This busy Florida municipal golf course is set to get a $2.6 million facelift

WINTER HAVEN, Florida — It’s been more than a decade since Willowbrook Golf Course, which sits about an hour southwest of Orlando, has seen a major facelift, and now it’s a matter of determining where to start.

Winter Haven officials recently approved a $2.6 million contract with Palm Coast-based Michael Beebe & Associates for improvements to the municipal-owned golf course.

“We’re really, really excited about it,” said Julie Adams, the city’s director of parks, recreation and culture.

The city recently received roughly $2.6 million from Duke Energy Corp. for property to run high-voltage transmission lines along the edge of Willowbrook Golf Course.

“Our commission believes wholeheartedly in the provision of a municipal-owned golf course and decided to reinvest,” Adams said.

The 18-hole course sees about 35,000 rounds of golf annually — a little less than 100 a day, Adams said. The greens and their amenities have not had significant construction or upgrades done in over a decade.

“In the past 10 years, we have completed some small capital investments, but nothing to the scope of what we foresee with this project,” she said.

Adams said there are numerous issues the city would like to see addressed at the golf course as the project enters the design phases.

There will be several projects related to updating the greens and making sure they are in better condition. The city also is looking to replace and update its existing irrigation system.

Andy Palmer, Winter Haven’s recreation superintendent, said the city wants to work with its utilities department to expand the holding capacity of a pond used to store reused water. To do so would give the city utility additional storage capacity. This reused water can also be used to help irrigate the greens.

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Winter Haven commissioners approved a $2.6 million contract to make major improvements to the municipal-owned Willowbrook Golf Course. On their wish list are improvements to irrigation, landscaping, greens, golf cart improvements, new restrooms among the greens, clubhouse updates and improvements. (Photo: Ernst Peters/The Ledger)

Willowbrook’s course does have occasional issues with flooding and standing water in some low-lying areas, Adams said. It can leave some areas with cart-path-only access. Joe Koly, the course’s general manager, reported drainage problems near 12 of the 18 holes to the contractor, who has recommended a master drainage plan.

“Typically, it dissipates in a day or two,” she said. ” Drainage could be improved.”

The city is hopeful that funds will allow for significant improvements to Willowbrook’s cart paths. It’s not clear yet whether this will mean resurfacing existing pathways, creating new paths or other possible improvements based on quoted prices.

“We are doing a lot of this through a design and build contract, which gives us a lot of flexibility,” Palmer said. “When we get into the design phase early next year, we will start to prioritize golf operations and have some public feedback.”

Modernizing Willowbrook’s clubhouse is on the city’s list of priorities, Adams said, alongside restroom and pro shop improvements.

Design and construction of Willowbrook’s upgrades are expected to take place over the next 18 to 24 months, Palmer said. Some lighter initial projects such as landscaping improvements might take place soon, while work that requires extensive permitting and construction might start later.

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Adams said the goal is to make sure the golf course remains open for business and as playable as possible throughout construction. Heavier construction will be phased to take place in the offseason as much as possible.

“Golf operations are our priority, and we’re moving on to make it a better customer experience overall,” she said.

Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7545. Follow on X @SaraWalshFl.

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