Design Notes

Glory restored to Sarasota’s Bobby Jones Golf Club

The revolutionary T36 at Baytown opens in Texas; Ian Andrew’s renovation progresses at Canada’s Edmonton Country Club

BJGC - Donald Ross Course-2.jpg
Bobby Jones Golf Club in Sarasota, Fla.

Richard Mandell’s reimagination of Bobby Jones Golf Club and Nature Park in Sarasota, Fla. has opened following a 20-month renovation. Rundown and a money-loser for years, the municipal facility named for the amateur Grand Slam champion saw a partial repurposing which transformed its 45 holes into 27. Mandell paired the back nine of the former American course and the back nine of the former British course, re-forming them into a restored 18-hole tract that was originally designed by Donald Ross. Mandell also created a nine-hole short course called the Gillespie, named for Sarasota’s first mayor—a layout that can be played five different ways with 30-hole options. The Gillespie layout is slated for an early 2024 debut.

Also new is a 25-acre practice facility featuring a driving range with 70 hitting stations, a 3.75-acre short game area with three chipping greens and two teardrop target greens and a 21,000-square foot putting green. 

“Bobby Jones Golf Club in Sarasota is as significant as they come because the land on which Donald Ross created this masterpiece is still intact, allowing us to restore his original plan,” said Mandell. “The reintroduction of strategic mounding throughout the layout Ross planned long ago will be new and different from what many Ross golf aficionados are accustomed to playing. Bobby Jones has exceeded even my expectations.”

Mandell introduced “tee shot distance equity” offering six tee boxes at varying distances to create an enjoyable experience for all players and maximize club selection for all talent levels. The golf course extends from 4,583 yards to 6,714 yards. 

“By adding forward tee distances, we’re welcoming a wider range of golfers at different skill levels,” said Sue Martin, Parks and Recreation team member who managed the golf course and shepherded the restoration. “Traditionally, red tees have been the closest to a hole, then white and blue tees farther away. Golf is evolving. With three additional tee distances, more options are available for golfers at Bobby Jones to have fun and add variety to their game, whether they’re a novice or lifelong player.”

For those who want to experience the golf course as Donald Ross originally planned, a special set of “Ross tees” allow golfers to play from the Ross distance of 6,240 yards. The course plays to a par of 71. 

The Nature Park at Bobby Jones encompasses 90 acres on the eastern portion of the property and features crushed shell and decommissioned golf cart paths repurposed into walking/bicycling trails around the newly created wetlands teeming with wildlife. The 1.57-mile Eagle Trail is the primary path with three offshoots: Prairie Trail (.4 mile), Hammock Trail (.12 mile) and Osprey Trail (.07 mile). Access to the trails is adjacent to the driving range. The nature park is free and open to the public.

Covering 307 acres, the Bobby Jones property is the single largest green space in Sarasota. It is a significant floodplain in the Philippi Creek watershed and filters stormwater for 5,800 urban acres. To improve water quality, nearly 20 acres of wetlands were created, almost 14.5 acres of native grasses planted and 49,000 nutrient-filtering aquatic plants installed, including sawgrass, fire flag and pickerel weed. 

With the installation of new drainage pipes throughout the golf course and improved land grading, the property will drain quickly and efficiently following a rain event. Course operator Indigo Sports is expected to pursue certification in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, with the goal of becoming certified within two years.


T36 at Baytown, an innovative double-loop 18-hole golf course and restaurant—The Birch Kitchen—opened Dec. 13 in Baytown, Texas, near Houston. The unique golf course design is built on less than 65 acres of land, approximately 50 percent less acreage than a traditional 18-hole, par-72 golf course. Located on the former Evergreen Point Golf Course, T36 at Baytown is the idea of developers Rio Valeriano and David Hinkle of Build Baytown, and golf course architect Ric Buckton. 

The patent-pending ‘Double Loop Course’ is Buckton’s unique creation and consists of a traditional 18-hole golf course with double tee boxes and double green complexes played from one common fairway. This eco-friendly design utilizes about 40 percent less water than a typical 18-hole golf course. The T36 model is an industry-disrupter and a standard-bearer for the modern golf movement happening across the globe.

“Baytown’s support for our golf course development marks a pivotal moment for the community, and I’m excited to be part of the modern golf movement,” said T36 Co-founder Rio Valeriano. “T36 offers opportunities for a wider range of golfers, beyond just the core golf experience. Whether it’s a traditional 18-hole round, a quick nine, or an executive/short course experience, T36 offers a versatile solution for all golf enthusiasts.”

The Double Loop is a first-of-its-kind golf course that wraps two loops through 9 common fairways that are connected to two separate green complexes. 

Troon Golf manages the golf operations, agronomy, food and beverage, retail, and sales and marketing for the property.

Canadian architect Ian Andrew is approaching the finish line of his renovation at Alberta’s Edmonton Country Club. Working in conjunction with superintendent R. J. Cloutier, Andrew was charged with making enhancements to greens, bunkers, tees, drainage and irrigation. 

Edmonton Country Club’s present course dates to 1913. It was reconfigured in the 1930s and further refined in the late 1940s by preeminent Canadian architect Stanley Thompson. Andrew was tasked with improving conditioning and playability, bringing back the Thompson traits that has eroded over time. 

“Multiple planting programs, which were originally intended to separate holes, eventually led to shade issues that impacted turf health and play,” Andrew told

Andrew produced a master plan in 2020 and by the fall of that year, commenced a significant tree removal project. “This initial work focused on creating healthy growing environments for greens, while the secondary program was to restore the views and remove the lesser species to focus on Edmonton’s magnificent elm trees.”

The greens and bunkers rebuild began in 2023. “I recommended the club draw on Thompson’s best work for bunkering and green surfaces,” said Andrew. 

Previously low-lying greens that were susceptible to ice damage and drainage issues were raised, some by up to four feet. “I drew inspiration from my favorite Stanley Thompson greens for the new green sites,” said Andrew. “The green and bunkers at the fourth have been restored to their original form, ensuring the one Thompson-designed hole has been fully restored.”

The course reopening, which also includes two new putting greens and a short game area, is expected to happen in spring 2024.