close-up of turf on a golf course green

Spotlight on Success: Sometimes the Grass Really is Greener

A great case study on how infill development on a golf course can help revitalize a club.

Something as mundane as bad water had the Atlantic Beach Country Club reeling. In fact, if it wasn’t for the foresight and action-mindedness of two key club members, their beloved club was on a fast track to becoming a desert – about as far as you could get from the pristine greens and immaculate fairways that was host to their first tour event.

bird's eye view of Atlantic Beach Country Club golf course
Today, Atlantic Beach Country Club's beautiful course shows no signs of its former struggle.

It all started when an irrigation source went bad, and the course was literally dying before their eyes. Before long it wasn’t just the course, memberships were dropping too. The club itself was on the way out. And it would have gone that way too, if Mike Carlin and Pete Rodriguez hadn’t taken the reigns and gotten things back on track.

Mike Carlin, the club president, and long-time club member Pete Rodriguez, a contractor, saw these lean times as an opportunity to think big. They decided to sell 125 acres of excess land to a real estate developer. To seal the deal, the developer made a $20M investment for the land and to rebuild the course and make improvements to the club. And man, did these guys come through.

aerial view of Atlantic Beach Country Club
Thanks to the quick-thinking of two club members, Atlantic Beach Country Club was reborn.

The result was a win for the developer and the Atlantic Beach Country Club—178 single family units, with high-end homes in the $800-1.5M range. New construction sold out in two years. Membership is capped, in part from the requirement for new residents to be members, which creates a stream for recurring revenue (membership resides with the resident, not the homebuyer).

Add to that other benefits of the deal: the developer rebuilt the clubhouse and with the expertise of golf course architect Erik Larsen (also a partner in the land planning piece), they rebuilt the course as well. Erik has since come on board with BrightView. The developer also contributed to the clubhouse rebuild financially, while the club itself had to make up a little more.

And thanks to the hard work of key players like landscape architect Kelly Elmore and civil engineer Taylor and White, the club also enjoys beautiful grounds, a new pool, tennis courts, a fitness facility and cart barn.

palms and mature trees lining a golf course
Atlantic Beach Country Club's transformation didn't go unnoticed. The club was awarded a 5-year Tour contract.

“This project is a success because we had the right team to execute on the vision,” said Carlin. “Atlantic Beach Partners was the perfect development partner. They came in with golf course experience, and were committed to doing it right. Susie Wood, a partner on the development team, brought her clubhouse design and development experience, while Pete did the construction for us. Erik has been a partner since the beginning. He brought the development idea to the table and helped us execute on our vision. I can’t state strongly enough how important it was for us to have the right people who shared our vision on this team.”

Ultimately, this is a great case study on how infill development on a golf course can help revitalize a club. This success story hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Urban Land Institute featured the revitalization effort as a national case study, and the Tour awarded the club with a 5-year contract.

All too often these sorts of projects fall apart at the seams, but Carlin and Rodriguez made sure of their success by seeing it through to the end. They handled the financing, the brokering of the deal with the developer, the works. They knew the model they were after, and they stayed true to course.

As a result of their work, members can expect a course that plays hard and fast. That’s how it was designed, and that’s how BrightView has maintained it – they even gifted the club new sand after Hurricane Irma cleaned out the bunkers.

The fact that BrightView Golf Maintenance was able to grow in and care for this beautiful course is just icing on the cake. The rebirth of the Atlantic Beach Country Club is the real story, and the best part is, it’s just getting started.

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