Superintendent at The Slammer and The Squire in St.
membership: 15 years
degree in golf course operations, Lake City (Fla.) Community
courses: Superintendent at Marsh Landing CC in
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.; superintendent at Boca West Club in
Boca Raton, Fla.; assistant superintendent at Olympia Spa G&CC
in Dothan, Ala.
tip: "Have your short game prepared. The
fairways are large, so they shouldn't have much trouble with
that. But they'll need their wedges and putters ready to go to
score low here."
hard along I-95 in rural St. John's County, Fla., a full 20
minutes south of the bustling Sun Belt city of Jacksonville, the
sprawling World Golf Village does stick out from its neighbors,
mostly farms hidden from the nearby hum of the interstate by
groves of towering pine trees.
Nestled comfortably between the
St. John's River and the beaches of St. Augustine, the entire
development covers more than 6,000 acres. In addition to the World
Golf Hall of Fame, the shops and restaurants and two impressive
hotels -- the Renaissance Resort and Sheraton's Vistana Resort --
the complex is also home to a growing housing development, a
business park and PGA Tour Productions, the television, film and
video arm of the PGA Tour.
But not surprisingly, beating at
the heart of this area is a golf course -- The Slammer and The
Squire, which opened to much acclaim in March 1998. Designed by
Bobby Weed with input from player consultants and the course's
namesakes, Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen, the layout winds its way
through natural wooded areas and wetlands, with its clubhouse
standing in the shadow of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
"Everything sort of overlooks
the golf course here and is built around the golf course,"
says superintendent Steve LaFrance, a 15-year GCSAA member who has
been at The Slammer and The Squire since it opened. "We're
just at the center of it all."
The first attraction to The
Slammer and The Squire is, obviously, the Slammer (Snead) and the
Squire (Sarazen). With the course's proximity to so many of golf's
cherished artifacts and to a shrine that counts both Snead and
Sarazen as charter members, it was appropriate they were brought
in to consult with Weed during the course's design and
Slammer and The Squire sits in the shadow of the World Golf Hall
of Fame at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla.
Shortly before the course opened
and a little more than a year before his death in May 1999,
Sarazen said of his involvement in the project: "I've been
involved in many golf course projects but nothing to the magnitude
of this project. Giving my input on The Slammer and The Squire and
being associated with the World Golf Hall of Fame has been a real
For Snead, the marriage of the
course and the Hall of Fame was a match made in heaven: "We
built a golf course that people will enjoy playing and included
the need for some good shot making. And at the World Golf Hall of
Fame, people can see how the game was started and played."
In the three years since the
course's opening, The Slammer and The Squire has hosted no less
than five nationally televised events, including Liberty Mutual's
Legends of Golf stop on the Senior PGA Tour in 1998 and 1999. The
layout has also been popular among the corporate and celebrity
tournament set, most recently hosting a tournament in conjunction
with the grand opening of the Murray Bros. Caddyshack restaurant
at the World Golf Village.
For regular play, the course makes
itself available to all levels of golfer, with five sets of tees
ranging from 4,996 yards to nearly 7,000 yards. For the GCSAA Golf
Champ-ionship, the course will play to a 6,660-yard, par 72, with
a course rating of 72.5 and a slope of 128.
A good fit
Age has been kind to The
Slammer and The Squire, which has settled into its natural
surroundings beautifully. The maturity of the course's trees and
its numerous native grass areas have given the layout a truly
consistent feel and allowed the design's true colors to shine.
That doesn't mean the playing
challenges have changed. Because of the wide variety of clientele
The Slammer and The Squire serves, LaFrance says "it's not a
course that's really going to beat you up. There are a lot of
course's namesakes -- golf legends Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen --
served as player consultants to course designer Bobby Weed during
design and construction of The Slammer and The Squire.
Taking advantage of those
opportunities, however, will be the trick for Championship
competitors. The FloraDwarf bermuda greens (they'll be overseeded
with bentgrass and Poa trivialis come February) are generous in
size, averaging around 7,400 square feet, and will make inviting
targets from the fairway. But they are undulating, meaning where
competitors put the ball could spell the difference between birdie
"There's a lot of movement on
the greens and a lot of movement around the greens in the chipping
areas," LaFrance says.
Perhaps the course's most revered
hole is the seventh, known as "Redan." Fashioned after
the Redan at North Berwick Golf Links in Scotland, this 161-yard
par 3 features water running along the left side of the hole, with
four bunkers guarding the multi-tiered green. The hole can be
attacked in one of two ways, either by carrying the bunkers on the
left or by playing a draw that allows the natural flow of the
green to carry the ball to the hole.
Love of the
Like many superintendents
across the country, LaFrance's connection to the game dates back
to his teen-age years when he began working on a golf course. An
avid junior golfer, he spent time working in the pro shop, as a
lifeguard at the country club's pool, a golf car attendant --
virtually any job you can imagine.
When the time came for LaFrance to
begin making some decisions about his future career path, the golf
pro he was working for at the time encouraged him to explore the
golf course operations program at Lake City (Fla.) Community
"I probably thought I would
have liked to be a pro during those days," LaFrance admits. "But
the more I looked into it and the more I got into the maintenance
side, the more my mind changed. I can't imagine doing anything