One of golf’s greats joins the Watersound Club team to design a course that’s second to none
Written By Paige Aigret
A new 18-hole golf course for Watersound Club Members is starting to take shape. To help bring to life a course that will be one for the ages, the Watersound Club team has enlisted the design team from Love Golf Design, founded by none other than the PGA legend Davis Love III. In a nod to the World Golf Hall of Fame inductee who twice led America’s Ryder Cup team, and in recognition that this will be the third private course in Watersound Club’s golf course portfolio, the new course will simply be known as “The Third.”
Watersound Club director of golf Patrick Richardson, a PGA member since 1999, oversees all Watersound Club golf operations. Richardson said that he and a team of Watersound colleagues have found their working relationship with the Love brothers and lead golf course architect Scot Sherman of Love Golf Design to be a comfortable and engaging one.
“Davis Love III is steeped in Southern heritage, and he’s played and studied courses all around the world,” Richardson said. “The entire Love Golf Design team is able to bring that knowledge and those experiences together to design a world-class course that feels at home at our Club.”
Josh Parker, a 16-year veteran of The St. Joe Company and the Watersound Club director of agronomy, agrees. “The Love Design group has been very easy to work with — they keep the client in mind when they’re designing these courses, as far as making sure they’ll be able to be properly maintained down the road,” he said. “It has their name on it, so they want to make sure that the client is going to be able to keep the course in excellent condition. They do a good job of communicating their thoughts and getting our ideas, and putting those together to come up with the best plan possible.”
With a portfolio of 17 original designs and counting, the Love brothers boast a wealth of design experience. Davis has 21 PGA Tour wins to his name and Mark Love has worked for 28 years as a director of golf events and design projects. With the help of Scot Sherman, and in collaboration with the Watersound Club team, they took their vision for the new golf course to the drawing board and worked through five separate design phases for the newest Watersound Club golf course.
The result? Plans for a one-of-a-kind, par-72 layout with six sets of tee distances for each hole. Given those options, the course will play from 4,900 to 7,600 yards in length and suit a variety of skill levels — providing an enjoyable round for the casual golfer, while even the longest tour players will enjoy the challenge of hitting from the back tees.
The fairways will use Tifway Bermuda grass — a tried and true turf type known for its fine texture and quick recovery times — while the greens will follow the example of the existing Watersound Club courses in employing TifEagle Bermuda grass. Naturally, the final design didn’t come overnight, and it didn’t happen without a good deal of onsite work.
“We did a lot of riding through the area with Scot, Davis and Mark, looking at the native plants, saying ‘Let’s use this, let’s use that, let’s avoid these,” said Parker. “Surveyors put out color coded posts for the tees, fairways and greens, and we cleared lines of sight so the design team would be able to get a sense of how their plans would look on-site. I think it confirmed some of their layouts, and they were able to adjust others. There are areas of longleaf pines and big oaks that Davis specifically marked to make sure we were able to keep. They had a vision when they stepped on property.”
For Richardson, it is important to ensure the playability of the new golf course for Watersound Club Members. He said that The Third will “play a little bit firmer and faster” than the existing two private Watersound Club golf courses (Shark’s Tooth and Camp Creek golf courses) and offer its own unique set of magnificent views.
Richardson said the course can be described as “coastal links” in style, and expects it to have a look reminiscent of an Australian Sandbeltstyle course, using native grasses on the perimeter and lots of fairway cut grass. White sand dredged during the formation of the nearby Intracoastal Waterway will be used to create stunning waste bunkers and add to the unique character of The Third.
“The whole site is about 300 acres,” said Parker. “You could probably build a course in half of that, but I think it’s a testament to what we’re doing as far as wanting to make it look as natural as possible. We’ve planned to use lots of native grasses — there will be fairway that bleeds off into native areas. There’s no rough, it’s just a hard transition so the course will have a secluded feel when you’re playing it.”
“After exploring the property on our first few visits, we found so many options it was hard to narrow the new course down to just 18 holes,” Davis Love III said. “Lead architect Scot Sherman, Mark and I believe the site lends itself to building a course with a timeless character.”
The Love Golf Design team plans to incorporate existing hills and dunes into their design, honoring the natural beauty of the Emerald Coast while offering a new style of course to Members.
“We’re pleased to be working with white sandy dunes, diverse native plant materials and beautiful pockets of old-growth cypress and pine trees to frame the golf holes,” Davis said. “We are really thrilled with how the routing of the golf course is coming along at this point.”
According to Parker, the design of the course not only dovetails with the area’s natural beauty, but also makes for a superior golf course in other ways. “What we have planned is a course that will be self-sustaining, eco-friendly and low maintenance — not the typical Florida golf course that you see on every corner.”
The new course design is laid out across acreage north of the Shark’s Tooth golf course. The Shark’s Tooth clubhouse, parking area and driving range will be renovated to serve both courses.
“The huge emphasis on why we’re doing this is to provide another really fantastic amenity to Watersound Club membership, not only for today, but for the future,” said Richardson, who sees the addition of The Third golf course as an investment in the Watersound Club golf experience that will provide more options and value for Club Members and make the area more attractive as a whole.
“People are very savvy about where they want to play their golf,” he said. “I don’t know when the last golf course was built in this area or even in the region. It’s a very unique process we’re going through. To be able to offer our Members three 18-hole golf courses in addition to all of our other Watersound Club amenities will keep us among the top clubs in the country.”
Richardson is supremely confident in the Love Golf Design team.
“They’ve done it plenty of times and we’ve got a lot of trust that they’ll make this a really special place,” he said.