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Bobby Jones improvements could expand practice space

During the Bobby Jones Golf Club master planning process, a golf architect has located space to build a larger training facility.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. April 6, 2017
  • Sarasota
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The driving range at Bobby Jones Golf Club is so short that staff encourages some golfers not to use their driver.

It’s not even technically called a driving range — it’s a “practice range,” Bobby Jones General Manager Sue Martin said.

The practice facilities at the city-owned golf course have been a target of criticism. Even City Manager Tom Barwin was surprised by the conditions when he visited the range with his sons.

“I thought one of them was going to hit me with their stick,” Barwin said.

As the city works with a master planner to develop a new vision for Bobby Jones, improving and expanding the practice options has become a priority. On Tuesday, golf architect Richard Mandell presented an update on that master planning process at a City Commission workshop.

Richard Mandell is finalizing a master plan for the entirety of the city-owned golf facility.
Richard Mandell is finalizing a master plan for the entirety of the city-owned golf facility.

Mandell has honed in on the nine-hole Gillespie Executive Course, the one segment located west of Circus Boulevard, as a location for training facilities. He presented three options for reshaping that segment of the property. All three options include a larger driving range — 270 yards long instead of 235 — putting and chipping greens, and a short nine-hole course.

The three options mainly differ in the scope of that course:

  • Option 1 would create a standard par-3 course.
  • Option 2 would create a shorter pitch-and-putt course.
  • Option 3 would create an adjustable par-3 course.

The adjustable course would allow staff to create different configurations for the course on different days. Mandell said this type of adjustable course is not unheard of in golf design, but he hasn’t heard of a facility like Bobby Jones using the concept.

“It’s not often utilized,” Mandell said. “I have no idea why that is.”

He said the idea would help Bobby Jones stand out as it competes for customers with other local golf facilities. Members of the City Commission — although professed non-golfers — were excited by the potential marketability of the adjustable practice course.

“I don’t play a lot of golf, but if I did, it would be appealing to me,” Commissioner Liz Alpert said.

Mandell said the adjustable course would come with more maintenance, because there would be more fairway space. 

The planning process for Bobby Jones is still ongoing. The city approved a $115,000 contract with Mandell in January, with a deadline to complete a plan by May.


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