Sustainability Crucial With Bobby Jones Future

On City


I love Bobby Jones Golf Club. I loved it playing high school golf. I loved playing one of the most important Florida amateur events, the city championship, and I loved playing there in Saturday games with some truly talented players. I also loved serving on the Bobby Jones Advisory Board before I was on the City Commission. I love the place and let me be clear, I am not in favor of the community relinquishing even a square foot of the more than 300 acres. I want folks to play golf on that property ‘til the end of time. So, I want it to be sustainable. That is my whole concern, sustainability.

Borrowing $20,000,000 for a municipal golf course without the required significant attention to sustainability is very concerning. The city’s own consultant predicts a loss of over $1,000,000 in the first year after reinvestment, with annual losses in excess of $800,000 to continue for years. This follows losses already absorbed for a decade. So how does the current plan solve the problems?

It’s time to rethink the entire plan for BJGC. Here is the good news: this is a wonderful opportunity for the community to engage in a true sustainability project. It’s not just about having financially sustainable golf. The Bobby Jones property is critical to the area’s flood control and our water quality, the ultimate sustainability issue for our community.  

In short, this should be a Stormwater / Water Quality project first and recreational project second, with the potential to serve recreational pursuits in addition to golf. More good news is thatfinancial resources for water quality projects are readily available from multiple sources. To do this the golf footprint must be scaled down – substantially. This project should include an excellent eighteen-hole course, practice facility and modest clubhouse. The remaining property should be developed into a smaller and even better version of the Celery Fields. Both parts should include Not for Profit partnerships and tenants. We did it once, we can do it again. That is the affordable plan for a sustainable future.

We’ve touched on the future, now let’s touch on the past. Bobby Jones Golf Club has an amazingly rich history. The original eighteen holes were designed by the legendary Donald Ross in 1925 and Bobby Jones himself dedicated the course in 1927. In ’26, Sarasota gave Jones a Pierce-Arrow and a party at the Mira Mar Hotel on Palm Avenue - I really love that little factoid.

Over many years the facility has expanded to forty-five holes; quite large for municipal golf in a city of our size. However,rounds of golf have gone down steadily and while Bobby Jones most definitely needs attention there is simply no need for a facility of that scale.

Even more good news! The authentically restored historic masterwork, The Donald Ross Course at Bobby Jones Golf Club, can draw additional public and private funding and is all the golf and every bit the brand and the story we need.

Photo courtesy Bobby Jones Golf Club.

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