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‘A diamond in the rough’: Historic Jake Gaither Golf Course gets a boost

Published: Jan. 28, 2021 at 10:49 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - After decades of providing a quick and inexpensive getaway for people in Tallahassee, a local diamond in the rough is getting an upgrade.

The greens at the Jake Gaither Golf Course may not have always held the same esteem as their namesake football coach garnered during his golden years, but in the midst of some major renovations, it is making a comeback.

For longtime regulars, it’s a welcomed sight.

“Just being a starter, I couldn’t complain too much,” said Philip Shelton, Sr., who started playing the course in 1995. “You can’t get a better golf course than J. Gaither for the price and the condition it’s in right now.”

Shelton, Sr. said he has spent a lot of time at the southside course ever since he retired from the Marine Corp in 1995. He and his regular playing buddies are overjoyed at the renovations.

“We call it the money hole, because, you know, a little innocent bet here or there,” Shelton, Sr. said specifically about Hole 9.

Supervisor of Golf Operations for the City of Tallahassee, Tiant DeWindt, said these upgrades include a new, $300,000 cart path and an entirely new fleet of golf carts. The facility also has two new pump stations for full irrigation of the greens, and in the near future, renovations of the clubhouse and bathrooms. All things that have been a long time coming for the historic course with a complicated past.

“It was built for black communities during the segregation era,” said Jan Auger, the General Manager of Golf for the city. “It’s not a proud history, but it’s our history.”

According to a June 17, 1956, article by the Tallahassee Democrat, the course was built in the late 1950s. It was named after longtime Rattler football coach Jake Gaither and, in the decades since its opening, it has become a pillar of the community. The City is now working to add it to the National Historic Registry.

The new upgrades will help the course to make a smooth transition into the next chapter.

For some, it’s an investment that has been a long time coming.

“Some of the comments that have been told to be is that Jake is actually looking like a course now, but to me, it’s always been a course. It’s just been underlooked,” said DeWindt. “A diamond in the rough.”

“You’d be riding around just going bumpity, bumpity, bumpity, bumpity, you know?” said Shelton. “Now, no more rough riders.”

The course is the only 9-hole in the city. A quick round will cost you $10. If want a golf cart you will need double that. A good option to stay social and socially distant.

And, you might even win a little cash if you do it right.

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