MYAKKA CITY, Florida – When you put Nick Price and David Leadbetter together on a golf project you most likely will have a winner.
This week those two were in the spotlight at the ground-breaking for the Soleta Golf Club on the outskirts of Sarasota, FL. Soleta’s expected opening is in late 2024 and will be the centerpiece for a private residential golf community that will include 93 residences and other amenities. Needless to say, it’ll be highly upscale with the initiation fee for a full golf membership set at $100,000.
Both Price and Leadbetter are long-time Floridians. Price lives in Hobe Sound and Leadbetter has lived in the Sarasota area for the past eight years. Both were closely involved in the planning stages at Soleta and will be on site frequently during the course’s construction phase. Price is the course designer while Leadbetter is designing a 30-acre practice facility called ‘Field of Dreams‘ and an indoor center that will include a biomechanics studio, club fitting, a putting studio, simulators and other advanced training technologies.
“My buddy Nick and I go back a long way,’’ said Leadbetter. “I designed a course once, but it was in China. I figured it was far enough away that nobody would know about it. I thought Nick and I could be co-designers here, but he was afraid I’d screw it up.’’
Clearly they enjoy working together. Though the Soleta home sites will be worth a look, the most interesting aspect at this stage of the project is the pairing of Price and Leadbetter. Leadbetter was once Price’s swing coach. Leadbetter’s tutelage helped Price make a swing change in 1982 and that worked out so well that another Nick, this one named Faldo, underwent the same treatment a few years later and achieved even greater success.
Though Price is in the World Golf Hall of Fame, his playing career is not be as appreciated as it should be. That’s my perception, and I was up close and personal in witnessing just how good Price was. Being a Chicago-based writer then, I was most impressed by his back-to-back victories in the 1993 and 1994 Western Opens. In the first he beat Greg Norman by five strokes. Price had a shot at a third Western title in 2000 but lost in a playoff to Robert Allenby.
Sadly that late, great Western championship – first played in 1899 — was shut down in 2006 when the PGA Tour and Western Golf Association opted to convert it into a FedEx Cup Playoff event called the BMW Championship. Golf in Chicago hasn’t been the same since.
I was also on hand to watch Nick Price win two PGA Championships, at Bellerive in St. Louis in 1992 and Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oka., in 1994. Oh, yes, there was also that eye-opening day in 1986, when I covered the Masters for the first time. Price set the tournament record with a 9-under-par 63. It’s a record that still stands, though Norman tied it in 1996. Throughout his playing career Price was a class act on and off the course.
Now 66, he notched the last of his 18 PGA Tour victories in 2003 at a time when he was just getting involved with golf course architecture. Not all great players turn out to be good course designers, but Price has held his own. His design website lists a portfolio of 13 courses, the first five of which were outside of the United States. One of those, TPC Cancun in Mexico, is the only TPC layout outside of the U.S.
Price plays out of one of McArthur Golf Club in Hobe Sound, a course he co-designed with Tom Fazio. The only Price course I’ve played is Grande Dunes – one of the very best layouts in the golf mecca of Myrtle Beach, S.C.
So what will Soleta be like? Other than the fact that it’ll be separated from the home sites, Price could give only an inkling, with a grand opening planned in late 2024.
“We’re here to create a special place for golfers to play, spend time with friends and have fun,’’ he said. “The property has wetlands, uplands, open grassland and some great trees. We’ve laid out the course to take advantage and incorporate those natural features into the design of the holes. I’m really happy that no wetlands have been impacted or eliminated anywhere on the property. These natural elements will be part of what gives the course its natural look and feel.’’