Island Insider: SPI Golf Club
“We are a ‘country club for a day.’ Visitors can come for a day, they can take a lesson, or just play the course — we welcome everyone.” — Jack Blundell
Known mostly for being the Southern part of the longest stretch of barrier islands in the world, you may not think of South Padre Island as being a golf destination, but it’s a mere 10 mile drive to Laguna Vista where the South Padre Island Golf Club is located. The club has gone through some major changes lately. We sat down with Jack Blundell, Golf Course Superintendent & PGA Golf Pro, to get the inside scoop.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I’m a “golf professional.” We not only run the golf course, but we take care of the husbands, the wives, the kids…we teach them how to play golf, and they get out on the golf course and have a great time. But that’s not all we do. We have to know the rules of golf so we can interpret those for tournaments and things. We’re trained in marketing, food and beverage, merchandise, and everything else — we are the entire package. Before my time the golf professionals weren’t as educated and were generally caddies that came up through the ranks — there was a lot more beer drinking involved. But it didn’t pay a lot of money, so a college educated person wasn’t going into that business. We changed the image of the golf professional — we started demanding that they learn all the aspects of the game. In fact, I can take a golf cart apart and put it back together, because it was part of the training when I went through the education program. You need to understand every aspect so you can help manage your crew.
When did the SPI Golf Course first open?
April of 1997. In 1995, Landmark approached me about wanting to build a golf course down here. They needed somebody that knew the city commissioners and that knew the county…and at that time I had been working for the city for awhile and also other clubs in the area. So I worked with them just to help them along — I had no idea I was going to be out here. After they got all of their permits done, they asked me if I would come out and build the golf course, which was exciting. In February of 1996 we broke ground. The golf course came first — there were no homes out here. Lloyd Benson sold the land to Landmark for a special price, but the deal was that the golf course had to be built and have players playing on it in two years. We opened the golf course about 14 months later.
Island Insider Fun Fact: For the first 10 years the golf course was open they hosted the PGA Texas Senior Open.
How would you describe the course? Is it suited for beginners? Intermediate/advanced golfers?
When I built the golf course, the architect (Chris Cole), made sure that I understood that he wanted a championship looking golf course that played very hard from the back tees and progressively got easier as you moved to the front tees. He always said that “Little Miss Minnie needs to be able to get the ball out of the trap without having to hit it real high.”
Was the restaurant built at a later date?
It was originally a snack bar, but the restaurant as you see it today opened about 9 years ago.
Hours: Monday through Sunday 11am – 7pm (Breakfast, lunch, dinner and a full-service bar)
So what happened after you left and why did you come back?
After I left, the new group made a lot of changes, and unfortunately those changes affected the golf course in a very negative way. It wasn’t a very good golf course anymore and it was far from what it used to be. The place had gone bankrupt and they wanted to sell the golf course to the homeowners. I was asked to help rebuild the golf course and I said, ”yes.” The homeowners formed a company and they bought the golf course and the club. They wanted to see the golf course flourish, which in turn would help their home values to go up and help the community flourish as well. They hired me to fix and rebuild everything that’s wrong with the course and the club, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We have had an outpouring of membership and they all volunteer. They’re doing projects for me that you cannot even believe. Everybody loves what’s going on and they want to be involved. We’re doing everything we can to make this a nice place.
Improvements/additions in the last 4 months
- Purchased 60 new golf carts
- Purchased a handicap golf cart (only golf course in the RGV that has one)
- Built new cart paths
- 8 new, high-end golf club sets
- Fixed several of the greens and the fairways (ongoing project)
- Fixed drainage ditches (ongoing project)
- Added new irrigation lines
- Fixed rotting wood and repainted buildings
- Added foam paneling in the dining room to reduce the echo
- Recovered dining room chairs
Improvements on the horizon
- Cleaning up and repainting the fences
- Re-paving the sub-division
- Building a garden with SPI Golf Club spelled out in greenery
- Rebuilding the executive golf course
- Continue to replace outdated equipment
Are there restricted tee times based on whether you’re a member or not?
It used to be that way, but it’s changing. Beyond tournaments and things like that, there aren’t really any restrictions on days and tee times based on whether you’re a member or not.
Do you have any golf pros?
We have Don Lackey, who is a PGA golf professional and the General Manager here. He is one of the owners, he is our teaching professional, he works in the pro shop, and he also helps with the tournaments. I teach when I have time, but he’s the main golf pro.
Are carts required to be on the course?
No, you can walk it if you want to.
Are pets allowed?
No. Sorry Fido!
Do you host any events or fundraisers?
Our community has events for holidays and things like that, and we host charity events for groups like the Wounded Warriors.
Are you able to accomodate groups and meetings?
As far as golf we are equipped to rent out golf club sets and golf carts to large groups. We can also host meetings and events, both indoor and outdoor. We have an outdoor pavilion, we have the restaurant, and there’s a conference room in the building where the gym is.