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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2019 3 months ago

Renovations underway at Golden Bear Club

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The course, which is a Jack Nicklaus signature design, should see bunker improvements completed in 14 weeks.
by: Hannah Swayze News Editor

Changes are coming to the golf course at the Golden Bear Club in Keene’s Pointe.

Bunker renovations have been underway for two weeks now. The rest of the renovations will take about 14 weeks, depending on the weather, according to the club’s head golf professional, Steve Dobson. 

Mostly, the renovations revolve around the bunkers on the course, improving the drainage and making the course more “playable.”

“The course is 20 years old now and bunkers sit, and they have drains in them, but after 20 years — like anything — like the shower drain you have in your house, eventually it will become clogged (and) it’s going to need to be re-plumbed,” Dobson said. “It’s going to need to be replaced.”

The bunkers on the course are in various stages of renovation. Some are ready for concrete and some are just having the drains removed for the bunkers to be reshaped to prepare them for a new layer of concrete. 

“They’re using a new process with these bunkers that they didn’t have available to them 20 years ago,” Dobson said. “Its called capillary concrete, which is hydrophobic concrete. Basically, what happens is it’s a really airy concrete that if you spray water in it, it goes right through it. And what that does is it keeps bunkers from holding water.”

Dobson said that going back in and using traditional techniques would have been an improvement as well, but the club decided to go with the new concrete base. 

“In Florida it’s important, obviously, because we get really heavy rain, especially in the summertime,” Dobson said. “And the quicker your bunkers dry, the better condition they’ll stay in.”

Golf-course renovations at the Golden Bear Club are more involved than simply sending out a crew to clean up the edges and remove pipes. The course is a signature Jack Nicklaus design, created by the golfer himself. So, any and all changes to the course have to be approved by Nicklaus Design. 

According to the Nicklaus Design firm’s website, Nicklaus has designed 300 courses around the world. There are only two others in the Orlando area.

Some of the bunkers will be renovated and reshaped, while others will be eliminated completely and turned into grassy knolls.

In addition to the capillary concrete bunkers, Dobson said the club will be constructing about 15 Durabunkers, which are made of stacked, synthetic sod shipped from Europe — a whole different process to create cleaner, sturdier edges. 

“They stack it up and then they cut it and … it creates a more European look to the bunker,” Dobson said. “It's got more playability and it’s designed to last, basically, forever.”

By the end of renovations, the course will essentially be a different course and will likely have to be re-rated, Dobson said. 

“The whole reason for redoing bunkers is to make (the course) more playable if you tend to get a lot of rain … sand in the bunkers will become hard, become compressed and inconsistent,” Dobson said. “So the biggest thing with bunkers is consistency. You want every bunker you go into (to) have the same sand, the same playability.”

For members of the club, Dobson said the course is still completely playable and none of the course is closed. The course is merely considered “under repair.”

“We put in a local rule where if you go in, you get a free drop outside of the bunker,” Dobson said.  

The Golden Bear Club is a private club, but is accepting new members. It is located at 6300 Jack Nicklaus Parkway in Windermere.

Hannah Swayze is the News Editor at the West Orange Times & Observer and Windermere Observer. She is former staff writer of the Johnson City Press in Johnson City, Tennessee. She is a graduate of East Tennessee State University where she earned a bachelor's degree in media...

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