By Alan Prescott
January 12, 2021

Rebuilt Tee on South 9 – File Photo

The other day, I was sent an article about your struggling Fernandina Beach Golf Course. If it wasn’t for Covid-19, I would have flown or driven down to meet  and discussed the ramifications of the lack of action of those who are the decision-makers at the facility.

Let me preface my remarks with some credentials. I am 72 years old and a former touring golf professional, golf course superintendent and golf course consultant, master golf club-maker for over 40 years, and have worked in the business since the tender age of 13, when I began my work in the golf business as a caddie and a club cleaner at a local golf course.

I was immediately hooked. But, starting at the bottom of the golf food chain didn’t bother me. In fact, I couldn’t get enough of golf or the golf business. During my “lifetime apprenticeship” in the golf business, I have learned and continue to learn and grow through the changes in the golf business and I have learned that, for each thing that you learn and benefit from, you must give back so as to propagate the continuation of this sport.

And, this continuance nurtures the soul of the sport. Today, it is a shame that those, who have been in the golf business as professionals, have lacked in one way, shape, or form to give enough to preserve this magnificent sport and its integrity that was intended by its founders. I will provide you, in several journalistic contributions, with several aspects of the golf business that people need to understand to preserve golf and benefit both those who work in it and those who enjoy it.

So, let’s get started with the subject of golf courses. It is apparent that golf courses began with roughly maintained “courses”, perhaps in someone’s backyard. Through time, these golf courses developed from rough-cut areas on an aristocrat’s property to those modern courses that we are familiar with today. Golf has had several different “hay days” for sure. However, in working backwards because there is a new sense of urgency on today’s golf landscape, I will discuss the decline of golf courses first.

Certainly, this decline should be an urgent matter to ALL golf course owners, both private and municipal. For those golf course owners who built there courses with the golf explosion created by Arnold Palmer in 1958, many golf course owners have noticed that their courses revenues have decreased as big corporations opened huge, all-encompassing facilities in their backyards. These larger facilities brought with higher daily fees for golfers, as well as, extra fees for other amenities other than golf. But, for those who just had a $20 bill to spend on a weekend round of golf, it caused a polarization in the average golfer’s ability to play the sport.

But, who is the “average golfer”? He or she is a person who plays, perhaps, 9-holes in a club or golf league and one 18-hole round on the weekend. He or she may take at least one golf vacation during a calendar year. And, again, that vacation to a golf location may be to one of those corporate golf complexes or resorts that have a certain challenge or ambiance that is not available in their home location or area. This brings me to my main discussion today.

Ask yourself, how does that golf course that you played on your annual golf vacation compare in condition to your home golf course? Is the condition the same at home or at your vacation location? EXACTLY RIGHT!! Your home track (golf course) is in need of a lot of help. That vacation course, even though it played a lot worse, was in perfect condition. Your inability to play as well was not the deciding factor in your positive experience. IT WAS THE OVERALL CONDITION OF THAT GOLF COURSE THAT WAS IN IMMACULATE CONDITION.

Getting back to the Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course; has its condition improved, stayed about the same, or declined to the point that, even if you hit the perfect shot on a particular hole or number of holes, you are severely penalized by the condition. So, what is the result of this misfortune? It’s less play, going to another course to spend your money, or you don’t play much at all.

Without getting too technical, to maintain a golf course is expensive. But, to succeed at your golf club, you have to do certain things. For example, golf greens need air to breathe. You have to verticut 2-3 times a year. You need to top dress several times per year. You need to aerate 2-3 times a year. You need to water almost daily, depending on rainfall amounts. You need to treat for insects and diseases with BOTH contact materials as well as systemic materials. YOU NEED TO CUT BACK OR CUT DOWN TREES TO ALLOW ENOUGH SUNLIGHT AND AIR FOR GREENS TO BREATHE or, in addition, your grass will die, even if it is a shade mix.

For those who own golf courses, especially municipalities that own their own golf courses, I have a question. “Why would you destroy your golf course for lack of maintenance and, subsequently, decrease your revenue to lose profit dollars that can go into the general fund to benefit the overall financial health of your community? Just think of the possibilities that simple maintenance and increased revenue will do for you. Think about it seriously, TODAY!!

I am, for your benefit, Alan Prescott. Email me at

Editor’s Note: Alan Prescott reached out to us after reading a recent article on the Fernandina Beach Golf Course. His next article will focus on the difference between private owners and municipal owners and how to succeed and be profitable running both venues. We thank Alan for his contribution to the Fernandina Observer.

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Ken Cornish
Ken Cornish
1 year ago

Awesome insight!

Margaret Kirkland, Amelia Tree Conservancy

This individual obviously has little or no understanding of the environment in which we live on this barrier island and perhaps little understanding of the problems of the golf industry at this point in time. Hardly worth a response. There is a course in St. Johns Co. that is folding because no one will play there because they have no trees.

1 year ago

Margaret, unlike airports, trees do have a place on a golf course, especially on flat FL golf courses where trees, bunkers and water hazards are the only elements (other than length) that control the difficulty of the course. That being said, trees are also negatives around golf courses if they generate too much shade on greens and fairways. What is the basis for your claim about the St. John’s County course? I have played on desert courses in the SW that have no trees (other than some cactus here and there) that are quite challenging. One of the most challenging golf courses in the U.S. is Pebble Beach and if you look at an aerial view of the course, you will see that it has very few trees relative to the homesites on the Monterrey Peninsula. While the golf industry did suffer through the Great Recession and like housing was in an over supply status, overall it has stabilized. I believe in their report to the City Commission, Indigo indicated that golf rounds on the city course had actually increased before the COVID shutdown. Your dismissal of someone that has great experience is the industry just because they take an opposing view demonstrates to me an unwillingness to gather diverse views from credentialed experts.

Ernest Stines
Ernest Stines
1 year ago

Repair it, fix it, or build it and they shall come!!!

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