suggests money for the project could come from the county penny sales tax and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Even more funding could be acquired by selling the naming rights of the course. 

The committee's recommendations for improving Bobby Jones Golf Club can be found on the city website.


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