SUWANNEE COUNTRY CLUB:
SMOOTH SWINGIN’ IN THE SUNSHINE

Story by: Mike May

Great gifts are often wrapped in small packages.  That’s an appropriate way to describe the Suwannee Country Club – 7932 U.S. Highway 90 East, Live Oak, Florida; 386-362-1147.  This is not your typical 18-hole golf course.  Instead, it’s half that size -- a nine-hole course, which first opened in 1926 on 140 acres east of Live Oak. 

Not surprisingly, the Suwannee Country Club (www.suwanneecc.com) is now listed as one of the 53 courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail.

Initially, this course was built with sand greens.  Now, the course features putting surfaces with real green grass and has done for years.  As recently as 2014, the greens were upgraded to Tifgrand grass.

“With Tifgrand, we don’t have to overseed in the winter,” said head golf pro Bob Budwick.  “In the winter, the greens roll the best.”

According to Budwick, the 1st and 7th fairways were completely renovated in the summer of 2017, using the same Tifgrand grass that is on all the greens.

“Our superintendent Don Branske has done a great job with the greens, fairway renovations, and overall course maintenance,” commented Budwick.

And, while the course is a nine-hole layout, the back nine is a little different, as it has different tees, different yardages, different angles, and, on some holes, different pars.  Overall, the Suwanee CC has become an important recreation destination in Live Oak – for golfers and for fishermen.

“White Lake, which borders holes 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, is a good fishing lake which is only open to members of the country club,” said Budwick.  “The homeowners on the opposite side of the lake also enjoy the lake!”

The 1st and 7th fairways were completely renovated in the summer of 2017, using the same Tifgrand grass that is on all the greens.

Another interesting aspect of Suwannee is its topography.  The terrain is not what you see on your typical Florida golf courses.

“I don’t think I have seen a golf course in Florida with as many downhill shots and uphill shots, especially in the space of just nine holes,” said Budwick.

Budwick is delighted with the overall customer service which he and his staff deliver every day for those who play the course.

It is not a very long course, but it’s designed so that it requires more mental focus than brute strength to register a good score.

“When I first started working here, we had 39 members and now we have more than 100,” added Budwick.  “You must treat your membership correctly.  They are your bread and butter.”

It’s worth noting that the first president of this club was former Florida governor Cary Hardee, who governed the Sunshine State from 1921-1925.  In those early days, visitors paid $1.00 for green fees, the course was open for play on Sundays, and caddies were available for hire.  Now, the green fees are a little higher and the course remains open for play on Sundays, but you’ll have to find your own caddy.  Brand new Yamaha golf carts are now used as the primary way to transport golfers and their clubs around the golf course.

Now, this par-36 layout is semi-private, but does provide tee times to the general public throughout the week.  Suwannee CC is typical of many of the golf courses built in Florida during the 1920s.  It is not a very long course, but it’s designed so that it requires more mental focus than brute strength to register a good score.  In other words, success at Suwannee CC is best achieved with more of a methodical approach rather than with pure muscle mass.  That philosophy best describes how to play the 9th hole, which is a 321-yard dogleg right par four.  On paper, it’s an easy hole, but in reality, it’s not.  The biggest obstacle at this hole is the raised two-tiered putting surface.

For golfers interested in blending some culture with their golf experience, it’s worth noting that the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park is nearby.

The most ‘famous’ hole on this nine-hole course is the par three 5th hole.  The 5th hole is significant because Governor Hardee registered a hole-in-one on that hole while playing with friends on January 8, 1928.  Back then, the hole measured 135 yards.  It now measures 134 yards.  The details on Governor Hardee’s club selection that day remain a mystery.  It’s also worth noting that the 5th hole was also the site of a marriage proposal in 2011.

These days, the golf course is in great shape.  The greens, which were replaced in 2014, are in the tip-top shape.

One of the perks of this golf course is that you are automatically a dual member of the Quail Heights Golf Club in nearby Lake City.  In this somewhat sparsely populated part of north central Florida, it gives members another golfing outlet in north central Florida.

For golfers interested in blending some culture with their golf experience, it’s worth noting that the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park is nearby.  Situated on the banks of the legendary Suwannee River, this center honors the memory of American composer Stephen Foster, who wrote "Old Folks at Home," the song that made the river famous. The museum features exhibits about Foster's most famous songs and his music can be heard emanating from the park's 97-bell carillon throughout the day.

The Suwannee CC awaits your arrival as this course truly represents a blend of the present (its new Tifgrand grass greens) with the past (it original 1920s design).

For more information: www.suwanneecc.com

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The author of this story is Mike May, a south Florida-based golf writer, who can be reached at mmaymarketing@gmail.com