Reality has set in for many who are nostalgic about a piece of the city's golf past: American Golfers Club is not coming back.
Many longtime residents and their children learned to golf at the executive course on the east side of Federal Highway, south of Commercial Boulevard. The course, which opened in 1958, has been closed since late 2005, when its irrigation system was damaged and landscaping destroyed by Hurricane Wilma.
The cost of repairing and reopening the course wasn't an option for the investment group that bought it and the adjacent Coral Ridge Country Club in 2004, especially given the tough financial conditions in the golf industry nationally. The city never seriously considered buying the course to run as a public operation.
So now the plan is to put a 37-home development on a 21.8-acre portion of the 66.7-acre property, give 4 acres to the city for a park and turn the remaining open space into a golf practice facility for Coral Ridge Country Club. Four acres along Federal are designated for commercial use.
The plan has been met with overwhelming support in the surrounding communities.
"Please let these good people turn this desert into an oasis," neighbor Mike Melvin asked commissioners this week. Melvin, whose home of 35 years borders the course, is tired of the browned-out eyesore he has stared at for the past seven years.
"I enjoyed the golf course when it was there. I enjoyed having the activity behind me and the landscape maintained," said Melvin, who sees residential development as the best option. "There was really no other alternative. It wasn't going to become a golf course again."
Commissioners approved the land development plan, which now must go to the Broward County Commission, be reviewed by the state and then come back for final city and county approvals, possibly in the fall. The developer will then need the city to rezone the property and approve a plat for the site.
To make the project more amenable to residents than an earlier plan, developers put the entrance off Federal Highway, not through the neighborhood, and reduced the number of homes from 60 to 37.
The support is not unanimous because some people think more should be done to preserve the course and the recreation it once offered.
"It will cost the citizens of Fort Lauderdale the loss of valuable park and recreational space," said Frank Ennis, a resident of Coral Ridge Towers.
But the space is not going away and the city is getting 4 acres for a park where it had none before, said Robert Lochrie, an attorney representing Coral Ridge Golf Course, Inc.
"The vast majority of the property will be maintained as open space," Lochrie said. "The majority of it will return to a golf use."
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