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The Slammer and The Squire

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{short description of image}Front and center

Steve LaFrance

Steve LaFrance

{short description of image}Title: Superintendent at The Slammer and The Squire in St. Augustine, Fla.

{short description of image}GCSAA membership: 15 years

{short description of image}Education:Associate's degree in golf course operations, Lake City (Fla.) Community College

{short description of image}Previous 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.

{short description of image}Tournament 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."

Sitting 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."

Legendary input
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 construction.

The Slammer and The Squire sits in the shadow of the World Golf Hall of Fame at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla.
Slammer and the Squire

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 thrill."

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.

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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 birdie opportunities."

The 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.
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 and par.

"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 game
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 College.

"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 else now."