REES JONES COMES HOME TO RENOVATE CORAL RIDGE COUNTRY CLUB
Fort Lauderdale, FL–When the decision was made to restore the original 18-hole golf course, there was only one man for the job–Rees Jones. Rees Jones has renovated and restored a number of his legendary father’s golf courses, but no course restoration hits closer to home than Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The 18-hole championship course originally built in 1954 by his father and famed golf course architect, Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The course reopens this December with new greens, updated irrigation and improved drainage. However, the same design, playability and challenge will remain as a tribute to the man whose vision was carved into the community. Like the club itself, a family legacy lives on.
Aiming to be as authentic as possible in the restoration, changes were not made to the original design, staying true to the layout while solving some course issues. Rees stated, “My goal was to enhance and restore, not replace the masterful green contours and approach shot challenges. Today’s construction techniques allowed me to improve irrigation and ‘lift up’ fairways and green complexes to improve drainage.” Bunkers were updated, retention areas were added, and all updates followed modern standards and technologies for irrigation, drainage and greens construction. Golf course design is a “dance of science” that incorporates masterful sculpting and carving of nature, in addition to agronomy, civil engineering, construction and technology.
“This is not a typical Florida course,” said Coral Ridge Country Club General Manager JJ Sehlke, also a partner in the club’s ownership group. “Mr. Jones called it an ‘easy bogey and hard par.’ It’s not extremely difficult, but it’s fun. We have members who play 250 or 300 times per year and we think having a higher quality course will make a difference in attracting new members.”
The renovation work includes the addition of 35,659 feet of underground drainage pipe to efficiently move water to catch basins that will empty into retention areas creating dryer fairways more quickly.
The design concept of aircraft carrier tee boxes were restored to Jones’ signature runway style. Building additional tees allows more opportunities for different levels of players and lengthens some holes to play longer. Tees on the par-3 holes were enlarged due to wear and tear during the high season.
Given the athletic ability of golfers today and the advanced technology of golf equipment, it was essential to update and change the position of some of the bunkers. Many greens had shrunk from the encroachment of collar grasses, and bunkers had lost their original size and impact on play. The improvements restore the classic shapes intended by creating more manicured and sculpted edges and help keep the sand white and clean resulting in 94 bunkers on the course.
The course, which has been played by the likes of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, encompasses Champion Ultradwarf Bermudagrass on its greens; Celebration Bermudagrass on its fairways; and TifGrand Bermudagrass on the tee boxes and collars. In totality – there are three shades of green.
Sitting on only 120 acres, the renovated course will play from 4,700 yards to more than 7,300 yards. Wall-to-wall concrete cart paths, mirroring those on the Club’s Rees 9 Par-3 course, enhance travel to and from holes, eliminate damage to the turf edges, and reduce maintenance allowing players to get on the course quicker after a rain event.
The new irrigation system incorporates 1,287 heads with approximately 29 miles of irrigation pipe. Benefits of new sprinkler technology include precise control of the coverage and amount of water and also allow the club to conserve water and become better environmental stewards. Ultimately, the new course delivers 102,610 square feet of consistent, high-quality playing conditions that will regain normal playability quickly after a rainfall.
The storied Jones’ history of the Coral Ridge Country club starts in 1954 when the course was originally designed and built by Robert Trent Jones. Since its opening on February 3, 1955, Coral Ridge Golf Course has been a community landmark. Built on the original site of the defunct 1920’s Floranada course (a combination of Florida and Canada). The land had languished until Jones and members of the Coral Ridge Golf Course, Inc. saw the “ghost course” and pursued the lease of the land to construct the championship 18-hole course, clubhouse and the adjacent American Golfers Club. Ten years later, Robert Trent Jones purchased the course he built “the way he always wanted to build one” and the surrounding acreage including the old American for $1 million. He, his wife, Ione, and sons, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and Rees Jones, made Coral Ridge their home course and club-overseeing and managing it with pride and hospitality. And, it’s where he established the quintessential South Florida country club, complete with golf, a pool, tennis courts and a membership deeply rooted in the growing Fort Lauderdale community.
Rees Jones was born into the game of golf and spent much of his youth at Coral Ridge, traveling with his family to golf courses all over the world, and in the summers, worked for his father. Rees Jones never lost touch with Coral Ridge. He created the nine-hole, par three course from the American Golfers Club his father built adjacent to the main club. The Jones Family controlled the club until 2004, when Rees and his brother Robert, Jr., sold the club to a partnership group led by Fort Lauderdale businessman and philanthropist Phil Smith. Smith died of ALS in December 2016, so in effect, the golf course restoration is a tribute to the legacies of him and Robert Trent Jones.
Rees said, “My restoration of Coral Ridge allowed me to make my Dad look good again.” All tongue-in-cheek, of course, because Jones doesn’t need help in looking good. In a career that spanned nearly 70 years, Jones designed and/or redesigned more than 500 courses, including Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta; Spyglass Hill at Pebble Beach; Gold Course at Colonial Williamsburg and The Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama. “The sun,” he liked to say, “never sets on a Robert Trent Jones course.’’
Coral Ridge Country Club is located at 3801 Bayview Drive, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. To learn more about membership opportunities, please contact us at 954-449-4413