An introduction to Sarasota
On the Gulf of Mexico halfway between Fort Myers and Tampa, is the city of Sarasota. This is a city which offers an eclectic blend of culture. It is also the gateway to the glorious beaches of Florida’s south western coastline. But as good as they are, this is about the best golf courses in Sarasota.
With its coastal location the climate is subtropical. This means hot humid summers whilst winters are warm and dry – perfect weather for golf. The city has a diverse choice of fine dining options, ample shopping opportunities and some fascinating museums. Sarasota is a great place to visit for a weekend away even without playing golf.
From a golf perspective, there are many courses around the city although none ranked in Florida’s top 100. That said, there are some great public and private courses which we’ll explore below.
The best private golf courses in Sarasota, Florida
Gator Creek Golf Club
This smashing golf course in south-east Sarasota opened in 1972 and designed by the relatively obscure Joe Lee.
Although Lee may be obscure, chances are he’s influenced more golf courses than the average course architect. There are over 200 courses he’s either designed or renovated on his C.V. including the superb Doral in Miami.
Gator Creek golf club is situated within a private gated community. This means you’ll only be able to play here if you know a member.
The course layout takes you through a substantial residential area. But despite this, enough care and attention has been taken in the routing to ensure you see very few buildings when playing.
Stretching to over 6,900 yards from the back tees, this is no pushover. The recent renovation by Mark McCumber and Ron Garl allowed for many new tees. Hitting the fairway is essential as the rough is penal to say the least and the fairways are tight.
The Concession Golf Club
This outstanding golf course is located in a private 1,200 acre estate a good half hour drive from downtown Sarasota.
The layout is a Jack Nicklaus ‘signature’ course which he designed in collaboration with Tony Jacklin. The same Jacklin to whom back in the 1969 Ryder Cup he conceded a putt to ensure the event was tied. This was a first in the tournament’s history. The moment became known as ‘the concession’ and was the moment this private club was named after.
The course they mapped out is tough, with the yardage stretching to 7,500 off the back tees. The surrounding land is primarily wetlands and meadows, most of which need to be carried from the tees. The bunkers are another feature of the course, being beautifully sculpted and protecting many a green.
Over the years, The Concession Club has hosted many top class tournaments. This includes the 2021 World Golf Championships and other divisional championships.
Member’s Club, Sarasota
The Ritz Carlton Member’s Club is one of the newer golf courses in Sarasota. It opened in 2006 an was designed by Tom Fazio. Member’s Club is a divine course to be enjoyed and available to guests of the Ritz Carlton hotel onsite.
Fazio has a pretty impressive portfolio of golf courses in Florida. This is one of his most recent and arguably, one of his best creations.
Slightly inland from Sarasota city, the construction of the course involved some hefty earth shifting. This allowed the course to feature some fun and intriguing elevation changes and undulations not normally found on Floridian courses.
The 315 acres of lush subtropical landscape surrounding the course is Audubon certified and quite frankly serene and calming. There are no properties around the course, just beautiful wetlands, picturesque lakes, colorful flowering shrubs and native grasses.
This really is just golf and nature and well worth the overnighter in the Ritz Carlton.
Sara Bay Country Club
This historic Donald Ross course has been open since 1926. It is a private member’s club just north of Sarasota, just a short drive from the Gulf Key’s Coast.
Over the years, Sara Bay Country Club has been the beneficiary of many renovations and upgrades. That said, it’s fair to say not all of these have been kind to the course.
As is often the case with golf courses, each tweak, each iteration and each renovation can oftentimes take it further away from the original design. And so has been the case here at Sara Bay Country Club.
However, I’m pleased the most recent renovation by the talented Kris Spence, was with a view to erasing those wrongs. Reinstating the authentic features and design ideas of Donald Ross was paramount.
Kris approached the project with a view to restoring nuance and sophistication. Now Sara Bay is one of the better golf courses in Sarasota.
Widespread bunkers have all been improved amongst other hazards. Yes this is a relatively flat course, but there is enough in the design features to warrant a day here. Make sure you visit the Clubhouse post-round to browse all the memorabilia and artifacts.
Another golf course a stone’s throw away from the coast is the wonderful TPC Prestancia.
This hidden gem is tucked away in 565-acres of award-winning Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary landscape. It is just minutes away from the popular Siesta Key. As such there is an abundance of coastal wildlife and native plants and grasses.
Set within a private gated community, there are 36-holes including the Stadium Course and the Players Course (originally known as the Country Club of Sarasota). On top of this there are world class golf facilities. This includes a massive practice facility, driving range and dedicated short game area.
Over the years, the course has hosted many tournaments. These include Chrysler Cup tournaments and American Express Invitational Champions Tour events. It has also hosted the Senior’s Tour on many occasions.
The championship Stadium course measures over 6,900 yards from the tips and is 100% a strategy course. Unless you’re playing from the back tees, length is not everything. Instead decent shot-making is essential, especially when approaching the undulating greens.
The best public golf courses in Sarasota, Florida
Longboat Key Golf Club
This is a golf course where the name just ‘slips off your tongue’…. The Links on Longboat at The Resort at Longboat Key Club in Longboat Key….!! Say that again!? For the sake of this blog, let’s just call it Longboat Key.
Naming convention aside, this is a very pleasurable course and a popular one with the locals.
Designed by William Mitchell back in 1961, Longboat Key golf club is located on a barrier island. The island essentially protects the Sarasota Bay and Sarasota itself from the Gulf of Mexico.
Despite the barrier island (also called Longboat Key) being relatively narrow, the course feels open and not at all cramped. In part this is due to the lakes which surround nearly most of the holes. These give an impression of the site being that bit bigger.
Accuracy is critical at Longboat Key. There are so many fairways and greens flanked or protected by water hazards, I’d ensure you take plenty of balls.
On the rare occasion water isn’t the hazard, expect instead huge areas of sandy wasteland and bunkers.
Misty Creek Golf Club
Misty Creek golf club is tucked up nicely in a splendid 350 acre nature preserve. There are lakes and hammock forests in abundance. It is positioned just to the east of South Sarasota, rubbing shoulders with Gator Creek and Heritage Oaks.
This is a fun and challenging championship course. There are seven tee choices on each hole, allowing most levels of golfer to come and enjoy themselves. From the front tees it measures just over 5,200 yards and from the backs just short of 6,900 yards. So depending on where you choose to play from, there is a real variance in length.
The management here pride themselves on ensuring the condition is always in top condition. Allied with first-class service, you can understand why this is such a popular golf course in the Sarasota area.
Rosedale Golf & Country Club
One of Lakewood’s best golf courses, Rosedale golf club is located right between the two cities of Bradenton and Sarasota. It’s fair to say, this is a local’s favorite and there is so much to like here it’s easy to understand why.
Designed by Ted McAnlis, this is a course which runs harmoniously alongside nature. Spanish moss-covered majestic oaks and groves of towering pines surround the course as do rich natural Florida preserves.
As for the course itself, there are undulating greens, pristine lakes, finely-manicured fairways and an abundance of wildlife. Six sets of tees mean this course can be enjoyed by pretty much most golfers.
What is the best golf course in Sarasota?
The best golf course in the city of Sarasota in Florida is The Concession Golf Club. It was designed by Jack Nicklaus in association with Tony Jacklin and is set within a 1,200 acre private community on Lindrick Lane.
After The Concession, the next best golf courses would be Sara Bay Country Club and Gator Creek.
How many golf courses are there in Sarasota County?
There are 52 golf courses in the Sarasota area of which 20 are located in the surrounding cities of Bradenton, Venice and Lakewood Ranch.