ELKTON, Florida – Erik Larsen has spent the last seven years planning, preparing and overseeing the renovation of St. Johns Golf Club. The former executive vice president of Arnold Palmer Golf Design Company is happy to see the project conclude.

This story was originally published in Golf Inc. magazine.

The course reopened on Nov. 29 after an extensive renovation that started in 2021. St. Johns County approved $8 million in funding to be drawn from recreation impact fees, a transportation trust fund, utility fund, bed tax and general fund.

St. Johns Golf Club was built out of potato farmland in 1989 and was run as a county-owned facility with 27 holes. Nine of those holes succumbed to poor conditioning over the years and closed 10 years ago. The county debated whether to sell the property for housing but was convinced that renovation was the proper course of action. 

The remainder of the land, some 80 acres, will be used for new fire and sheriff’s stations, as well as other amenities still to be determined.

Larsen worked closely with the course’s general manager and staff to come up with a new course design that would appeal to modern golfers while incorporating tributes to early 1900s courses from the United Kingdom.

“The St. Johns Golf Club is a terrific example of publicly owned, accessible golf and interesting architectural work coming together to make the players’ experience much more fun,” Larsen said. “Job one was to fix the golf course, which suffered from poor drainage, broken irrigation, outdated features and contaminated grass. This led to making St. Johns a properly functioning course. 

“Then we brought starting and finishing holes, the practice facility and an additional ‘wee-links’ concept nearer to the clubhouse to allow people to interact more. We layered on a ‘throwback’ design style unlike anything around, all which will create more fun and social interaction.”

Henry Dean, the chair of the St. Johns County Commission, was very passionate about restoring the course to its former glory.

“It’s a wonderful amenity and the public has demonstrated that, with about 35 percent of the rounds coming from out of the county,” he said. “We were able to fund this not from the general ad valorem tax that affects homeowners, but to utilize the 7 million visitors per year that we see here. 

“As a commissioner, I would be irresponsible to walk away from this golf course.”

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