In 1986, well-respected Jacksonville real estate developer Chester Stokes created a gated golf community in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Stokes’ vision for his new Marsh Landing was to make the development and country club a source of pride for himself and all of the residents. Although Marsh Landing was not a “bundled” community, there were more than 1,100 homes, and, with an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course, Stokes felt that the golf club would become sustainable.
As expected, Marsh Landing became a very desirable place to live. Membership was at an all-time high and the club flourished. But when the economy went through its downturn about 12 years ago, the club lost a substantial number of members and as a result a good chunk of operating revenue. Luckily, Stokes was “all-in” and invested a lot of his own money into the well-being of the club.
In 2022, seeing that the club was “tired” and in need of a major overhaul, Stokes put forth a few ideas to the Board of Directors, including an effort to make Marsh Landing a bundled community. When none of his suggestions panned out, Stokes decided that enough was enough and offered to sell the club to the members. The members decided not to exercise that option, so Chester Stokes put Marsh Landing Country Club on the market.
Enter Concert Golf Partners, one of the fastest-growing golf course ownership and management companies in the US. After interviewing several management companies, the Board submitted the Concert Golf proposal to the community who voted unanimously to accept their proposal and sell the club.
Concert Golf Partners are experts at buying clubs that are operating below their potential and turning them around by making capital improvements, streamlining club operations, and increasing membership. Concert Golf Partners never passes the costs along to its members in the form of increased assessments. They currently have 30 properties in 15 states in their portfolio. By turning Marsh Landing Country Club around, Concert Golf Partners is helping Chester Stokes and the residents realize his initial vision.
John Fairall is the new General Manager at Marsh Landing, Fairall has been in the golf business for over 30 years and has seen the good and bad of new club ownership. According to Fairall, when Concert took over March Landing, they were immediately behind the 8-ball with some of the members. “For years, these people had been told that changes were coming (capital improvements and course improvements), but it never came to fruition. We had to earn their respect and to do that, we had to follow through on our promises and commitments.”
As promised, Concert Golf has initiated a $7 million capital improvement plan and the first steps are already in progress. The driving range was recently re-grassed and equipped with TurfHound tee stations. TurfHound provides a surface that mimics the feel of real grass without requiring a lawnmower.! The renovation of the clubhouse is also well underway. According to Fairall, “We have completed the demolition phase and are now in the process of rebuilding everything!”
Shortly after purchasing the club, Concert flipped the nines back to their original routing. That’s about the only thing that has changed with the golf course since Ed Seay finished the design; the golf course is still as fun and exciting to play as it ever was.
Playing Marsh Landing is like taking a 4-hour ride through a nature preserve. The course was designed by Arnold Palmer Course Design partner Ed Seay who was able to keep most of the landscape intact and incorporate the natural features of the terrain into the layout. The course uses a lot of creative routing and features two very diverse nines. The front side meanders through serene, intercoastal marshlands with the odd towering pine tree; water comes into play on every hole. The back nine looks as if it has been carved from thick lagoons and tidal marshes. You get a break from the water on the first two holes but then it re-emerges for the rest of the round. As you would expect with a country club of this caliber, fairways are manicured, bunkers are raked to near-perfection and the greens roll true. Even though the community dates back to 1985, March Landing is still one of the most prestigious developments in the area. You’ll get the picture as you pass some impressive homes on the golf course.
The Course measures 6,851 yards from the championship tees with a course rating of 74.3 and a slope of 143. Move up to the Member tees and the yardage drops 6,468 yards with a rating of 72.4 and a slope of 135. I chose the Merganser Tees (6,176/71.2/129) which were still a challenge but let me leave with my dignity somewhat intact.
Marsh Landing offers a total of seven tees so finding a distance that suits your game shouldn’t be a problem. The course plays on Bermuda grass from tee to green. Over the years, Marsh Landing has hosted both US Amateur and US Open qualifying events, as well as the 2003 Florida State Amateur Championship and the 1999 and 2001 Oakley Invitational.
Marsh Landing has its share of memorable holes; my two favorites are Number 12 and 17. For many members, the 12th hole is the layout’s signature hole. It’s an incredible par 3 that plays 160 yards from the Member Tees. Start off from an elevated tee box over a soggy marshland into a small green protected in the front and back by bunkers. It’s pretty much all carry from tee to green with no real bailout area to speak of. Long is better than short!
Number 17 is a challenging par 5, especially if you’ve never played it before. It plays 495 yards, is almost dead straight, and is one of the tighter driving holes on the golf course. It does open up a bit in the landing area, but you can’t tell that from the tee box. There’s water on the right should you push your drive and a bunker on the left side if you hit it too well. What you may not know – I didn’t – is that a large wetland area comes into play about 130 yards in front of the green. Unless you can hit your fairway wood longer than you just hit your drive, your best bet is to lay up and leave yourself a manageable distance into the green which is protected by a large bunker on the right. Beware of the two fairway bunkers on the right just short of the marsh. Par is a good score here!
At a Country Club where the main focus is golf, you would expect to find first-rate practice facilities and Marsh Landing doesn’t disappoint. You can get in some practice at their full-length driving range where you can hit every club in the bag or sharpen your short-game skills on the chipping green. Then, move over to the practice green and stroke some putts. The friendly professional staff at Marsh Landing is there to help you take your golf game to the next level. Lessons are available regardless of your skill level at either one of the practice areas or on the golf course; they can also fit you for a new set of clubs, too. Inside the pro shop, you’ll find the latest golf fashions and styles, so you’ll not only play your best, but you’ll also look good too!
In addition to a top-rated 18-hole championship golf course, Marsh Landing Country Club features 10 lighted Har-Tru tennis courts, a large fitness facility, and a resort-style pool.
Membership is the best way to experience all that Marsh Landing Country Club has to offer. All Memberships include primary, spouse, and children under the age of 23. Each membership category has a one-time, non-refundable initiation fee, plus monthly dues.
Membership categories are a Standard Full Golf Membership with unlimited use of all golf, tennis, fitness, and swimming facilities as well as use of our clubhouse and dining facilities. There are no greens fees or court fees. A Junior Membership has all of the same entitlements and is for members and their spouses under the age of 45. A Sports Membership includes everything but golf, and a Social Member has unlimited use of the dining facilities along with all social functions. And, as a Member of a Concert Golf property, you’ll enjoy reciprocal privileges at other clubs within their network. For more information or to arrange a personalized tour, contact the Membership Director.
For more information or to arrange a visit give them a call at 904.285.6514 or visit them online. Marsh Landing Country Club’s website has a lot of good information including the layout of each hole. www.marshlandingcc.com.