When Eagle Trace Golf Club started its renovation in June, the primary goal was straightforward.
“The main goal of the whole closure was to have an upgrade on the greens,” Eagle Trace Director of Operations Julian Gil said. “The bunker project was something we decided to start to give a cleaner and more pristine look to the golf course. We adjusted some bunkers or filled some in which gives a more aesthetic look to the golf course and put in play other areas of the golf course that were not in.”
The course closed June 13 and reopened Nov. 5 as all 18 greens were fully renovated with TifEagle Bermuda grass. Gil said they also installed a chipping area in the back for members with a brand new green and, given the nature of the project, he said they also installed a nursery. There are also new tee signs at each hole.
Gil said early reviews have been positive and he expects the course to be even better as the greens grow in.
“It’s been a success,” Gil said. “Kudos to the turf crew that we have. We have a great superintendent; our regional director of operations has done a phenomenal job. In addition to the greens, the sprinkler heads and irrigation areas around the greens have all been changed. Irrigation plays a tremendous role in the early stages after what we did, and that is a hidden upgrade that we have done.
“One of my favorite things that we did was reshape the collars around the greens,” he said. “There are new runoffs on No. 1, No. 4, No. 6. It makes it easier from some areas to much tougher from other areas. On hole No. 11, it is very similar to what we did on hole No. 6 with the fringe and the runoffs.”
Gil said No. 6 presents a new challenge. In terms of chipping and putting, it is now a very tight area where golfers would need to be much more precise on a chip, but it allows a higher handicapped golfer to putt it up the swale.
“One of my favorite things that we did was reshape the collars around the greens. There are new runoffs on No. 1, No. 4, No. 6. It makes it easier from some areas to much tougher from other areas.Julian Gil, Director of Operations, Eagle Trace
“It maintains its character because the little pot bunker on the left side can be penalizing to whoever,” Gil said.
Eagle Trace is one of two ClubLink properties in South Florida – the other being Palm-Aire, which boasts 54 holes. There are six ClubLink courses in Florida, including three in Sun City Center, near Tampa.
Eagle Trace was built in 1983 and served as host to the Honda Classic from 1984-91 and then again in 1996.
Some of the notable changes occurred on hole No. 14, where the fairway was widened down the right side of the hole and they covered the bunker about 150 yards from the hole. They also extended the fairway bunker on the left side of the hole so that comes more into play from the tee.
“Instead of playing the straight shot right away, now you are playing ‘old school golf,’ as we like to call it,” Gil said. “You chose your spot instead of trying to overpower the hole. It is the easiest hole on the scorecard given the way the hole is protected, but it builds a little more aesthetics and character to it.”
On No. 12, there used to be a long strip bunker on the left-hand side, so they expanded the landing area and the fairway was widened on the right.
On No. 13, they filled in a bunker two years ago, and 65 percent of another bunker was covered. Gil said it gives it a cleaner look from the fairway and the tee box.
“It still has that toughness when attacking from the right-hand side,” Gil said. “Your approach shot is going to be all downhill. It is a steep shot, but when you land it will be a downhill shot.”
Along with the greens renovation, Gil said the club also made some additional renovations to the clubhouse: new carpeting along the common areas, the pub, bar, pro shop, Champions Room and the Ball Room.
Last year, certain bunkers were covered on Nos. 3, 4, 7, 8, 11, 16 and 17, and were turned into runoff areas.
“Now it allows higher handicappers to putt the ball up the green, but it is actually a tougher shot for the low handicappers or your above-average golfers,” Gil said. “We adjusted No. 6 and No. 10.
“It has been a while since this golf course received any kind of renovation or upgrades to obviously keep up with our competitors and with the level of the club. I believe the greens were roughly 22 years old. The time was now. As a company, we are going to continue to improve the golf course as we go.”
Gil, 33, of Weston, was born in Colombia and moved to the United States when he was 7. He graduated from Cypress Bay High School and played golf at Johnson & Wales before closing out his college career at St. Thomas University in 2010. He played two years on the Latin American minor league tour before settling down and working in the golf industry.
“I had the privilege of being a father at the young age of 24, so I started working at Bonaventure (Resort and Spa) for about 10 years,” Gil said. “It was not a tough transition, more of working 40 hours a week was a tough transition. It’s been good. I am doing what I love.”
“I have liked everything I have done, but what I like most is every new challenge. Since I am learning along the way, I am enjoying them all of the same.”
Prior to Eagle Trace in 2018, Gil served in the same capacity for one year at Heron Bay Golf Club after two years as its head professional.
“In my 12 years in the industry,” Gil noted, “this is my third greens renovation and the first one where the whole process has been done properly. We sprigged the greens. It is called stolonization, as opposed to the other ones which were just resod.
“What is exciting about this whole process, in addition to us being USGA spec greens, this is a long but worthwhile wait for the greens to come in and what they are going to turn into.”