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Golf legend hopes to design a masterpiece at Soleta Golf Club course

Nick Price, a three-time Major winner, expects Myakka to become a golf destination when Soleta opens late in 2024.

An aerial shot shows the "bones" of the future Soleta Golf Club course in Myakka.
An aerial shot shows the "bones" of the future Soleta Golf Club course in Myakka.
Courtesy image
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For much of his professional golf career, Hall-of-Famer Nick Price was a force on "moving day."

"Moving day" was a term used to describe the third round of a four-round tournament, when the sport's top athletes would raise their game a notch, moving themselves into contention for a run at the title in the final round.

Now 67, Price no longer plays competitive golf, but every day he spends in Myakka is, indeed, moving day.

Price is the chief architect for the Soleta Golf Club course which is part of what developers aspire to be one of the nation's most elite golf facilities, combining the 7,400-yard course (from the tips) with David Ledbetter's 30-acre practice facility. Developers David Turner and Charles Duff lead a group that also is planning 93 luxury homes and all the amenities that go along with it.

The "moving day" part for Price these days has to do with dirt.

On an unusually windy, mid-February day, Price was walking his layout, looking at possibilities to give the course "nuances" that will entertain any level of golfer after it opens late this year. His competitive spirit continues to burn bright, which is reflected in him refusing to retreat to a makeshift construction office to get out of the heavy wind to do an interview. It was the kind of day when bandanas were needed so you don't swallow the blowing dirt.

"This is a good day to talk," Price said with a smile, noting that it's hard to get actual work done with the wind whipping so hard. 

All about the bones

Lacking any landscaping at this point, the course has a barren look which makes it hard to imagine the eventual beauty which will be in place in just eight to 10 months. By that time, Price said more than 1 million cubic yards of dirt will have been moved. He is molding the land like a potter would mold the perfect vase.

All along the course are huge piles of sand, dug from areas that eventually will be retention ponds/lakes. The sand is just awaiting its assigned area. In fact, no dirt has been brought to the course from outside the 500-acre Soleta parcel. It's just being shifted around. But the look, right now, is bleak.

Nick Price and his associate, Dean Bedwell, talk about the nuances of one of their greens.
Photo by Jay Heater

Price would disagree, though, saying it was quite beautiful to him that he could see the contour of the land, or the "bones" as he called it. To understand his architect's mind, consider that Price won The Open championship in 1994 at Turnberry in Scotland, where links golf is king. 

"Golf is a game in the air, and on the ground," Price said of his philosophy when designing a course. "It should be about the ability to run the ball, and not be all about carry. There should be a little mix. We've forgotten."

With the Soleta ground barren, Price can get a good indication of whether a low iron shot that hits in front of a green is going to skip to the left or the right. He can picture slopes that can pull a shot into a hazard or a bunker.

Duff, who lives in Lakewood Ranch, is impressed by Price's ability to picture in his mind what golfers of all levels will be facing as they play each hole. Golf legend Bobby Jones once said about Jack Nicklaus after the Golden Bear won the 1965 Masters, "Nicklaus played a game of which I am not familiar."

While most people could say that about Price, who won 18 PGA Tour events, had 48 professional wins, and was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1994, he concentrates on being familiar with the game of the average Joe, who carries an 18 handicap. The talent in designing a golf course that will attract people from around the world is to make sure high handicap golfers will not be overwhelmed and can enjoy their day, while presenting significant challenges for scratch golfers, or even pros.

"He has that ability that he can see a shot for everyone," Duff said "And most of the golfers here will be mid- to high-handicappers."

Nick Price might not operate heavy equipment as he designs the Soleta Golf Club course, but he doesn't mind getting his hands dirty.
Photo by Jay Heate

"I can't build a golf course here for the pros," Price said. "That's not us. We are not building an Open course. We want people to enjoy playing this course, it's is going to be striking. The idea is to offer a challenge, and to not beat people up."

He noted that the best golfers still will be challenged.

"You can do that with angles," he said. "With the shape of the green, the difficulty of the shot going in (to the green)."

Price was asked if it is hard to envision what a high-handicap golfer will do on specific shots.

Course for all levels

"I played with four amateurs every Wednesday," he said, noting that many pro tournaments host pro-ams before the tourneys. "I know."

And he also noted that this will be the 27th course he has designed or helped design. Born in South Africa and growing up in Zimbabwe, Price has designed courses in South Africa, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Ireland, the People's Republic of China and the U.S., among others

Duff and Turner were drawn to him after visiting the McArthur Golf Club, which Price designed in his now home of Hobe Sound on Florida's east coast with famed architect Tom Fazio.

"Every course is unique and I've learned a lot of things over the years that I can apply here," Price said. "This is the biggest budget I have ever been given for a course."

He said having the funds to move dirt and enhance the drainage system has made all the difference.

"We have 6 to 17 feet of elevation change," he said. "This is not dead flat fairways, and then you push up greens. Those days are gone. We are giving the golfers something they are not used to seeing."

It is all being done on deadline.

"Overall, from a timing perspective, everything is going well," Duff said. "There have been no big surprises."

Price gets out in front of the little surprises, and Duff said that is what makes him special. As an example, Price designed the No. 5 tee shot over a hazard that would offer golfers quite the challenge in order to hit the fairway. However, upon walking the course, Price noted that the No. 5 fairway sloped toward another hazard. So a golfer could hit the perfect tee shot, and still be penalized. The slope of the fairway was redesigned.

"It's all definitely important to him," Duff said. "He's got a great passion, and everyone loves him. We never had a doubt about him from the initial concept design. We wanted a hands-on guy, and he is just that. Somebody from his team is here every day."

"Nick wants this course to be known as one of the top private courses in America. We have high expectations."



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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