The seven miles of nature trails at Bobby Jones Golf Club near Beneva and Fruitville roads are now open to the public from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Enjoy walking, running, bicycling, photography and observing the wildlife–but golfing is on hold. No fishing, motorized vehicles, picnicking or sports games are allowed, either.
The course was closed for six weeks while demolition crews finished removing structures in preparation for its long-awaited renovation.
Later this year, it will close again for updates. No exact date has been set, but, "We're aiming for October of 2021," says Sue Martin, general manager of parks and recreation for the club, which is owned by the City of Sarasota. The city is soliciting interested parties to negotiate a proposal for renovating the property and managing future golf operations and is considering proposals and options.
Current plans include a restored 18-hole course, a nine-hole executive course and a new clubhouse, starter booth and cart barn, plus the addition of a golf development center for teaching golf. The space will also have a nature park with walking and bicycle trails, and a playground.
Martin estimates the renovations of the course, built in 1926, “could cost up to $12 million, and we're looking for grants and different ways to fund it," she says.
There are also ongoing negotiations with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast to place a conservation easement on the nearly 300-acre property, which serves as a watershed that filers millions of gallons of stormwater before it flows into Sarasota Bay. The easement will preserve the green space in perpetuity for golf, light recreation and nature.
“Once that agreement is signed, let's say someone wants to build a condo there, that won't be able to happen," says Martin. "Even if the city sold it, it would have to stay a green, recreational space."
The city’s comprehensive plan calls for maintaining 100 acres of public green space for every 1,000 residents. The city’s population is swelling toward 60,000 and Sarasota has about 600 acres of green space–Bobby Jones constitutes roughly half of that.
Bobby Jones Golf Club is located at 1000 Circus Blvd., Sarasota. Use of the nature trails is free.