By ED BOUTON
Golf is in its death throes, many opine. During the 2000s developers over-built golf course communities to sell homes to retiring boomers. Then the Recession of 2008 struck, and courses began to close, one every two or three days. Golfers aged, their numbers declined, and millennials turned to other less time-consuming and expensive hobbies. In our area, Sabal Trace and the old Cape Coral courses went under.
Help may be on the way, however. Three projects are noteworthy.
In 2017 Rich Smith, retired CEO of the North Florida PGA (a long-time friend of Arnold Palmer and father of Charlotte High School golf star Jacob Smith), acquired the Bobcat Trail course in North Port and the Port Charlotte Golf Club.
His firm SKYiGOLF is reported to be investing over $2 million to enlarge the Bobcat Trail clubhouse and renovate the course and has renamed it Charlotte Harbor National Golf Club at Bobcat Trail.
Smith’s director of golf, David Hronek, reports that the club is in the final stages of renovation. Fairways and bunkers were completed last winter, and greens and tees are being renovated while the course is closed this summer. A new state-of-the-art golf academy, led by Annika Sorenstam’s sister, Charlotta, will open about the same time as the National course is ready for play, approximately mid-October.
The Port Charlotte course has always been a nice municipal track locals favored. That club is now renamed the Golf Links at Charlotte Harbor. It is also closed this summer to renovate its greens and tees. Clubhouse renovation is expected, too.
To the south, Clarke Construction Group of Fort Myers is under contract to Lennar Corp. to recover and renovate the old Tern Bay course (now renamed Heritage Landing Golf & Country Club). According to Lennar internet sales consultant Charlie Miller, the golf course is expected to open by the end of this year or in early 2020 as a semi-private “bundled fee” club. Heritage Landing plans are ambitious—1,200 residences are planned (compared with Bobcat Trail, which has around 600 now).
Finally, last year members of Kingsway Country Club in DeSoto County approved that club’s acquisition by Allegiant Travel to complement its construction of the Sunseeker Resort. Kingsway will continue to operate in its semi-private status until the resort’s construction, after which Sunseeker guests will be given priority for tee times along with “grandfathered” members and possibly members of the public (to be determined, according to Jimmy Karr, Kingsway’s head professional).
Allegiant has already begun investing in improving the golf course, although Kingsway is well maintained already.
Ed Bouton is a Punta Gorda resident who is on a 50-plus-year quest to fix his swing.