Aqua Greens, Partners Turn SOFL into Water Range Mecca

Fifteen years ago, aqua ranges were a novelty. Few developers saw the economic advantages and merits to digging these water-filled ranges. Today, the aqua range is as much a part of the Southwest Florida golf course landscape as alligators and sandhill cranes. While still a curiosity for much of the country, aqua ranges are turning up all over golf communities in the Naples/Ft. Myers and Sarasota-Bradenton metropolitan areas.

Leading the charge in the development of these aqua ranges is the Lennar Corporation, the largest homebuilder in the United States. They’ve teamed with ICON Management Services, Inc., a prominent Florida-based property management company, and New Hampshire-based Aqua Greens to build as many as 15 aqua ranges in Southwest Florida, including the recently redesigned Heritage Landing Golf & Country Club and Babcock National Golf Club in Punta Gorda. Both courses were designed by noted golf course architect Gordon B. Lewis.

Next on the agenda for this threesome (foursome, if you include Lewis) is The National Golf & Country Club in Ave Maria, located 25 miles northeast of Naples, Fla. The Lewis-designed 18-hole championship course is just one of the many amenities slated for this master-planned golf community, which is scheduled to open in early 2021. 

“Lennar is doing so much to increase the number of golf courses in the state,” said Wes Miller, President of ICON Management. “I don’t know of another entity building even two courses in the state, and Lennar courses have been popping up at a rate of one to two per year for a number of years in succession now.”

Almost all of these new golf communities feature aqua ranges, and that trend is only expected to continue. The advantages are many. For one, the footprint for a water range is much smaller than that of a traditional land-based range, says Miller. The aqua range also serves as part of the water system for the community, helping absorb much of the storm water runoff. That saves the developer from having to dig an additional pond, freeing up even more space for building homes and other revenue-producing amenities. Perhaps the biggest advantage of all to the aqua range, however, is the money the developer saves on dirt, a precious commodity in Florida. 

“Depending on the size of the aqua range, you could be talking about a savings of more than a million dollars in dirt,” said Matthew Gault, owner of Aqua Greens. “That dirt can be repurposed and used to shape the golf course and elevate the new construction pads and homes.”

There’s also an entertainment quotient to the aqua range, says Miller, especially among junior golfers. A former Assistant and Head Golf Professional, Miller says he used to have his juniors purposely hit golf balls into the water.

“They’d see the ball splash and think it was really cool,” said Miller. “It’s like Topgolf. There’s a fun factor to it that makes them want to come back and play.”

Aqua Greens will be building and installing five target greens for The National aqua range, including one 12’ x 18’ custom-shaped target green, two 10’ x 15’ ovals, one 9’ x 12’ kidney-shaped green and one 10’ circle. Each green will feature UV resistant turf in order to tolerate the hot South Florida sunshine. 

Aqua Greens also provides maintenance services for all their greens, due to general wear and tear and storm damage. For example: In September 2017, Hurricane Irma left much of Bonita National Golf & Country under water. The powerful hurricane snapped anchors, turned floating greens upside down and dragged nearly 2,000 feet of containment system to the shoreline of the aqua range. A 20’ x 30’ target green was completely destroyed. Gault and his team pulled the desecrated greens out of the mud, welded the frames back together and replaced the turf on each, then towed and re-anchored all the greens in place. 

“We’ve had a very good experience with Aqua Greens,” said Miller. “Matt is great at customer service and follow up. He stands by his product and makes sure everything is right if there’s any damage to the greens. After Irma, some of the floating greens ended up in one corner of the range and in somebody’s backyard. He came down and repaired everything. His responsiveness is great and he’s really on top of things.”

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