Things are swinging again at the St. Joseph Bay Golf Club.
Memberships are up, a recent fundraising tournament was a boost for the future of the greens, a new golf pro is already providing clinics for youngsters and the numbers of members of the community using the pool has grown.
The course is becoming also something of a place to go for Gulf County Tourist Development Council events such as Snowbird Appreciation.
And none of that even touches upon the new restaurant which has expanded from lunch to a highly-popular Sunday brunch with designs on beginning dinner operations in the near future.
Or the cart barn, an eyesore, which is due to be replaced before the end of the year or plans to overhaul every green and tee box on the course in the coming year.
“We’ve got a lot of things going on,” said Warren Yeager, assistant county administrator. “We’re excited.”
A recent fundraising tournament brought in $15,000 total between sponsorships and entry fees for the more than 60 golfers who participated.
That money will be used to rehab the course’s 19 greens; 18 holes plus putting green, a task that should be complete near the end of next summer, Yeager said.
The county has already spent $30,000 on a new irrigation system and is focused on the coming spring growing season.
A plan for how to overhaul the greens is under discussion between the county and the club’s board, Yeager said.
Memberships have also grown, from 87 when the county purchased the course earlier this year to 125; when adding in corporate sponsors the number of members grows to over 160.
“The memberships are growing and I think it shows the public is buying into what we are doing,” Yeager said.
New fencing has gone up around the course and the pool and the clubhouse, inside and outside, has been re-painted.
The Pro Shop has been refurbished.
“It all looks really good,” Yeager said.
The restaurant, the 19th Hole and operated by the same group that operates Provisions in downtown Port St. Joe, has been open about two months and beginning to expand the menu and hours of service.
“There wasn’t a space left in the parking lot (Sunday for brunch),” said Kristi Grove, TDC Marketing Director.
Jordan Arnold, the club’s first pro in at least a decade, has put cleats on the ground running, Yeager said, noting he was already providing youth clinics.
“The one I saw there were probably 20 kids there,” Grove said.
And all that has been accomplished to date, Yeager said, has been completed without dipping into the first $100,000 payment the county has pledged to provide for the first three years of county ownership of the course.
Ownership that did not come without controversy, most vocally from the board of Triumph Gulf Coast, which had two members challenging giving the county any grant funding if the county was going to purchase the golf course.
The county moved ahead, using just under $400,000 in fifth-penny bed tax dollars to finance the purchase of the club and pledging the additional fifth-penny funds of $100,000 per year for three years.
Board members of the club said at the time of purchase that without the county’s purchase, the club would close by August.
“It needs to be there for the tourism industry, for the community,” Yeager said. “We’re excited about the course.
“Once we get all these improvements finished I think we’ll see even more interest and even tournaments and that kind of thing.”