The Country Club of Florida project is a real source of pride for us at George Golf Design because it represents our first renovation in Florida of an historic Robert Bruce Harris original golf course. The course, located in seclusion near Boynton Beach, was started by members of Augusta National in the late 1950’s to carry the same general theme as the venerable club in Georgia. Harris was instructed to find the best possible land to build a golf course that had all of the qualities a “national member” could possibly need.
Designed as a signature Robert Bruce Harris course in 1955, and opened in 1957, the Country Club of Florida course is replete with classic design strategies that had been diluted or lost over time. Although Harris would have doubtfully used the term “signature,” writings and research tell us that CCF was his favorite course and perhaps his best. CCF is where Harris retired, and he spent the last years of his life there.
The course is generally long considering the year it was created. The vast majority of courses built in the 1950’s were less than 7,000 yards long; however, Harris had the foresight to design a course of close to 7,200 yards – quite visionary for the time. Many of the golf courses we renovate need lengthening as required by the playing membership as a way to “modernize” their course. Not so at CCF. It was such a breath of fresh air to work on a course that had room and did not need to be lengthened to accommodate some modern stigma for “championship” play.
During the 1980s, the course was renovated. Most of the Harris trademark “bowl” bunkers and oversized greens were changed to an eighties style that was prominent in Florida at the time. The eighties style renovation attempted to make use of different maintenance practices by “grassing down” the high flashing bunkers, reducing the green sizes and creating strategic opportunities through highly complex mowing patterns.
As we found it, one of the most unique aspects of the course, was the routing and the use of the natural terrain features of the site. The use of the high dunes that make up the 4th, 5th, and 10th holes, and the ridge that separates the 6th and 11th holes are brilliantly thought out. Harris also created an extraordinary set of holes in terms of sequence and balance. It is one of the few golf courses that I recall with an exact duplication of par on both nines. It is unique also that you never play the same par on two consecutive holes (Harris’ “perfect routing”) on either nine.
This sequence is further enhanced by the fact that the Par-3 holes (4, 8, 13 and 17) are balanced so well within the course. The longest (17) and shortest (13) are on the back nine while the mid-length (4th) and intermediate length (8th) are on the front. Similarly, the Par-5s (2, 6, 11 and 15) are arranged shortest on the front nine, longest on the back (balance). Balance of holes and their strategies is an often overlooked quality. The balance of holes at the Country Club of Florida is nearly perfect between shorter Par-4s and longer Par-4s (example) 1 and 3 require exact opposite lines of instinct which delegate opposite lines of charm (play). The same is true of holes 2 and 9 on the front and 10 and 18 and holes 14 and 16. Sequence is so subtle that it is probably missed by most players.
This unique sequence of holes creates and indistinguishable rhythm of shots. This rhythm adds variety to the course and produces a requirement of focus; that is, each succeeding hole is different, different in a way that equates to pleasure rather than tortuous repetition. I can not think of any other golf course that we have worked on, modern or classic, that so brilliantly evokes these architectural qualities. It is this reason why we never even considered altering the routing and hole variety during our renovation of the course.