Local Man Buys Florida Condo and Eighteen Months of Golf for Less Than the Price of a Used Subaru Station Wagon

Bill Dranginis and his daughter, Ashlie.

Och’amch’ire Bill Dranginis and his daughter, Ashlie, who teaches seventh-grade math.

Owen Sound Last fall, I played in a state tournament with Bill Dranginis, who retired in January from a varied career that included, among other things, running his own golf-accessories company and coaching high school swimming and track. He has won nine club championships over a period of five decades, including seven at two clubs not far from mine, and he has been inducted into two local golf halls of fame. Here he is with his daughter, Ashlie, who teaches seventh-grade math, on a Donald Ross course about an hour from where we live.

Ashlie At TCC

He called recently to say he’d just returned from a shopping trip to Florida. “I had planned a one-month excursion to try and find an affordable winter home and a golf course that I could enjoy at a reasonable price,” he said. Here’s another photo of Dranginis, with his brother, Dan, the year they won their flight in the member-guest at Dan’s club, Congressional:


During his Florida shopping trip, Dranginis looked first in Fort Myers, and found a pair of courses he liked a lot, both of them owned by the city: Fort Myers Country Club, which was designed by Donald Ross in the early 1900s, and Eastwood Golf Course, which was designed by Robert von Hagge and Bruce Devlin. “Playing those two would have cost maybe $2,500 to $3,000 for the winter,” he said. “That was good, but I couldn’t find a condo in my price range.” Here’s Ross’s original layout for Fort Myers:

FMCC 1917 Donald Ross Plan_201408181309257524

Dranginis then spent a week each in Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale. “I found a nice course in West Palm, called Madison Green,” he continued. “Lots of water and tight driving areas, slope 145 at 6,300 yards. They were having a membership drive: $3,000 for 18 months, starting in December, including carts, range balls, and club storage.”


That was ideal, but he still hadn’t found a place to live. Then a real-estate agent who was the sister of a friend of his told him about a 55-and-over community called Century Village —which the comedian Red Buttons used to be the television spokesman for.


“She had bought a condo there two years earlier for a good price,” he said, “but she didn’t think there was anything like that available now. And there was a downside: no mortgages allowed, so you had to buy the units outright.” Still, the place had tempting amenities: 14 outdoor pools, an indoor pool, tennis, bocce, shuffleboard, sailing, a billiard room with six tables, basic cable, first-run movies.

He decided to look, and a different real-estate agent showed him around. “I saw six units,” he said. “The first was a one-bedroom, and it was very clean. The asking price was $20,000. I offered $19,000, and got it. It’s 15 minutes from Madison Green. I can’t wait for next winter.”


How To Play Golf With a Broken Neck

My column in the August issue of Golf Digest is about my friend Thomas Tami, an ear-nose-and-throat doctor in Cincinnati, who broke his neck when he was in college, forty years ago, and took up golf a decade later even though he can’t turn his head without turning his torso.”When I take the club back,” he told me, “I completely lose the ball, and I never pick it up on the way down.” He’s a player, though. His best score for 18 holes is 76 at his home course, Hyde Park Golf & Country Club, which was designed mostly by Donald Ross. Here’s a video of Tami hitting a shot at Hyde Park two years ago:
Try that yourself sometime (on the range) if you think it looks easy.

Reader’s Trip Report: 19-Year-Old Son in the U.S. Amateur

Francis Ouimet's childhood home, across from the seventeenth hole at The Country Club. All photos by Bob McIver.

Francis Ouimet’s childhood home, across from the seventeenth green at the Country Club. All photos by Bob McIver.

Bob McIver, a reader and an executive of a small air-services company in Montana, attended the recent U.S. Amateur, in Boston. He went because his son, Brandon, who plays for the University of Oregon, was a competitor. Brandon had qualified by shooting 65-70 at Old Works Golf Club, Anaconda, Montana, the month before. (The 65 was a course record.)  Bob McIver writes:

The event was held at the Country Club, in Brookline, and Charles River Country Club, in Newton. The differences in their setup was stark. Charles River is a Donald Ross course, built in 1921. The fairways were wide, sometimes fifty or sixty yards; the greens were very large, with big undulations; and the greenside bunkers were nicely trimmed. One volunteer, a member, told me it was playing the way it does for members: rough not too long, greens about 11 on the Stimpmeter, fairways as wide as they normally are.

Brandon McIver, Charles River Country Club, No. 17/

Brandon McIver, Charles River Country Club, No. 17.

By contrast, the Country Club was unruly: fairways about thirty yards wide; first cut of rough just two yards wide; primary rough very thick and very lush. Brown, knee-high grass came into play around the greenside bunkers and some fairways. The greens were tiny, perhaps only a third the size of those at Charles River. They didn’t have much undulation, but many were steeply pitched from back to front or side to side. The back quarter of No. 18 could’t accept a hole location, because of the slope. An employee told me that many members had quit playing several weeks back because the U.S.G.A. setup was just too tough.

Greenside bunker, No. 18, The Country Club. That's Brandon in the sand.

Greenside bunker, No. 18, the Country Club. That’s Brandon in the sand.

The event itself resembled a very large college tournament: lots of young bucks running around with college-logo golf bags and very nice golf swings.

US am

Perhaps most impressive were the the Country Club’s facilities. I counted fifteen separate buildings in an aerial photo, including a clubhouse, horse stables (U.S.G.A. headquarters of the event), swimming pool, warming house for ice-skating, skeet-shooting facility (the range is over the first fairway, and is presumably used only when the course is closed), golf shop, men’s locker room, a museum building, and several others. It looked more like a compound than a country club.

Second green, The Country Club.

Second green, The Country Club.

Brandon shot 71-78, and missed match play by five shots. “After that, he decided it wasn’t so fun anymore,” his father told me, “so I sucked up some airline travel penalties and we came home early.” Next year!