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Soaring to Success

Saturday, September 17, 2011

At an early age, Ron Garl experienced the spine-tingling thrill of propelling golf balls into the air and watching them soar against a bright blue sky to exhilarating heights. Later he discovered the joy of creating amazing new landscapes for others who shared his obsession. Learn how he epitomized the American Dream by taking a lifelong passion and, with the help of a Polk State College education, surged it to the pinnacle of success.

Ron Garl

Destined to launch big dreams into big successes, it’s completely fitting that Polk State College alumnus Ron Garl was closely linked to Polk State’s ambitious beginnings. He was a proud member of the very first graduating class of Polk State College (then known as Polk Junior College,) graduating with an AA degree in 1966. On May 5, 2011, he returned to the Polk State College commencement stage to receive the honor of Distinguished Alumnus Award for his outstanding accomplishments in golf course architecture and in the community.

Owner of Ron Garl Golf Design in Lakeland, which has been serving the community since 1973, Ron’s early years were characterized by an ardent enthusiasm for golfing and a penchant for soaring above the crowd and aiming for astounding heights – literally. He earned a pilot’s license when he was just sixteen. He would continue to display that drive to sail into the stratosphere throughout his schooling and career.

Ron received his bachelor’s degree in turf grass science from the University of Florida in 1967, earning the first full-ride collegiate scholarship from the Florida State Golf Association and later serving as the association’s youngest president in 1979.

After graduation, Ron worked as an apprentice with national golf design firms, including three years in the Bahamas. Five years later, he opened his own firm, serving the local community — with Cypresswood Golf Course in Winter Haven being one of his first designs – but was motivated to expand far beyond.

Today Ron brings his talents to clients around the globe, designing more than 250 courses worldwide, including more than 100 in Florida. In addition, he has directed remodels of numerous courses. He is also the owner of golf courses in several countries.

Even royalty is benefitting from Ron’s amazing abilities – he’s currently building golf courses in fifteen countries, including course designs for the kings of Thailand and Morocco. While most firms never have the opportunity to design an oceanfront golf course, Ron is currently designing five oceanfront courses. Many of his designs have been selected as sites for the PGA, Senior PGA, and Canadian and European tours.

Golf course design is truly the focal point of Garl’s life.  He is extremely active in the golf community as the president of the Florida Golf Alliance and as one of the founding board members of the International Network of Golf. Garl also co-authored the Urban Land Institute’s book “Golf Course Development in Residential Communities.”

Garl gained acclaim for his environmental work at the Indian River Club in Vero Beach, Florida, the first course to be awarded Audubon International’s highest award: the Audubon Signature Cooperative Sanctuary Status.

In 2003, Ron received the University of Florida’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, and in 2009, Ron was inducted into the Polk County Schools Hall of Fame.