Naples’ Club Gets Much-Needed Facelift to Aqua Range
One of the very first installments that Aqua Greens did was back in 1997 at The Club at the Strand in Naples, Fla. But like so many of the aqua ranges in Southwest Florida, the green structures took a battering from Hurricane Irma in September of 2017, with sustained winds from the then-Category 3 major hurricane reaching as high as 115 mph.
All three of the original target greens from The Strand washed up in the rough on holes 1 and 9 of the Savannah Course, one of three 9-hole championship courses designed by renowned architect Gordon Lewis. Each structure was beat up, too. The side skirting on each green had been damaged, and an aluminum fabricator had to come in and weld some of the aluminum framing back together.
Until that point, The Strand had been performing their own maintenance on the floating greens, at one point replacing the original, lost anchors with cinder blocks and tying each green down with ropes. Unfortunately, every time a severe weather event came through, such as a hurricane, tropical storm or microburst, the cinder blocks would fail to hold and the greens would either tilt to one side or end up ashore.
Enter Aqua Greens Owner Matt Gault and his team, who installed three, brand new custom-built target greens and a yardage marker in early December 2020, all equipped with new anchors.
“Basically, we got tired of putting a band-aid on them,” said Scott Ryan, Director of Golf Course Maintenance for The Strand. “It was an eyesore with all of the greens we kept trying to patch up every year.”
Ryan, who like Gault hails from New England, knew Gault from an earlier aqua range installation in Southwest Florida. Hence, when new ownership came in and decided to put money toward upgrading the courses and the facility, it was a no-brainer for Ryan to reach out to Gault. Unbeknownst to Gault at the time, The Strand was an original Aqua Greens’ installation. Gault didn’t take over ownership of Aqua Greens until 2002.
Among the new green structures is an 8’ circle yardage marker at 80 yards, a 28’ circular target green at 135 yards, a 12’ x 18’ customized, guitar-shaped target green at 160 yards and a 12’ x 18’ customized, kidney-shaped target green at 180 yards. The 28’ green is the focal point of the range, said Ryan, and includes a painted white bunker around the edges and some raised turf around the fringes of the green to give off the appearance of rough.
“The members love them,” said Ryan. “It gives a whole, nice look to the driving range now. It makes such a difference aesthetically.”
The aluminum-milled frame on each green is engineered to withstand most severe weather events, such as a hurricane or tropical storm—although Gault admits “all bets are off” if the course takes a direct blow, such as The Strand did with Irma. However, of the 100 or so greens that Aqua Greens built and installed that were in the path of Irma, only four were deemed a complete lost.
“We reinforce the aluminum frame so that it can take on pressure at the anchor points that would tear apart most other structures,” said Gault. “You look around at, say, those gas station canopies, when severe weather hits they just tear off the buildings. It comes down to construction redundancies and they’re not reinforced the way our structures are on the water.”
Gault recommends that his team perform maintenance every four years on the aqua greens they install. Aqua Greens will come out, paint the pressure-treated wood skirting, pull up the anchor lines and inspect the hardware, double-check the green surface and replace the flags. With regular, routine maintenance from Aqua Greens, Gault said the floating structures can last up to 50 years or more.
“You can have a microburst that pops an anchor line and nobody knows it, and then a second is popped and the greens are all over the place,” said Gault. “It’s always good to keep up with it so you’re not constantly running into trouble.”