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  • Writer's pictureJoe Jemsek

If you ever wanted to buy a golf course, this one is for a true connoisseur!

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

Have you ever considered buying a golf course? Many friends and colleagues dream about owning a course of their own. When clients ask me to review courses before possible purchase, I typically share their excitement for the future, but few golf courses are able to live up to the hype once the financial realities become clear. I guess that's why most "diamonds in the rough" stay in the rough.

This morning a once in a lifetime opportunity hits the market in Lake Wales, FL. While my client is out of the bidding(they prefer Florida beaches to Florida cows), I think someone is going to end up finding a Monet at this central Florida garage sale.

Lake Wales Country Club has always been known as a Donald Ross designed course, but after further investigation, the course is actually designed by Seth Raynor. I imagine the club adopted the Donald Ross pedigree by accident confusing it with the former Lake Pierce course Ross built a few miles North. Or, more likely, because most of the golfing public has no idea who Seth Raynor was and his brand would have provided little commercial appeal in the past. Why? Most golfers will never have the opportunity to play a Seth Raynor course as they are nearly all private and among the most exclusive country clubs in America. I was excited to introduce my friends the recently renovated Mt Prospect Golf Club located near my home outside Chicago which reopened in the Seth Raynor style. My friends recall the course was "difficult" with "weird" greens because they didn't know how to play the holes. But recent tribute courses like Old Mac in Oregon, Lido in Thailand, and upcoming Lido in Wisconsin have shined a much brighter light on Seth's (and MacDonald's) work. Imagine owning 1 of only 3 public access Seth Raynor designed courses in the country (Yale, Greenbriar).

1941 Aerial - Biarritz(bottom left playing towards clubhouse) and Redan(top right in corner) already lost to the depression / WWII

What separates Ranyor course from other designers is his use of "template" holes which recreated strategies from the best holes from around the world. While most of the features on the ground at Lake Wales has been renovated and lost over the years. The current design is very compelling, although could benefit from some serious capital. Beyond purchase price and new owner needs to plan to bring 1-2 million, at a minimum, to bring Raynor back. During my visit, I was able to identify several other template holes including the Cape, Short, Knoll, and Hog's Back which still existing in routing. I was amazed how the routing was minimally impacted during the major renovation and addition of the real estate, which was built within the former wetlands.

Recent aerial shows the the routing squeezed, but not lost by the development.

A few photos from my visit last month.

Reimagined Restoration of Raynor

While it would be impossible to restore the course to the Raynor design, I think a reimaging/recreation of the design is possible. My client was interested in creating a functional driving range that could be used for golf schools and player development. This required some additional tinkering, but thankfully the routing still has some elasticity. I utilized a mix of templates from Yale, National, Chicago, Shoreacres, & Pipping Rock to create some exciting Raynor results.

Preliminary Jemsek Golf Design Routing - January 2021

Preliminary Scorecard - January 2021

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