2021 Renovations of the Year Winners: Public Courses

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series. The Private Club winners were announced previously. Winners were selected and featured in the Summer issue of Golf Inc. magazine.
  • San Vicente hole 8 after renovation

San Vicente Golf Resort in Ramona, Calif., is the Public Course winner. The goal of its renovation was to create a unique and interesting design that improved playability and sustainability.

In the Public Course category, The Refuge in Flowood, Miss., was second and The Yards in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., was third.

Judging for all Renovation of the Year entries was based on achievement of goals, improved playability, maintainability and course aesthetics. Winners were chosen through blind judging.

First Place

San Vicente Golf Resort

Ramona, Calif.

Owner: San Diego Country Estates Association

Architect: Staples Golf Design

Contractor: Heritage Links

Cost: $2.9 million

San Vicente Golf Resort celebrated the grand opening of its newly renovated course in May, nearly 50 years after its original opening in 1973. For the first time in its history, San Diego Country Estates Association took significant steps to fix green consistency, turf quality, drainage and overall agronomic health of the entire golf facility.

“In 2019, we hired one of the best architects in the United States, Andy Staples,” said Mario Trejo, general manager of San Vicente Golf Resort. “His vision and passion for doing things right are very impressive.”

The nine-month renovation of the track, described as an inland links style course, focused on reconstruction of 19 putting greens, 56 new and updated sand bunkers, re-grassing and a set of family friendly scoring tees on each hole. Some trees were removed to improve air circulation and increase sunlight.

Owners say they now have the ability to market the course to a wider audience, which in turn will result in increased revenue. 

What the judges said:

“A fantastic realization of the overall vision for the project. The effort to increase sustainability and reduce their environmental footprint was successfully implemented, while also creating a stunning visual enhancement to the course.”  — Jerame Miller 

“Wonderful to see a project achieve all the goals of improved infrastructure and ease of maintenance but still deliver on the aesthetic appeal and strategic interest. It has the feel of golden age Thomas or Mackenzie in 1930s California.” — Matthew Dusenberry 

“Improvements to infrastructure, playability and aesthetics are impressive.”  — Martin Elgison 

Second Place

The Refuge

Flowood, Miss.

Owner: City of Flowood

Architect: Nathan Crace, ASGCA

Contractor: Eagle Golf & Athletics

Cost: $1.9 million

The Refuge opened in 1998 and has long been a top public course in the Jackson, Miss., area. But because of its tight playing corridors and a short distance from the back tees, it has had difficulty attracting new players.

When a developer bought the adjacent property with the intent of building a $50 million hotel and conference center, the city approved $2 million to renovate the course.

Architect Nathan Crace said the renovation, which began in July 2017, turned The Refuge’s tight, short and awkward layout into one of the top courses in Mississippi.

“In over 26 years, I don't recall a project where we transformed a course so drastically,” he said. “In fact, I receive emails and Twitter direct messages every week from people who can’t believe it’s the same course as before the renovation.” 

The renovation was completed in October 2020, despite COVID-19 delays. The course is designed so that golfers can play five, nine or 18 holes and return to the pro shop, located on the first floor of the 10-story, 220-room Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center.

New, 8-foot-wide, concrete cart paths with curbs at tees accounted for a good portion of the renovation budget. Twenty-plus acres of naturalized and fescue areas were also installed to decrease the amount of maintained turf. 

What the judges said:

“I’m impressed with the innovative approach. Major improvements at a minimal cost is also impressive.” —Martin Elgison 

Third Place

The Yards

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Owner: Alta Mar Holdings

Architect: Mike Miles

Contractor: MacCurrach Golf Construction

Cost: Undisclosed

The Yards, opened in 1970 as the Arnold Palmer-designed course of Oak Bridge Club.

It was sold  in 2016 and redesigned into a 12-hole course to reduce playing time, provide a more casual atmosphere and cater to a diverse customer base. The front 9 of the course was preserved, while holes 10 through 18 were converted to create six par-3 holes.

The new footprint includes the nine-hole Front Yard plus six additional holes on The Backyard to allow for a variety of play configurations. There is also a 9,000-square-foot putting green and two practice green/bunker areas.

While the core course routing was maintained, the renovation included a complete redesign of greens and bunkers and relocation of many trees. The project also included replacement of the irrigation system, relocation of the pump station and a new irrigation pond.

“We are already seeing the interest and excitement in our 12-hole concept, Backyard short course and the cultural change to our operation,” said architect Mike Miles. “We hope to become a template for other golf properties that find themselves in similar situations.” 

What the judges said:

“This project illustrates the kind of innovative thinking that’s needed to revitalize public courses.” — Martin Elgison

About the Judges

Matthew Dusenberry

With more than 25 years of experience in the golf course design and construction industry, Dusenberry founded his own firm, Dusenberry Design, in 2013. His redesign of Keney Park Golf Course in Hartford, Conn., took first place in the Public Course category of Golf Inc.’s 2016 Renovation of the Year competition.

Martin Elgison

A retired attorney, Elgison is president of the Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation, the organization that directed restoration of the historical Bobby Jones Golf Course in Atlanta. The course was an honoree in the 2019 Renovation of the Year competition.

Jerame Miller

Jerame Miller has been active in the golf construction and design industry for almost 30 years. He has helped to execute the visions of many designers, and some of his own, in various locations around the globe.




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