Article Courtesy of The Tampa Bay
By Phyllis Day
Published January 8, 2017
LAND O'LAKES -- When the Plantation Palms Golf Club
closed in 2014, it appeared to be another casualty in the trend of a shrinking
golf industry. Nearly two years later, after a developer proposed turning the
property into home sites, residents decided to take matters into their own
In an effort to prevent
the course from meeting a fate similar to that of nearby Quail
Hollow Golf and Country Club in Wesley Chapel, which is set to
be converted into a gated community of detached homes and
townhouses, the Plantation Palms community formed a Bring Back
Our Course group. The group actively recruited Bill Place and
his wife, Su Lee, owners of Ace Golf, to purchase and restore
the golf course.
Ace Golf, a local company that owns two driving ranges and three
other area golf courses in the Tampa Bay area, purchased the
Plantation Palms Golf Club in May. With weeds reaching higher
than 6 feet, destroyed fairways and nonexistent greens, owner
Bill Place admitted that the project — the fourth local course
he's renovated — required much more work than any of the three
After six months of restoration and renovations, Plantation
Palms has reopened as a new and innovative club. Not only does
it boast what Golf Digest rated as a four-star course, but there
is now a miniature golf course and Mulligan's Irish Pub. These
additions, Place said, should help ensure the club's success.
A miniature golf course at Plantation Palms Golf Club is
aimed at drawing more people to the game of golf and helping to assure
the financial viability of the operation.
"We took what was a bland little restaurant and made it an
interesting and exciting Irish pub," Place said.
The second phase is perhaps the most innovative — an 18-hole miniature golf
course built next to the clubhouse that opened in November. It is the first
miniature golf course to open at a regulation-size golf club in the area and
features waterfalls, ponds and streams, trick shots, tropical landscaping and
lighting for nighttime play.
With the goal of drawing more people to the sport, Place expects that families
who come to play miniature golf may work their way toward the big course. It is
the first step at introducing children to golfing, with other draws to include a
kids club, after-school and weekend programs, and clinics.
"The sport needs more players," Place said. "This is a way to make golf fun."
The golf course opened in December to the public, with new greens and manicured
fairways. Place said it should take a year to get the course in top condition.
In the meantime, low rates of $15 to $25 will be offered through the summer.
"We want people to come back out and see the course," he said. "There is a
reason why Golf Digest viewed this as a legacy course, one that is unique and
has a favorable design."
Other projects in the works include an expanded driving range, which is expected
to open in February. It will include LED lighting for nighttime use. Plans are
also under way to build a banquet hall by summer that can be used for events,
meetings and weddings.
In an industry that Place admits is "not terribly healthy to begin with," he is
confident that the uniqueness of what Plantation Palms Golf Club will lead to
That confidence, he said, is due to the Plantation Palms community itself. As
part of the purchase, members of the Plantation Palms Homeowners Association
agreed to buy social memberships to the club for the next five years — 821, or
one for every home in the community.
And that was just the start of what the community has done, Place said. A group
of 20 volunteers came out and planted the tropical plants throughout the mini
golf course area. There are also volunteer "ambassadors" who drive around the
golf course and greet people.
"This is the most organized and wonderful group of people to work with," Place
said. "This is a community that loves its golf course and is happy to have it
back. I can tell you, we don't see that kind of support very often."