Architects Doak, Coore-Crenshaw design courses at new Fla. resort
• November 16th, 2010 12:57 pm ET
Tom Doak at the Mosaic mine site. That’s a proposed par 3 in the background.
Photo: Photo by Dave Seanor
Confirmation of a loosely guarded secret comes tomorrow when The Mosaic Company formally announces plans for a central Florida golf resort and conference center featuring courses designed by Tom Doak and the team of Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw.
It’s the first foray into Florida for Doak, but his second deal with a resort that also includes a course by fellow minimalists Coore and Crenshaw. Both design firms have layouts at the highly acclaimed Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the Oregon coast, where Doak built Pacific Dunes and Old Macdonald and Coore-Crenshaw created Bandon Trails. Coore-Crenshaw made their Florida debut in 2008 at Sugerloaf Mountain, a highly rated but ill-timed (translate: stagnant) real estate development about 20 miles west of Orlando.
The new project is something of a public relations gambit by Mosaic, the world’s largest supplier of phosphate, a key ingredient in fertilizers. The Plymouth, Minn.-based mining behemoth for years has stripped and washed phosphate from thousands of acres in Hardee County, Fla. Mosaic recently has been embroiled in litigation with the Sierra Club, which claims proposed operations at the company’s South Fort Meade mine threaten a southwest Florida watershed. In a victory for the Sierra Club, a state court stopped Mosaic’s expansion plans in July, although a partial settlement allowing the company to mine 200 acres was reached two weeks ago.
Adding to the intrigue is the sad state of the golf business, which has suffered mightily in recent years. Florida has an oversupply of courses, and Mosaic appears willing to add to that glut in an effort to demonstrate eco-friendliness by reclaiming its exhausted mining operations and converting the land into public green space.
Mosaic couldn’t have picked better partners than Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design and Coore & Crenshaw Inc. Not only are they two of the most heralded design outfits of the last 20 years – their handiwork includes five of the top 10 courses on the Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses (1960 and after) ranking – but they have exceptional track records when it comes to environmental friendliness and minimalist approaches to golf course construction (meaning they move comparatively little dirt and strive to accommodate existing land forms).
The Mosaic site is near Wauchula, roughly 60 miles southwest of Orlando and 40 miles southeast of Tampa. The location figures to be an equal draw to golfers from the Tampa Bay area an Orlando, as well as course design aficionados from Ft. Myers and the Palm Beach-Miami corridor in south Florida. Despite the suffering economy in general, and the golf blues in particular, the owners are banking on a “build it and they will come” philosophy working as well as it did at Bandon Dunes. The latter was an immediate sensation when it opened in 1998, luring golf purists to the middle of nowhere and a walking-only, links-like layout by a then-obscure Scotsman named David McLay Kidd. Thanks to subsequent additions of accommodations and courses by Doak, Coore-Crenshaw and Doak again – while retaining its no-carts policy and understated service – Bandon has evolved into the most authentic golf destination in America.
While the Mosaic project may not have that kind of potential, its Doak/Coore-Crenshaw calling card figures to generate significant buzz in the Southeast. The aftermath of the mining operation at Wauchula left the architects with a palette unlike any other in Florida. The parcel is dotted with water-filled quarries and dramatic dunes, residue created when 2,000-ton drag lines – giant excavators – scraped 100-foot deep trenches into the sandy soil, which then was blasted with water, separating the phosphate from the sand, rock and clay.
Last spring, I walked the site with Doak and Renaissance associates Bruce Hepner and Brian Schneider (and was sworn to secrecy until the official announcement by Mosaic). Check out this slideshow – you’d never guess the project was in Florida.