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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Ironwood Golf Course looks to stay afloat as staple of Gainesville golf community

The course has endured all kinds of financial struggles over the last 30 years, yet it stands stronger than ever before

A golfer tees off at Ironwood Golf Course on Sunday, May 19, 2024.
A golfer tees off at Ironwood Golf Course on Sunday, May 19, 2024.

In recent years, Ironwood Golf Course has faced budget cuts, management watches and all kinds of threats of closure. But amid all the turmoil, the grass is greener than ever before at the historic North Florida course.

Since being purchased by Gainesville in 1992, Ironwood has become a staple of the Gainesville golf community. As one of the only public courses within city limits, Ironwood draws in golfers from all over the area. 

From retirees hoping to keep their putting strokes fresh on the green to UF students looking to try their hand at a new pastime, Ironwood is consistently buzzing with new and returning patrons, no matter the time or the day.

“You’ve got normal people playing and the influx of students, who I guess don’t want to pay the $70 at UF’s course. [It] sends a bunch of them out here,” said Ironwood volunteer ranger John Redmond. “You’ve got all the high schools who play out here, middle schools… it covers a whole multitude of people. It’s more in-depth than I ever thought.”

In spite of rumors surrounding a potential closure down the road, Ironwood has remained just as popular as ever before. As an avid golfer himself, Redmond has taken notice regarding how much Ironwood truly means to the Gainesville community.

“It’s a fun place to play golf, and it’s convenient,” Redmond said. “I didn’t realize it was as big as it is until I started volunteering out here.”

Frequent Ironwood patron Madelyn Miller also noted the course’s appeal to both experienced veterans and golf novices. 

“I’ve gotten a bunch of friends who are not golfers to come out to that course and actually enjoy being out there,” Miller said. “I’ve even gotten some of them to swing a club… It’s really rare, especially with females, to get out into the golf game unless you’re already deep into golf.”

The golf course offers players a chance to enjoy the game in a relaxed, competition-free environment. 

“[Ironwood] is a little bit more laid-back, so it takes away the pressure of being good,” she continued. “If you shank a ball into the woods, you don’t really have to worry about it so much.”

However, even with its popularity, the course endured more than its fair share of financial struggles. Gainesville city management found Ironwood “fails to bring in sufficient revenue” on multiple occasions. At one point, the course was put on a “management watch” after an audit found multiple issues with its oversight and management procedures.

These budgetary rough patches led to multiple proposals in recent years for the city to shut down Ironwood. While nothing has come to fruition, these propositions have left some members of the Gainesville golf community worried for what the future may hold.

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“I always hear these rumors that are going around in this terrible golf community we have,” said Bob Dooley Invitational chairman Pat Dooley. “It’s not the kind of thing where you can go on a website and figure out what’s going on.”

Dooley also noted the potential racial ramifications of closing down the only golf course located in a predominantly Black area of the city.

“The bottom line is there’s not a whole lot going on in the east side of Gainesville, and for them to shut [Ironwood] down would just be another blow,” Dooley said. “You could even question the racism of it, that you would close the only golf course that’s on the side of town where people can play… It’s the only place I go to play golf where I see people of color.”

Recent developments surrounding Ironwood’s future have been more optimistic. In a city finance committee meeting last February, commissioner Ed Book acknowledged Ironwood cut their projected deficit in the 2024 fiscal year by approximately $90,000. Book went on to affirm his belief that the course was “headed in the right direction.”

While there is still work to be done in steadying Ironwood’s financial hardships, Gainesville golfers remain hopeful the city will be able to iron things out and preserve the local landmark.

Even with the hardships the course has faced, it looks like Ironwood’s future may be headed back onto the fairway soon enough.

Contact Jack Meyer at Follow him on X @jackmeyerUF.

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Jack Meyer

Jack Meyer is a third-year journalism major and a sports reporter for The Alligator. In his free time, he enjoys running, spending time with friends, playing video games, and watching the Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins.

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