Reviving golf in Brevard County

In 2016, Brevard County threw in the towel and decided to get out of the golf business. The County's three courses, Spessard Holland in Melbourne Beach, The Habitat at Valkaria and Savannahs at Sykes Creek in Merritt Island were losing money and saw their future as golf courses very much in doubt.

Fast-foward to 2018. The county decided to look at two course-management proposals with a pair of local organizations. Ownership of Savannahs at Sykes Creek would be taken by the Savannahs at Sykes Creek Homeowners' Association. Nonprofit Golf Brevard, Inc. would take over management of Spessard Holland and The Habitat.

Brevard County was happy to be out of the golf business and rid itself of a sizable financial strain on the Parks and Recreation Department and the County's coffers. The County accepted the proposals and washed its hands.

Golf Brevard is a group of successful businessmen with a deep love for the game and a desire to keep its pair of wonderful courses open for play. The plan sounded simple enough. Improve the course conditions and thereby boost the number of golfers playing the courses and the course' revenue. It wasn't quite that simple, and certainly not without a lot of sweat and money, but it has worked.

The Habitat has a special meaning for me. My late friend and award-winning golf course architect Charles Ankrom designed the course. It is a design that he was extremely proud of. Prior to this past weekend, my last round there was one that I played with him over a decade ago. It meant a lot to me, and I know it would have to him as well, to see the course stay open. It warmed my heart to see the lush, green fairways, tees and greens as I drove up the entrance road.

One of my good friends from high school joined me and he immediately noticed the improvements all around. He had seen the course at its worst last summer and, he too, remembered a time long ago when the course was in fantastic shape. He was pleased to see it is on the way there again.

Golf Brevard brought in Mike Yurigan to be the General Manager and Director of Golf. Previously, Yurnigan held the same position for nearly a decade at Meadowood Golf and Tennis Club in Fort Pierce. His task was not an easy one, but he is certainly the man for the job.

“I put my staff as priority one,” he said. “If I have the right staff, I know that the customers will be well taken care of and they will return time and time again.”

When Golf Brevard took over the course, it was difficult to tell fairways, tees and greens from the rough. Crab grass was everywhere and no one was wanting to play the course.

“We were fortunate that the community supported us,” Yurnigan said. “They wanted this to stay a golf course and be successful as much as we did.”

So far it has been a huge success. Thanks to Jamie Baker, Head Superintendent, rounds are up and course conditions continue to get better every week. Sure, there is a lot of work yet to be done, but having a beautiful lie in the fairway and greens that hold and roll true is on every golfer's wish list. Thanks to a great staff, The Habitat has just that and brings in new and returning golfers every day.

Some of the scheduled work involves new sand in the bunkers, ridding the course of those pesky pepper trees, thinning out the palmettos, and flattening the crowned areas that have popped up on some tee boxes.

The layout itself needs no help. It is fantastic. We hit most every club in the bag. With a three-club wind, some holes were quite, let's just say, “interesting.” There are five sets of tees and the yardage can play from between 4,962 and 6,802- yards. The course has a lot of character and wonderful variety.

For additional information on The Habitat at Valkaria or to make tee times, visit www.thehabitatgolf.com or call (321) 952-6312.

Freedom is not Free

On Saturday, November 9th, Spessard Holland Golf Course will host its Folds of Honor Golf Tournament.

Last year, Golf Brevard and Spessard Holland GC were able to donate $11,000 from the event to the Folds of Honor Foundation. That was enough to cover a pair of scholarships for a child or spouse of a Florida veteran. This year the hope is to double that achievement.

Golfers, sponsorships, and donations are needed to reach this goal. To find out more about this wonderful organization visit www.foldsofhonor.com. For information on the golf tournament, contact William D Dickinson at 717-856-2454 or wddickinson@att.net.

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