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When a golf course is as good as the Arnold Palmer-design at Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club, there’s only one thing to do: Make it even better. That’s the plan when the course – one of the best layouts along Florida’s Treasure Coast – closes in May for a six-month renovation. Fortunately, Orchid Island is more than just great golf. The private, gated country club community, technically located in the town of Orchid near Vero Beach, is resplendent with amenities that range from tennis and pickleball to one-mile stretch of beach, fitness center and spa, and multiple dining options.
Orchid Island – one of the few private oceanfront golf communities in Florida to offer direct beach access – recently opened a kayak launch in the spectacular mangroves on the Indian River Lagoon, considered the most biodiverse ecosystem in the Northern hemisphere. Members can utilize the Club’s kayaks or use their own to paddle the waters and encounter manatees, dolphins, and birds.
As a Certified Audubon Sanctuary by Audubon International with an ocean to river habitat, Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club is committed to preserving the rich wildlife found in Vero Beach. Kayakers launch amongst the mangrove and can explore the lagoon waters.
Bird watchers can find colorful and unique birds found in and near the waters of Orchid Island, including pelicans, hawks, ovenbirds, black and white warblers, blackpoll and black-throated blue warblers, American redstarts, rose breasted and blue grosbeak, yellow-throated and red-eyed vireo.
No wonder the community is known as “Camp Orchid” by its residents and members.
“There’s a lot of socialization here,” said Orchid Island General Manager Rob Tench. “We have a great group of members. The members make the experience. And they are very welcoming to new people coming in, so it’s easy to make friends and cultivate relationships. Orchid Island is all about all the amenities, everyone can get to places in their golf cars, which creates a bonding among the members.
“Our seasonal members are worn out by the time they go back North; they have to go home and rest up to come back and do it all over again.”
When those members return this fall, they’ll see a golf course with new tee boxes, new greens, renovated bunkers and fresh landscaping. The Club even is considering naming the final three holes (among the better private club finishing holes in South Florida) after its legendary designer. How does “The King’s Corner” sound?
Indeed, with such trademark Palmer design signatures as rock walls and sharp doglegs, the King’s influence is obvious. A couple of the holes, particularly the par-five, 18th, even resemble holes at Palmer’s beloved Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando.
The most significant renovation work (led by Palmer senior architect Brandon Johnson) will be done on the greens, while the most visible work will be on the tee boxes.
“Basically, we’re redoing all of the greens,” said Orchid Island Director of Golf David Champagne. “They are perfect on the surface, but if you go down 14 inches, there is all kinds of crumbling that creates disease and contamination issues.”
“We’re going to laser-level and realign all the tee boxes. Some of them look like after thoughts, so we’re going to expand them and make them look like regular tee boxes. We’re not adding tee boxes, we’re just taking away ones that aren’t being use. It will make the course more playable without taking away any of its integrity.”
Golf Course Superintendent Matt Boyd will oversee the renovation work, which will be led by Palmer Design Group senior architect Brandon Johnson. When it’s complete, the course will feature TifEagle greens, Champion Bermudagrass on the fairways and paspalum tee boxes.
“The design and integrity of our course will not change, but the majority of the course will be exquisitely refreshed in order to continue to provide our members with the best golf in Vero Beach,” Tench said. “Golf at all levels is one of the cornerstones of the social life at Orchid Island and we are excited to unveil the newly refreshed course to our members.”
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