Golf Clubs & Mainsails – Ortega’s Private Clubs
In the early days of the 20th century, Jacksonville was a social and cultural hotspot. With a flourishing silent film industry and a warm climate, the city attracted wealthy families from all over the country for social events and recreational activities during the winter months. For these visitors, Ortega was ideally located, surrounded by water and an oasis from the hustle and bustle of downtown. It’s no surprise that two of the city’s oldest institutions, the Florida Yacht Club and Timuquana Country Club, opened during this time.
The oldest of these, the Florida Yacht Club, was founded in 1876 by William B. Astor Jr. – brother of the famous NYC financier John Jacob Astor. The Astors were the pinnacle of New York City society, and spent the winters in Florida, entertaining and socializing aboard their yacht – at the time, the largest private yacht in the world and the oldest in Jacksonville. The Florida Yacht Club was focused on boating and water recreation, and was originally located downtown. At the time a lifetime membership cost $35 – about $750 in today’s money. During the Great Fire of 1901, the club burned to the ground. After several years of temporary homes, it relocated to the banks of the St. John’s River in Ortega.
Timuquana Country Club was founded in 1923 by 50 prominent city leaders, wanted to create a golfing-focused club in Jacksonville. Its name comes from the Timucuan Indians, a tribe who originally inhabited the land where the club currently stands. Throughout its history, many prominent golfers have practiced and played there, including Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, and David Duval. The club has played host to tournaments such as the Southern Amateur Championship, the FL State Amateur Tournament, and the USGA Senior Amateur Championship.
Despite their prosperous beginnings, both clubs have faced challenges in their long history. The Great Depression in the 1930s was tough on these organizations – membership numbers fell, services were restricted, and the clubs only survived through a mixture of private support and financial restructuring. With the more recent financial crisis of 2008, the clubs have faced similar issues. As Fred Kent, longtime Ortega resident and historian, said, “The clubs have had to be flexible and imaginative in the way they attract new members. They can’t rest on their reputation anymore.”
However, recent years have seen improvements come to both clubs. From golf course renovations at Timuquana Country Club which led to a water-saving irrigation program, to the Florida Yacht Club’s “Big Plan” which includes remodeling the tennis and croquet courts, it’s clear that the clubs are gearing up for another 100 years as centers of Ortega community living.