Smyers proves 'you can come home'

LAKELAND, Fla. - With a massive facelift of Isleworth Golf and Country Club ready to be unveiled in December and a completereconstruction of the former International Golf Club in Orlando finished andawaiting a Jan. 3, 2004, opening, golf course architect Steve Smyers can sayin earnest, "You can come home."

Indeed, the Lakeland resident, who had not designed a course in Floridasince doing nationally ranked Southern Dunes Golf & Country Club in Haines City in 1993 and Old Memorial in Tampa in 1997, has returned in style. Recently finishing Isleworth, the home of Tiger Woods, Mark O'Meara and adozen other Tour pros, he is preparing to begin:

• Bridgewater Golf Club, an 18-hole semiprivate facility in Lakeland, about15 miles from Disney World, that will strongly emphasize junior, senior andbeginners golf at a moderate price. Developed by Phillips Development Groupout of Raleigh, N.C., Bridgewater is considered by city and state officials"a model of how golf can interact with the environment."

• A major renovation of private Interlachen Country Club in the Orlandosuburb of Winter Park.

• Bella Collina, an 18-hole high-end private course in Montverde, whichSmyers will co-design with Nick Faldo. Smyers and Faldo collaborated onChart Hills Golf Club, which has rated the best inland golf course inEngland. The developer for this project is the Ginn Group.

• Meanwhile, work is expected to begin in early 2004 on Orange Hill Plantationsouth of Charleston, S.C., and near Kiawah Island, which has been delayedfor two years by an ownership change.

Of all these projects, Isleworth is the highest-profile because of itsreputation and the presence of so many PGA Tour players living there.

Taking an entirely fresh look at the property, Smyers modernized the existing layout from a shotmaking perspective through placement of fairway bunkers, lengthening the course, totally rebuilding all 18 holes.

Tifeagle Bermudagrass replaced Tifdwarf on the putting surfaces, while the fairways, tees and roughs were converted from Tifway 2 to 419 Bermudagrass.

International GC, about one mile south of the Orange County Convention Center on International Drive, underwent so much of a change that The Marriott Group changed its name - to Grande Pines.

Smyers changed the routing over much of the 18 holes, which will include four par-3s and three par-5s and play to a par-71 over 7,000 yards.

"We gave it a brand new look and feel. It's a strong layout, with the type of challenges modern players, even resort golfers, want to see," Smyers said.

Grande Pines is a totally different look from other Smyers designs,featuring punched-up greens and bunkers with grass down the slopes.

"This round of work is some of our best ever," Smyers said, "and I'm enthusiastic about our next round of projects."

Smyers knows from where he speaks. In his 14-year solo career, besides his Top 100 courses at Wolf Run in Indianapolis, Southern Dunes and Old Memorial, he has fashioned highly ranked Royce Brook and Blue Heron Pines East Course in New Jersey, Kokopelli Golf Club in Illinois and Lochen Heathin Michigan.

At Bridgewater, Smyers is taking 24 acres of "distressed wetlands" on a165-acre property and essentially creating a 165-acre wildlife corridor consisting of 67 acres of maintained turfgrass, 64 acres of upland nativeplantings in trees and grasses, and the remainder lowlands and wetlands.

Interlachen CC members have commissioned Smyers to design a majormodernization - from course design to irrigation system. Among other things,he plans to shift green and bunker locations, and turn the par-5 13th into apar-4 and the par-4 No. 18 into a par-5.

Bella Colina, whose working name has been changed from Hillcrest, will reunite Smyers and Faldo, who have been friends since the mid-1980s.Construction is expected to begin early in 2004.

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