When the Turkey Creek Golf Club closed because of a stagnant economy and poor attendance in 2011, many feared it may be for good.
That was until they sliced a red ribbon at a reopening ceremony Saturday on Turkey Creek Boulevard in Alachua City.
What had been a private club once teeming with energy by 2010 became a barren wasteland with a $300,000 shortfall. The irrigation along the golf course was shot, and the weeds grew tall.
Three years ago, however, the Turkey Creek Master Owners Association obtained a $1.35 million loan to buy the land and the course.
Hal Smith was a Turkey Creek club member when it opened in 1978. So Smith was delighted – with dozens of socially distanced people cheering him on – to tee off on the first hole of the now public 18-hole course with fresh, new greens, tilled sand traps and a new irrigation system.
“Best layout around,” he said. “It’s a golf course that I loved from the first time I ever played it.”
All slots for the four-person, 22-team scramble that followed his and others’ ceremonial tee shots were filled within 48 hours.
The golf course was slated to reopen in December, but the grass “wasn’t playable,” said Susan Hall, a member of the Turkey Creek board of directors.
“It was really hard because everyone was ready to go,” Hall said.
Many roadblocks made reopening Turkey Creek seem improbable, but none more substantial than the inoperable irrigation system, according to Dave Kratzer, another club board member.
“The first thing you have to have on a golf course is water,” Kratzer said.
Another board member, Loretta Shane, said upon learning that it would cost $3 million for a new system, its new ownership decided to save money by doing much of the work themselves.
Over 500 sprinkler head holes needed to be dug by hand over a year span. That led to another problem. Those wanting to make it happen lacked the essential equipment to improve the course.
“We didn’t even have a shovel,” Shane said.
In exchange for borrowing a fairway mower and other equipment from Santa Fe High School, the school’s golf team plays free.
After the holes were dug, the board began searching for additional funding, Kratzer said.
Shane said the reopening not only raised the property value of the homes in the community, but it has also brought additional business to “Creek’s 19th,” a restaurant near the first hole.
Another board member Rod Fitzpatrick, who helped to mow the driving range and practice holes consistently, said the course’s condition affects how neighboring homeowners treat their yards.
“When the golf course is overgrown, weeds up to waist high, people were letting their yards go,” he said. “If they’re … against a nice golf course, they want to keep their yards nice, too.”