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By Design


hirty years ago, H. Gary Morse

began to develop The Villages, a

master-planned community in

Central Florida. Starting with one sub-

division and 9 holes of golf, the Morse

family has developed The Villages into

a 54,000+ home community with 630

holes of golf. The Villages is the eighth

largest city in Florida, larger than other

well-known snowbird destinations

like Clearwater. The entire community

encompasses 32 square miles in area

with over 115,000 residents, 70 percent

of whom are there full-time.

As the community has grown in size

and scope, the infrastructure required

has grown as well. Entire town centers

with thriving retail shops, recreation

centers and a wide range of sports

fields and amenities have been

developed for homeowners and their

guests. Separate roads for cars and golf

carts help move people around the


Golf at The Villages has developed

under the leadership of Ken Ezell,

ASGCA, George Clifton, ASGCA, and

the late ASGCA Fellow Lloyd Clifton,

ASGCA. In 1989, they designed their

first course for The Villages. Since that

time, almost 600 of the property’s 630

holes of golf have been designed and

built under their guidance. Today, the

Villages comprises 10 27-hole and

two 18-hole championship courses

and 36 nine-hole executive courses.

The courses have a surprising amount

of elevation change (over 115 feet

across the property) and plenty of

undulation in the playing surfaces to

create more strategy and challenges

for the golfer. Ezell describes the style

as “look hard and play easy, creating a

fair experience for the golfer.”

Clifton, Ezell and Clifton designed

the golf courses on larger-than-average

acreages as a focal point of each village

within the overall community. They

incorporated large lakes between

adjacent holes, providing extensive

water retention areas to capture and

retain storm water runoff. Golf holes

are strategically designed to handle

flood water, draining excess water from

residential and common areas. With

the golf courses located in floodplain

areas, homes are built on higher

ground with many course views. This

philosophy changed the way that

the property could be developed,

optimizing the number of homes that

can be built in a given location.

As the infrastructure of The Villages

increased in complexity, a highly

sophisticated water management

system has also evolved. An extensive

storm water management system

moves rainwater off hardscape

and common areas and into storm

retention ponds. Four on-site

wastewater treatment facilities have

been built to manage the wastewater

generated from the community. The

golf courses are integral parts of

the management system, handling

the disposal of both rainwater and

reclaimed wastewater.

Reclaimed wastewater from four on-

site water treatment facilities, plus one

local off-site facility, is used to irrigate

the golf courses. In season, almost eight

million gallons of reclaimed water is

generated each day by the five facilities.

An extensive network of pumps and

piping distributes the reclaimed

water to irrigation lakes around the

property utilizing a very elaborate

SCADA system with remote lake level

monitoring and automated fill valves.

Twenty pump stations then pump the

reclaimed water onto the golf courses

each night. One of the unique features

of The Villages’ irrigation systems is the

extent to which the reclaimed water

is managed. Golf areas are irrigated

primarily with reclaimed water. Rather

than just disposing of it, the reclaimed

water is considered as a valuable

resource to be used and managed as

efficiently as possible.

Rainfall can be feast or famine in

Florida. In some years, like 2006 with

28 inches of rainfall, there are drought

conditions and the reclaimed water

is managed carefully. In other years,

Water management at The Villages


Stuart Hackwell


water wisely


Golf courses are much more than just an

amenity at The Villages community in Florida.

Stuart Hackwell of Rain Bird explains