Eight months, six million dollars, and one major hurricane later, the Island Country Club golf course is open for play. Closed for a major rebuild at the beginning of April, the championship layout had been unavailable for play all summer.
The club’s membership celebrated the new course Dec. 1 with a cookout luncheon and ribbon cutting under pavilions erected along the course, and a gala evening celebration in the clubhouse, which has also seen some renovation over the summer. After lunch, 144 members teed it up in a best ball scramble, joining 90 who played in the morning before lunch, getting their first experience of the new layout.
At lunch between the morning and afternoon rounds, Island Country Club President Bob Boardman addressed the membership before he and his two immediate predecessors as president, Rene Champagne and Bob Doretti, cut a ceremonial ribbon to declare the course open.
“First of all, I want to thank the membership for being patient,” said Boardman. He noted the club’s staff had done an excellent job of lining up courses for reciprocal play, extending it a month past the typical Nov. 1 cutoff, but like his fellow members, he said, “I’m tired of being a gypsy golfer.”
He thanked the board of directors, course superintendent Wayne Kappauf, General Manager Peter Cizdziel, and Tony D’Agata, chairman of the greens committee, who served as the point man for the club’s members on the renovation.
Also coming in for special mention was the crew from Ryan Golf. The club’s contractor for the course renovation had finished most of the earthmoving when Hurricane Irma struck, but workers were still on hand to help erase some of the storm’s damage.
“We were putting the final touches on the course, but then we had about 600 trees down,” said Cizdziel. “We lost some legacy trees, ones we had been building holes around.”
Despite Irma, the course reopened on schedule Dec. 1. Members who had played in the morning offered their reviews at lunch.
“It’s a significant improvement. The fairways have a nice roll, and the greens are nice and big,” said Bob Hughes.
“And the ball always bounces the right way,” added Ron Austin in jest.
The course turned 50 years old last year, and the membership spent the dollars to give it a major facelift. One major thrust of the work was adding varying elevations to the course, as opposed to the flatter look that was acceptable back in 1966. Along with mounding, numerous sand traps were added to make the course more challenging, and two and a half acres of new water hazards were created. The size of the greens and the number of fairway bunkers were both increased by 50 percent.
Another very noticeable change is at the edges of the lakes, where wooden bulkheads were replaced with ornamental rock walls made of massive chunks of limestone.
Island Country Club is at capacity in all three categories of membership, golf, tennis and social, said Clubhouse Manager Bid Bakkar, and has waiting lists in each category.