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Four golf courses prepare to reopen after big upgrades


The “Summer of Re-grass,” as Windsor Head Golf Pro Zac Courtenay called it, has come to a close.

Four barrier island clubs that shut down their golf courses, three on the island and one on the mainland, for various re-grassing and other renovations this past summer are preparing to reopen them in the coming weeks.

Quail Valley, which is located northwest of Vero Beach and has a tennis/social campus on the island, was scheduled to reopen its course today (Oct. 1).

“It’s a little unusual for a small town like Vero Beach to have four courses closed at the same time,” said Robert Tench, general manager at Orchid Island, which, along with island neighbors Riomar and Windsor, is putting the finishing touches on its renovation project.

“Fortunately for us, about 85 percent of our members go away for the summer, so it’s not much of an imposition,” he added. “For the members who stayed, we had reciprocal agreements with Hawk’s Nest, Bent Pine and Indian River Club.”

Tench said the fairways were resurfaced with Celebration Bermuda grass, the driving range and tee boxes were resurfaced with paspalum grass, and new sand was put in the bunkers. In addition, some bunkers were removed and approaches to the greens were widened.

“It wasn’t a redesign,” Tench said. “We just enhanced some of the holes to make them more member-friendly and more fun for higher-handicap golfers. The integrity of the golf course remains intact for the good golfer.”

The Orchid Island course is scheduled to reopen Oct. 13.

The courses at Windsor and Riomar are scheduled to reopen Nov. 1. Riomar, in fact, is planning a “Grand Reopening” to celebrate the most significant upgrades to Vero Beach’s oldest golf course since the back nine was added in 1963.

“Our members are going to be pleasantly surprised with how good it looks, especially with the lake we added on 18,” Riomar General Manager Mark Badertscher said. “But the biggest improvement might be the drainage on the back nine. Standing water should no longer be a problem.”

Riomar’s stand-alone course was born in 1919, the same year the city of Vero was incorporated and six years before the Florida Senate approved the creation of Indian River County. The nine-hole layout was built along the oceanfront before electricity was available on the island and before the construction of a bridge to the mainland.

After the back nine was added 52 years ago, a driving range was built in 1988 and the greens were resurfaced in 1999. The layout has more tees and greens on the ocean than any course in the state.

The latest makeover included:

• Removing and replacing all of the existing grass on the property, retaining the TifEagle greens – rebuilt to U.S. Golf Association specifications – but switching to Celebration Bermuda for the rest of the course.

• Reconstructing all tee boxes, bunkers and greens. Additional forward tees were built on every hole, reducing the course’s minimum length from 5,200 to 4,500 yards. Some tees and greens were relocated to slightly lengthen holes where possible and provide better pin placements.

• The back-nine fairways, which were relatively flat, were raised an average of one foot to allow for the creation of swales, making use of the natural rolls of the property. The elevations were designed to help with drainage.

• A pond was added along the east side of the 18th hole, replacing a large area of rough.

• Tee boxes and greens on the front nine were elevated to provide better views of the ocean.

“Everything went smoothly and we’re very happy with the results,” Badertscher said of the project, which was expected to cost between $2 million and $3 million.

The renovations at Quail Valley included changing the fairway grass from Tifway 419 Bermuda to Celebration Bermuda and installing new TifEagle grass on the greens.

According to General Manager Kevin Given, the club planned the resurfacing projects for next year but moved them up after learning that course architect Tommy Fazio and his crew would be in Vero Beach to do the Riomar renovations.

“While he was here, we had Tommy make 15 to 20 very minor design changes – adding and eliminating bunkers, and re-contouring some greens.

“Some holes were softened up a bit, some were made more challenging,” Given added. “We also secured lake banks, improved drainage and put new sand in about 70 percent of the bunkers.”

The most noticeable change, Given said, was to the par-4 18th hole, where a false front was “softened” to make it more difficult for approach shots that hit the two-tier green to roll back onto the fairway.

“It was more a matter of addressing a fairness issue,” he said.

The renovations at Windsor, where the bunkers were restored two years ago, were merely a matter of re-grassing the tees, fairways and greens. The design remained the same.