It was mid-November of 2017 when Myra and I were first introduced to the beautiful Southwood Golf Club in Tallahassee, Florida. To the infrequent visitor it would not appear that much has really changed. The few physical improvements that were pointed out to me only added to the attraction and quality of playing here as a public player. Instead I was fortunate enough on October 31st to be guest playing with three dedicated members, two of whom are also part of the new ownership group.
In 2017 there was a certain amount of uncertainty about Southwood’s future with the bank holding the keys to the front door. It was a skeleton crew with all hands-on deck keeping it maintained and afloat. In the summer of 2018 an ownership group, with varying levels of investment, purchased the course. This secured its future, much to the delight and benefit of thousands of golfers from the surrounding area and foreign golfers like Myra and me who are some 3,200 miles from home.
Southwood is one of my favorite golf courses and facilities to play in the US. As is often heard, some courses just “fit your eye” and this is one of them for me. Off the tee its fairways are generous right at the 260-yard mark, my typical driving distance and the greens are presented with the right amount of framing by the surrounding bunkers to assist in creating the right visual target.
On this day I wanted to critique and update the readership on the course itself, but the highlight was really the three fellows I was introduced to and invited to join as well as many other members like Jim Brown and Professor Michael.
Well, let me go back a couple of days to Tuesday October 29th when I was first going to play. I drove to the course from my sister-in-law’s home in nearby Crawfordville having looked at a very grim weather forecast and with little optimism for playing. When I arrived to the course it was, well, you pick your favorite adjective for a downpour – deluge, dump, torrent or as they say in the UK bucketing down.
All created the same result; my golfing would be limited to the golf channel later on in Crawfordville when I returned back to Val’s. After being greeted by AJ in the parking lot with my notepad in hand, I popped into the clubhouse to seek out GM Brad McMurray. As he was not in yet, I sought out whomever was burdened with the boring “no show” shift in the pro shop and it was none other than PGA Professional, Brad Harper, who I remembered from 2017. I was pleased to see Brad again, he’s got the right personality for the role as Head Pro as well as ample talent to run a tight pro shop. He invited me to come back for the aforementioned Thursday and join a group of guys who go out and play a version of “par points” like we play back home at my home course on Vancouver Island.
It was on Thursday as I entered the pro shop that he introduced me to a very fine gentleman, Mr. Earl Daniels, and as he would prove later perhaps an even finer golfer.
Earl took me under his wing for the round, assisting me in choosing the correct line off the tee and the right break on many putts. Many of the holes come back to me instantly and the favorites I had back in 2017 were cemented again on this day. They might be all 18 holes to be honest. Earl also introduced me to the other two members of the group, my cart partner Sam Burns and Woody Lewis. With a modest $5 on the line as part of the 4-man team, financial pressure was not the least bit of a concern, topping my tee shot on the first was more like it.
The three guys couldn’t have been more welcoming to play with and get to know. Each had varied backgrounds in life and varied ways they attacked the flag. I felt like I let them down a little, Bermuda grass especially on the greens is an uncommon element for us Canadians and 40 putts is unheard of on my card. Two things I am confident in whenever I play is driving and putting, being known amongst my crowd as solid at both. On this day my weakness, approach shots, oddly enough were very solid and I feel I left at least 4 makeable birdies out there , 2 from 6 feet.
The score didn’t really matter and afterward over a cold drink I certainly wasn’t at the bottom of the pile on the group’s scoresheet.
Sam, one of the new shareholders, pointed out improvements to the Champions Lounge – flat screen TV’s, large decorative ceiling fans and sound proofing added to the comfort and amenities of this gorgeous clubhouse.
Out on the course during our round I was able to share a few moments again with the Greens Superintendent, Eddie Snipes, the man who leads the very capable team of greenskeepers at Southwood Golf Club. He does an excellent job and the introduction of pine straw under many of the magnificent live oaks as well as the cleaning out of underbrush is a noticeable improvement.
The next big project is a full bunker remediation. It started with the bunker next to the practice green which is already completed. It looks great and is very playable. Most golfers have no idea of the intensity of repairing and renovating existing bunkers, from installing drainage, often liners and obviously new sand. Each one that is completed is worthy of a small celebration. It is without a doubt very labor intensive and costly. It also gleans amazing results on the esthetic appearance, but mostly it rewards good bunker play. High quality bunkers should never be feared, poor ones avoided like rancid milk.
In the 18 months under the new ownership group GM Brad McMurray proudly shared the membership base has increased from 160 to 250 as well as a considerable increase in the number of non-golfing social memberships.
I would suggest you take the time to peruse their website www.southwoodgolf.com for detailed information of becoming a member or simply playing as a green fee-paying guest. The prices are very reasonable which is a tip of the hat to the new owners who haven’t increased the prices to underwrite their substantial investment.
So, on this day of great golf with three terrific men, all of whom shot in the 70’s by the way, I can report to you a healthy, vibrant future for a Tallahassee gem, Southwood Golf Club.
I would also invite you to go the “Course Reviews” section of www.canadiangolfer.com and read my original review from 2017 right there under Florida.
As always, good golfing.