Grade 'A' Architecture - Bobby Jones Golf Club

The 260 yard 8th hole on the Bobby Jones Golf Course

One of the most interesting trends coinciding with the emergence of the global pandemic a few years back is the surge in updating and enhancing various golf properties.

The State of Florida is ground zero with a major spike in such projects and the Bobby Jones Golf Club is one of the most recent to do so. Opened for play in 1927, the original design is the handiwork of the legendary Donald Ross.

The Sarasota-based course has just been recently updated by Richard Mandell, and the finished effort has brought to life this fine municipally-owned facility.

One of the more notable holes is the long par-3 8th. When Ross created the layout, the 8th played to a max of 191 yards. Hardly short in those days, the more recent version had lessened in terms of the challenges provided.

Mandell lengthened the hole to a championship tee distance of 236 yards. The process undertaken was extensive.

“The entire golf course was literally stripped to the chassis and re-constructed up from there,” said Mandell. “The 8th was raised four feet to raise it above the floodplain. There were no mounds when we started and the entire green complex was built from scratch, as was the teeing areas.”

In the days of Ross, the insertion of a long par-3 hole was a pivotal addition in showcasing the totality of the talents of golfers. In more recent years this type of hole has seen a resurgence as architects want players to demonstrate skills with the widest array of clubs.

The putting surface was increased from 3,956 to 5,334 square feet – an increase of 35%.

Like many courses in the Sunshine State the role of the daily wind patterns can fluctuate and needs to be accounted for in order to achieve success.

“The prevailing wind is a left-to-right crosswind,” said Mandell. “The prevailing wind from November to March, though, is from the north, making the tee shot play downwind.”  

Mandell wanted to emulate the Ross approach in having as wide array of hole types as possible among the par-3 holes – outlined by his principle of variety.

“The best combination of par-3 holes is having a short one, balanced with two medium-length holes and a long shot,” said Mandell. “Extending the hole to 236 yards from the tips is trying to ensure variety with modern club technology.”

Unlike so many holes in Florida where water is too often used as a strategy, the 8th has no aqua in play and if a player desires one can actually putt from tee-to-green as the gap in front is 27 yards wide.

The added mounding also adds an uncertain element in the play of the hole as a variety of bounces can cause unpredictable outcomes.

The long par-3 hole has a clear role in golf architecture. Elevating the skillset of players fully capable in hitting a long iron, a hybrid or even fairway metal. No doubt many players will find such holes bedevilling, but the 8th at Bobby Jones clearly demonstrates the crucial role such hole still command in the game today. 

For more info go to:

Bobby Jones Golf Club | Sarasota, Florida Golf Courses

Photos and schematic rendering: Courtesy Richard Mandell