SUN CITY CENTER — Senior golfers don't have to give up the sport just because they aren't the hitters they once were. ClubLink Corp., which operates six courses in Sun City Center, has made it easier for golfers to stay in the groove.
Taking its cue from senior golf legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, ClubLink has installed shorter tee boxes at its two 27-hole layouts at the Sandpiper Golf Course, 1702 S. Pebble Beach Blvd., and the Falcon Watch Golf Club, 1000 Kings Blvd.
Tom Ritenour, director of golf at ClubLink's Scepter, Falcon Watch, Kings Point, Sandpiper, Caloosa Greens and Renaissance golf clubs in Sun City Center, hopes the new tee boxes will keep older golfers on the green.
In conjunction with the United States Golf Association and the PGA, Palmer and Nicklaus came up with the Tee It Forward national initiative last year to encourage golfers to stay in the game despite not being able to hit the ball as far as they could when they were younger.
The shorter tee boxes at Falcon Watch and Sandpiper, marked purple and black, measure about 3,000 yards in contrast to 6,000-yard white tees and 5,500-yard green tees at the courses.
Golf Association of Florida officials soon will visit Sun City Center to take measurements of the new tees so players can establish handicaps, Ritenour said. In the meantime, the clubs have temporary scorecards for golfers who use the new tees.
“The concept of Tee It Forward is the result of comments aimed at the sport as being 'too long' or 'too difficult' or simply, 'I don't hit it as far as I used to,' ” Ritenour said.
The initiative is intended to encourage retiring baby boomers to take up or revisit the sport of golf, he said.
“Many of the baby boomers retiring now were not golfers, but that is changing as retirement nears and new people are taking up the sport,” said Ritenour, noting the average age in Sun City Center and Kings Point is 74 years old.
“People are living longer and staying active longer,” he said.
At the same time, ClubLink is making other improvements to the Sandpiper Golf Course. Built in 1985, Sandpiper is the oldest course in the area. The company is renovating the nine holes of the Oaks at Sandpiper at a cost of $60,000. Last year it updated the irrigation system at the Palms at Sandpiper, repaired cart paths and began grassing some of the fairway bunkers at Sandpiper and Falcon Watch.
ClubLink also is spending $30,000 to replace pumps at the course and installing a $20,000 fire alarm system in Sandpiper's clubhouse complex.
“That makes about $150,000 in capital improvements at Sandpiper in the past and current year,” Ritenour said.
At the same time, ClubLink's parent organization in Canada has kept the membership dues at the Sun City Center and Kings Point courses lower than the national inflation rate to make it affordable for members, he added.
Ultimately, the improvements undertaken by ClubLink will benefit the entire community, not just golf enthusiasts, he said.
“This has important ramifications for the price of resale homes here, and not just for those people who live on the golf courses,” he said. “The golf courses here affect the whole complexion of the community and help keep the community vibrant.”
D'Ann Lawrence is a freelance writer who can be reached at [email protected]