Fernandina Beach Golf Course – Good news for golfers!

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Number 8 South
Before and after

Submitted by Eric Bartelt

On July 16th, The City Commission held a workshop to review efforts to improve the condition of the Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course. Tom Shave, who headed up a citizen committee looking into the deteriorating condition of the course, made his committee’s final report to the Commission.  In his presentation, Mr. Shave described considerable improvement to the course since late April, along with areas that needed further work. His committee rated various aspects of the course, such as Greens, Fairways, Roughs, Bunkers, Tees, Irrigation, and Course Marking on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a superior course (like Augusta National or Pebble Beach) On April 24th, the committee gave the course an overall rating of 4.1. By June 24th, the course had improved overall, earning a rating of 5.2.

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Tommy Shave

During his comments to the  Commission, Mr. Shave said he thought it was possible the course could reach a 7.0 rating by early next year. He suggested that if the Fernandina Beach Golf Course could get to a 7.0 – 7.5 rating, that that would be a “great job done.” He said the course will never get to a 10.0 because “our grasses are getting old, we’ve got a lot of shade problems, we’ve got root intrusions.” In his view, the course was once one of the top courses in northeast Florida, and that with proper, ongoing attention it can be a course the City can be proud of.

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Doug Bailey

Following Mr. Shave’s presentation, Doug Bailey, Chair of the Golf Course Advisory Board, made a PowerPoint presentation to the Commission that showed photos of the condition of the course in March and April of this year, and then also in June. His photos reinforced the Shave committee’s conclusion that considerable improvement had been made to the course. He also provided insight into how course deterioration can sometimes be difficult to control, such as unknowingly using a bad batch of seeds, or chemicals applied to sod before delivery, that when combined with the golf course’s chemicals, kills the sod. He also identified some equipment deficiencies that make it more difficult to maintain the course.

Mr. Bailey then outlined the golf course’s past and upcoming events. On June 18th the Freedom Cup was held, during which three Naval bases competing against each other. On Thursday, July 25th a Grand Re-Opening Event will be held to encourage golfers who haven’t been playing to come back and play the City course. Members and Juniors can play for free and there will be reduced rates for the public and military. There will be free food, demonstrations, staff members on the course to talk about changes to the course, competitions with prizes, and evening happy hour and entertainment. And, on August 2nd and 3rd will be a Long Drive Competition.

Mr. Bailey also told the Commissioners about a survey the Golf Course Advisory Board had sent out to 1400 recipients. The survey describes several fund raising options, including selling the unused golf course property on the west side of the course, along 14th St. He said that so far 80% of the survey respondents approved selling that land.

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Editor’s Note:  Eric Bartelt retired as a corporate design consultant and moved  to Fernandina Beach in 2004.  His previously lived in Wisconsin.  Since Eric’s arrival in Fernandina Beach, he spends his time volunteering, and playing soccer.  We thank Eric for his contribution to the Fernandina Observer.

July 18, 2013 2:38 p.m.

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3 Responses to Fernandina Beach Golf Course – Good news for golfers!

  1. Tom Roberts says:

    I am a member of the Citizens committee that rated the golf course improvement by Casper Golf. Tommy Shave was accurate when he said the course was improved and the Advisory Board was somewhat accurate. My concern is that the Commission seemed to think everything was okay now and it is not. We are still not a competitive golf course (in terms of condition)with others in the area and we have lost many members. Membership renewal is coming up and my fear is we are going to lose more members.
    Many golf courses are struggling financially as is ours. If you are “behind” in course maintenance you we need to do more than just show, in my view, moderate improvement in a very competitive golf environment. Casper Golf and the City have to step up the effort.

    • Maury Foreman says:

      I play the city course 2-3 times per week. There has been considerable improvement since the public started complaining to the city. My major concern is what will happen to the course condition once the bermuda grass goes dormant this fall.

      This course could be a huge money maker for the city if a little was invested now.

  2. Anonymous City Resident says:

    Questions for the City Commission to consider…

    # 1 – Why did the course conditions get so bad? Was it lack of money/resources or lack of attention, or both?
    #2 – Why did it take almost three years into a five year contract for Billy Casper Golf to address issues that were identified during the RFP process?
    #3 – Does Billy Casper Golf care whether or not Fernandina Beach Golf Club succeeds or fails? (probably not as long as they are getting their management fees)

    When does a Golf Course Management company get too large? It is great to have 140 golf courses, but if proper attention is not given to “all” the courses then the result is exactly what is occurring here at Fernandina Beach Golf Club. If Billy Casper Golf is the “best management company in the golf business” why did they let the course conditions deteriorate so low to receive a 4.1 rating by local golfers? I am willing to bet that no one in the Billy Casper organization cared about our golf course until their backs were against the wall and threatened by the City Commission to get the course back to playable condition. Unfortunately their lack of attention to our golf course has left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. This is evident in the lack of play and participation in the golf course events and tournaments. The only way our golf course is going to survive and compete with the likes of Amelia River and North Hampton is if local funding is raised and matched with a significant City investment. Unfortunately we cannot expect any investment from Billy Casper Golf. It is obvious at this point that the Fernandina Beach Golf Club is not high on their priority list. That was evident in their lack of sponsorship or participation in the USO Benefit Golf Tournament and the Country Rocks the Beach Concert. This would have been a good time to show support for the City and the Golf Course, but they did not give dime of support towards these events.

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