The River Bend Golf Links in Green Cove Springs has gotten a new lease on life.
The 18-hole public facility, which is located on land owned by the Clay County Port, is not being condemned as part of the planned expansion of the Shands Bridge and construction of the First Coast Expressway.
At least not yet.
Plans have changed to run the expressway further south of the golf course, on the way to the new Shands Bridge. And veteran Jacksonville teaching professional Rhonda Ferguson and her husband Darrin, a management and operations consultant, are now leasing the property from the port and are planning to operate the course as long as they can until the final decision is made on what part of the course, if any, will become part of the expressway.
“It could be two years, it could be 10 years,” Ferguson said. “The important thing is we’re keeping the course open. It’s been here for decades as a golf course and it’s such a neat property, with a lot of character.”
The course was scheduled to be closed on April 30. It has long been an affordable public golf option for central and south Clay County residents since it was built on the old Navy base in 1950.
It was been under three names, first as Reynolds Park, then Cattail Creek. The course measures 6,031 from the tips.
Ferguson said regular players are relieved to be able to keep coming back. Had the course closed, their nearest 18-hole options at similar price points would have been the Palatka Golf Club (27 miles away), the Starke Municipal Course (28 miles) or the Keystone Heights Golf Club (35 miles).
“We’ve had members almost in tears at being able to keep coming back here,” Ferguson said.
The new management will offer monthly range ($40) and golf memberships ($80 for individuals, $165 for families). The golf membership will include unlimited walking or discounted cart fees.
The Fergusons are expanding instructional programs for beginners, juniors and families, with camps and clinics. They also are making the facility available for leagues.
Plans are to expand the pro shop and food and beverage options. There won’t be a dress code.
“We want people to come here and have fun,” she said.
Ferguson has received awards on the chapter and section level for teaching, player development and junior golf. She currently runs North Florida Girls Golf and is an honorable mention U.S. Kids top-50 instructor.