Deerwood Country Club
|Location||Jacksonville, Florida, US|
|Operated by||Deerwood Board of Governors|
|Tournaments hosted||Greater Jacksonville Open|
|Deerwood Golf Course|
|Designed by||George Cobb (1960)
Brian Silva (2004)
Deerwood is the oldest gated community and country club in Jacksonville, Florida, US. After it was established in the mid-1960s, it was the most exclusive residential area on the south side of Jacksonville and remains so today, with round-the-clock guard service at two entrances and high standards for membership and residency. The golf course hosted the Greater Jacksonville Open in the late 1960s and early 1970s, forerunner of The Players Championship, and was once the site of talks between President Gerald Ford and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in November 1975.
Richard Green Skinner came to Jacksonville in 1899 in search of pine trees for harvesting sap to produce turpentine for his marine supply business. Land to the south and east of the St. Johns River was mostly pine trees, sand dunes or marsh; inhabited by wildlife. After 1900, the Skinner family owned close to 40,000 acres (160 km2). That land was distributed to his six sons upon his death in the 1920s. The oldest brother, Bright, and two other brothers moved to Tampa and received the land owned there. The acreage nearest to the downtown went to Ben Skinner, who built the Skinner Dairy and Farm, which was closed and developed as Southpoint in the late 1970s.
Chester and Richard were given the biggest tracts because the land was quite remote—miles from existing roads. Richard Skinner, in turn, gave his children, Richard, Jr., Bryant, and Dottie his land, including the property on which Deerwood would be built.
Bryant built the golf course in 1960-61, designed on a limited budget by notable golf course architect George Cobb. He then constructed the first home in the Deerwood development (his own) the following year. Brother Richard Jr. built his home there in 1963. In early 1962, Bryant began to outline and lay out a unique (for Jacksonville) and exclusive gated golf community that would become Deerwood. Within his rural Florida location he envisioned a neighborhood that incorporated curving roadways, panoramas, and distinctive homes on voluminous lots with large open common areas incorporating lakes, built around a country club that would feature golf, swimming and tennis. There was plenty of room for a riding stable and bridle paths. The development was named Deerwood because of an abundance of wildlife: turkeys, wild hogs, raccoons, bears and lots of deer.
Bryant was confident that people would embrace it, but to get there from the established city required an eight mile (13 km) drive down U.S. 1 (Philips Highway), then east for three bumpy miles on a rough dirt road named San Clerc, which would eventually become Baymeadows Road. In 1960, the area south of Beach Boulevard, east of US 1, and extending ten miles (16 km) to the Intracoastal Waterway (approximately 50 square miles) was wilderness consisting of sand dunes and pine trees. In order to solve the problem of their isolated location, the Skinners donated land and convinced the Jacksonville Expressway Authority to build a road that would connect Beach Boulevard to Philips Highway. That thoroughfare, now called Southside Boulevard, opened Deerwood to development. In the 1970s, they gave land for State Road 202 (Butler Boulevard), which opened more of their property, as did the extension of Baymeadows Road, east from Southside Blvd to a point where State Road 9A (now I-295) was built. The Skinners also donated about 500 acres (2.0 km2) for the campus of what is now the University of North Florida.
Jacksonville Country Day School was constructed at the southwest corner of Deerwood in 1960. The school sold their 4.3 acres (17,000 m2) of frontage on Southside Boulevard in 1989 for over $1 million to help pay for capital improvements. The buyers used the property to build two strip centers for retail businesses. The school occupies a parcel of nearly 17 acres (69,000 m2) and has two entrances; public access is from Baymeadows Road, and there is a private drop-off entrance from within the Deerwood gated community.
Bryant Skinner worked for Jacksonville's Stockton, Whatley, Davin & Co. (SWD), the largest mortgage banking, real estate and insurance business in Northeast Florida. The Skinners had abundant land, but not the financial resources necessary to develop his Deerwood project. J.J. Daniel became president of SWD in 1960 and made a deal to purchase Deerwood's 900 acres (3.6 km2) from the Skinners. SWD financed the development of Deerwood Country Club. Bryant Skinner quit his job at SWD to concentrate on selling homes around the new golf course and started his own firm. The Bryant Skinner Company eventually became one of Jacksonville's most successful real estate development businesses. In 1980, they combined with Gate Petroleum to develop the 250-acre (1.0 km2) Southpoint office park.
Don Davis was named General Manager of Deerwood Country Club in 1965, a position he held for over 20 years. In 1978, Davis was promoted to Operations Vice President of SWD, responsible for all Deerwood Club operations, including the sale of residences and home sites. In 1979, 86 families lived at Deerwood.
Prior to the annexation of South Jacksonville in 1932, the city of Jacksonville occupied land on the north and west sides of the St. Johns River. The Ortega area was the refuge of Jacksonville's society and old money; a neighborhood of riverfront mansions and aristocratic estates. The Timuquana Country Club, founded in 1923, was their exclusive domain.
The establishment and success of the Deerwood Country Club was the springboard that launched dramatic growth along Baymeadows Road and Southside Boulevard. Retail businesses, residential developments, apartments and commercial properties included "Deerwood" in their name to associate with the club's prestige. An article in the local newspaper in 2005 stated:
"Deerwood became the new place to live, the protected place to raise a family and the coveted community for outsiders to snag a dinner invitation. The Times-Union regularly featured its stylish homes and equally stylish homeowners. Deerwood offered riding stables along with tennis courts, a pool and, of course, what became a nationally known golf course."
Don Davis, a Jacksonville City Councilman for twelve years and State Legislator for eight years, commented, "I think the people on the other side of the river (Ortega) were quite astonished. They felt they were the first-class area in which to live. Then we had this new upstart on the Southside, on a dirt road, in the middle of nowhere."
Gate Petroleum purchased the real estate assets of SWD in 1983, which included ownership of Deerwood Country Club. Gate also owned Epping Forest Yacht Club and Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, so Deerwood general manager Don Davis was hired by Gate and continued to operate and manage the club. Throughout the 1980s, the pace of development increased.
In 1989, Gate built a convenience store and filling station at the intersection of Baymeadows Road and Southside Boulevard.
A group of Deerwood homeowners tried to buy Deerwood for $3.1 million in 1990, but were unable to convince enough members to join the effort. At that time, there were 700 members. If 500 of them participated, it would have cost about $7,500 each.
At the end of the 1990s, new federal rules required more efficient use of water, and the irrigation system for the Deerwood golf course required major renovations. Nearly all of the building lots had been sold, leaving no opportunity for profitable income. In 1999, Gate founder Herb Peyton gave the club three choices: the members could buy the club assets; Gate could continue to operate the club for a management fee of 3% of revenues, plus dues; or the club could be sold to a third party. The club members agreed to buy the club assets for $5 million, becoming member-owned. This time, around 700 members agreed to participate, including 100 non-residents. To fund the purchase, refundable equity memberships were offered for $9,000, and associate (non-voting) memberships cost $3,500. 
The Deerwood gated community was initially limited to single family residences for many years. Condominium developments, zero lot line homes, and courtyard communities were gradually included as the development matured and demand for them increased. Homesites ranged up to a 20-acre (81,000 m2) estate, with some 5-acre (20,000 m2) parcels, but the average lot is over ½ acre. Deerwood is now mostly built out, with approximately 900 families in homes priced above $400,000. The intersection of Baymeadows Road and Southside Boulevard, near the Deerwood entrance, is one of the busiest intersections in the city of Jacksonville. The Tinseltown commercial center is a couple of miles north. The Avenues Mall is two miles (3 km) south. And there are tens of thousands of people living in dozens of developments off Southside Boulevard and Baymeadows Road. Many homes in Deerwood are over forty years old, so it is not unusual for someone to demolish an older home and build a new custom home. Many of the larger properties are located on the east side of the development in a community known as "The Estates". The entrances are adorned with life-size bronze bucks and does; a reminder of a time when deer were plentiful and people were scarce.
Operations within the Deerwood Country Club are controlled by the Deerwood Board of Governors (DBG), elected by the Equity membership.
The Deerwood Country Club has an 18-hole golf course & driving range, fitness center, Olympic-size swimming pool, tennis facility with 12 Har-Tru courts (8 lighted), and clubhouse.
The original golf clubhouse, designed by KBJ Architects and constructed in the 1960s, was demolished after a new, 25,000-square-foot (2,300 m2) clubhouse opened in December 2004. The new building is elevated to allow views of the natural beauty of the golf course and surrounding lakes. The facility has multiple private rooms for member functions, a formal dining room and shaded outdoor patio areas.
The Deerwood Golf Course and its irrigation and drainage systems had significant renovation over eight months in 2004 that was long overdue. The painfully flat course was given contours to move rainwater to underground drainage and features that were omitted in 1961 due to financial constraints were added. Bunkers were reconstructed and several of the severe doglegs (bends) were straightened somewhat. A new cart facility and putting green were also included.
When Deerwood first opened, every resident belonged to the Country Club because membership was connected to property ownership. That changed over the years as homes were bought and sold, and memberships became more flexible based on each owner's preferences. There are two classes of membership, but all members have access to dining, social events, fitness center and swimming pool.
Equity membership entitles the member to vote and hold office and has monetary value. Equity members can also purchase Partner privileges for priority access to activities and special benefits.
Associate members have no voice in how the club is run. Today, only 51% of the Deerwood residents are members of the Country Club. Part of that is financial; the equity initiation fee was $21,000 in 2005, with monthly dues of $349 for a golf membership. However, there are about 100 non-residents who are Deerwood Country Club members. When the Deerwood Board of Governors made the decision to build a new clubhouse and renovate the golf course at a cost estimated at $9.5 million, all Equity members were assessed a fee to pay for it. Membership dropped from 700 in 2000 to approximately 500 in January 2004, when the project began. Approximately 25% of the members did not pay it, leaving the club with a $6M debt.
To generate funds to reduce the Deerwood Country Club's financial burden, it was discovered that the club owned land that could be sold for development. In the summer of 2005, a local developer paid $2.6 million to purchase 140 acres (0.57 km2) on the north end of the country club—the last large undeveloped parcel, which was mostly wetlands once viewed as too expensive to utilize. The Collins Group plotted 26 1-acre (4,000 m2) homesites on a new thoroughfare named Collins Grove Road for multi-million dollar homes while reserving 100 acres (0.40 km2) for conservation. The homes were expected to be a minimum of 5,000 square feet (460 m2), with a total cost starting at $1.5 million.
Operations within the Deerwood residential community are controlled by the Deerwood Improvement Association (DIA), the community's homeowner's association. Their leadership is elected by the Voting membership.
Every deed in Deerwood includes a comprehensive set of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions which establish and permit enforcement of standards. They enable the controlled access to the community, and authorize the Deerwood Improvement Association to fund their activities and provide infrastructure including recreational areas, drainage, road maintenance and common areas. KBJ Architects developed the design standards for residential developments at Deerwood, which were also used at Amelia Island Plantation.
The DIA manages the 3-acre (12,000 m2) recreation area that includes a community walk, basketball court, multi-purpose ball field, unique playground and pavilion. Other common areas include traffic islands and the two property entrances; 16 miles (26 km) of paved streets and street lights, the storm drainage system and 45 lakes.
The DIA is an organization mandated in the Deerwood deed covenants, composed of elected Deerwood homeowners, all of whom are automatically association members. As part of Gate's sale of Deerwood in 1999, ownership of the common areas was transferred to the DIA. At that time, the DIA automatic membership did not include voting rights, which were offered for a one-time fee of $3,000 and were transferrable if the member's property was sold. Nearly two-thirds of the homeowners purchased this benefit, all but 84 of these homeowners paid the $9,000 Equity Fee plus the $3,000 fee to join the Club.
The DIA budget for 2010 was over $1.75 million. Each of the 920+ homeowners and 29 lot owners were assessed an annual fee of $1,900 in 2010 to support the activities of the DIA.
The DIA board of directors is composed of 11 members, elected to staggered 3-year terms, with officers including president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. Non-officers chair one of these committees: Standards, Architectural Review, Access Control and Safety, Grounds, Landscape, and Communication/Newsletter.
The DIA engages the services of a professional property manager, whose office handles the day-to-day operations and is the primary contact for residents. The property manager works with all the committees, provides them with assistance and coordinates their activities.
The most expensive support activity was Community Access, which cost over $600,000; Repairs and Maintenance was $400,000; Property Management was $120,000; and finally, Utilities were almost $100,000.
The 2005 sale of 140 acres (0.57 km2) helped the Deerwood Board of Governors reduce their debt by $2.6 million, but not everyone was happy. A group of neighbors who built homes in 1992 on property that abuts the new development said they were assured that the wetlands would not be developed, but it was just a handshake agreement. They filed suit to block the sale, but received almost no sympathy from other homeowners and were shunned or harassed by club members and residents. They dropped the lawsuit when the developer agreed to negotiated buffers, and resigned themselves to the inevitability that their quiet cul-de-sac would become a thoroughfare for construction vehicles followed by residential traffic.
The secretary of the Board of Governors stated that the sale was best for the club. When asked why residents and club members weren't notified of the sale, he said, "We did not consult with the general membership, and we did not consult with the neighborhood. It really was none of their business."
A real estate consultant who analyzed the secretive sale compared the property to Palencia, an upscale golf community in St. Augustine where equivalent parcels sold for over $300,000. Based on that, the developer, who is both a Deerwood homeowner and club member, could net as much as $4 million profit in the insider deal. The consultant stated that if the club had done their homework, they probably could have earned more from the sale.
- Patton, Charlie: "Picture this: Deerwood, deserted" Florida Times-Union, February 21, 2003
- Brune-Mathis, Karen: "Deerwood rift definitely newsworthy" Florida Times-Union, August 28, 2005
- Blackwell, Victor (27 December 2006). "Looking Back on President Ford's Visit to Jacksonville". First Coast News. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
- Patton, Charlie: "Piney Woods Miracle" Florida Times-Union, November 23, 2000
- Walsh, Greg: "Jacksonville's Deerwood gets new drainage, greens with major renovation" Jacksonville Golf, September 24, 2004
- Beadling, Les: "President's Message" Deerwood Community News, Winter 2006
- "10063 BAYMEADOWS RD" Duval County Property Appraiser
- "8221 SOUTHSIDE BLVD" Duval County Property Appraiser
- "8101 SOUTHSIDE BLVD" Duval County Property Appraiser
- Newboy: the Autobiography of Herbert Hill Peyton, page 145, Herbert Hill Peyton, ISBN 0-9658277-0-4
- Barker-Benfield, Simon: "Deerwood club may be in play" Florida Times-Union, April 28, 1999
- Barker-Benfield, Simon: "Deerwood owner asking $5 M" Florida Times-Union, June 3, 1999
- Barton, Susanna: "Peyton renovating one club, wants to get out of another" Jacksonville Business Journal, May 28, 1999
- Barker-Benfield, Simon: "Deerwood Club sold to members for $5M" Florida Times-Union, September 4, 1999
- Trinidad, Alison: "Rift develops in Deerwood" Florida Times-Union, August 25, 2005
- "Deerwood Golf & Country Club" Bring You Home
- "Deerwood Country Club Jacksonville" First Coast Real Estate
- "Dining" Deerwood Country Club
- "Golf" Deerwood Country Club
- "Membership Opportunities" Deerwood Country Club website
- Flaisig, Liz: "Developer pays $2.6M for Deerwood tract" Jacksonville Business Journal, August 29, 2005
- Kerr, Jessie-Lynne: "Architect transformed city waterfront" Florida Times-Union, January 24, 2008
- "Landscape Committee" Deerwood Improvement Association website
- "Grounds Committee" Deerwood Improvement Association website
- "2010 Budget" Deerwood Improvement Association website
- "Board & Committees" Deerwood Improvement Association website
- "Who We Are" Deerwood Improvement Association website