One Man’s Successful Bid to Save a Golf Course

I recently had the opportunity to visit an ongoing golf course project in Lakeland, Florida. What once was the Sandpiper Golf & Country Club, an 18 hole course designed originally by Steve Smyers that had seen better days and was getting worse by the minute, so much so that my golf group vowed never to return. I heard the new owner, Dave Tavlin, was making remarkable improvements to the property including changing the name and saving it from closing its doors and leaving members and residents of the Sandpiper active-adult community with a pasture even cows wouldn’t like.

I had to check it out for myself before telling my fellow golfers and our readers that it is ok to go play. Well, let me tell you- you are in for a real treat. The Links of Sandpiper is still set on the same piece of land, but the similarity stops there. The lush fairways and new design by Tavlin are outstanding. He reimagined the course to his own liking. Last year he closed part of the course and had a new irrigation system and deep well put in to maintain the new 200,000 square feet of sod laid throughout the outward holes. I could go hole by hole but suffice it to say, it ain’t the same old thing. When you now step on a tee you see nothing but green. When you get to the green you have new firm, still tiny, Champion Bermuda greens growing in very nicely. Bunkers actually have sand in them. The course always had a personality about it, but now you play with a broad smile enjoying your round of golf on a damn good track. Hooray!

Dave Tavlin is the President of Crossroads Construction of Central Florida Inc., which has been in business for 25 years. Over the years the successful Crossroads Construction has completed over 1,500 projects for both public and private concerns including large jobs for the universities in Florida. Dave bought the course for just over a million dollars and expects to invest another $2 million before he is done. The property included enough extra land to build some 40 homes that would help defer some of the costs involved with the revitalization of the golf club. He completely redid the clubhouse, moving the pro shop to allow for more area in the larger sports bar, gutting the entire interior and starting from scratch. New, much needed, men’s and ladies’ locker rooms and bathroom facilities were added. We had lunch in the brand-spanking-new dining room complete with a fireplace and leather chairs as its centerpiece. The outdoor dining space behind the clubhouse is about to open next month.

After lunch we joined some friends and played the course. Dave has a penchant for water features and they are sprinkled throughout the course. The most notable is the brambling brook on the short par 4 #11th. It begins in a small pond on the right of the green and meanders down hill over a rock creek, past the green, under a bridge and then into a larger pond adjacent to the 12th tee. Unfortunately for the designer he hit his second shot into it. Is that justice for you or what? After the snow-birds return home this spring, Dave will start work on the back nine at the end of April with new fertigation and turf, rerouting and making it a bit more player friendly. He has already put in a practice putting surface after the par 3, 15th with lighting for members to come out and have a fun challenge game in the evening.

Outside the clubhouse there is a five station warm up area complete with tables and chairs to enjoy a libation while working on your game. Out front across the cart path from the main entrance to the clubhouse is a practice putting surface with a practice bunker with sand to tweak the scoring part of golf. The Links of Sandpiper is a par 72 challenge with four sets of tees stretching out to almost 6100 yards from the tips to a fun 4500+ yards from the forwards, making it playable for everyone. Don’t let the yardage fool you, you will use all of your clubs to harness this horse. The elevation changes throughout the Links give players different looks and a diverse selection of holes. You won’t get bored.

Dave Tavlin has a new very attractive membership program at the Links of Sandpiper. To learn more give the clubhouse a call at 863-859-5461 or contact [email protected] With the new clubhouse facilities weddings, meetings and events can be booked at a new facility in Lakeland. Check it out at 6001 Sandpiper Drive. To get there take exit 33 off of I-4 and go north on Socrum Loop Rd. for about one mile and the Links will be on the right.

Go to LinksofSandpiper.com to check out the photo gallery and for more information.