In this blog post we take a look at the marvel which is The Villages Golf in Florida.
Folklore surrounds this burgeoning place, one of the fastest growing communities in Florida. So let’s take a deep dive and understand what exactly is The Villages in Florida, known as ‘Florida’s Friendliest Retirement Hometown’. And most importantly, let’s take a look at the golf on offer.
What is The Villages Golf Florida?
The Villages is one of the largest age-restricted (55+) adult communities in the country.
What started back in the late 1970s as a small neighborhood called Orange Blossom Gardens, slowly but surely has grown into this expansive and sprawling mega-retirement community.
This place is now so big, it covers over 20,000 acres. It has a growing population, of which the latest count was well over 145,000. And even more mind-blowing is the fact they are acquiring further land to manage the growing demand for properties.
The residential zones are built around quaint neighborhoods, each offering a unique character and charm. Yet this is so much more than just a collection of neighborhoods. This is in effect a self-contained city, which even has its own banks, shops, post offices, restaurants, you name it.
A core facet of The Villages, is the fact this is an active retirement community. There are countless amenities onsite to occupy the residents who are known as Villagers. Central amongst them are the litany of outdoor pools, parks and greenspaces, various clubs and activity centers.
But the main activity here is golf, and lots of it!
Where is The Villages Golf Florida?
The Villages is centrally located in the state of Florida. The nearest major cities are Orlando, just over an hour’s drive south east, and Tampa, also over an hour’s drive south west.
Both Orlando and Tampa have international airports, as does Sanford, an hour and a half due east. So there are ample opportunities to get here.
The ‘Equestrian Capital of the U.S.’, the city of Ocala, is less than an hour’s drive north, just 22 miles. Although there are ample activities and diversions onsite, Ocala is a popular place for a daytrip.
How Many The Villages Golf Courses are there?
You’ve got to see it to believe it. Over fifty, yes, fifty golf courses of different shapes and sizes are scattered around The Villages.
And these aren’t just any old humdrum of courses. This is a collection which includes quality and quantity. Some would say a golfing utopia although do appreciate a large quantity of these are Executive Courses.
In fact, at the time of writing, there are 711 golf holes at The Villages, which consists of 13 championship courses, 42 Executive Courses, a couple of short game courses and 3 instructional golf academies.
It is rumored there are more in development, which when you consider the continuing growth of The Villages, is hardly surprising.
Golf Courses at The Villages Florida
Of the thirteen championship golf courses at The Villages, nearly all of them were designed by Kenny Ezell of CEC Golf Design Group.
With an impressive portfolio covering states such as North Carolina, Texas, Florida and more, Ezell with long-time partner George Clifton have been involved with The Villages for decades.
The only championship course not to have been designed by Ezell, is Palmer Legends. This consists of three 9-holes, Cherry Hill, Laurel Valley and Riley Grove of which Cherry Hill is recognised as an Arnold Palmer Signature Course.
Lopez Legacy is credited as an Ezell Design, but was done in collaboration with LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez.
A full list of the Championship Courses at The Villages;
- Belle Glade (27 holes & 108 Par) ‘Old Florida’ golf with plenty of water. Known as having the only island green of The Villages golf courses.
- Bonifay (27 holes & 72 Par) One which opened in 2011. Playing off the back tees on the Destin and Fort Walton nines, gives the course a yardage of 7,090.
- Cane Garden (27 holes & 108 Par) One of the more aesthetically pleasing golf courses in The Villages with the routing playing around a 140-acre eagle reserve.
- Evans Prairie (27 holes & 108 Par) Stunning clubhouse and a golf course which demands target golf. One of the more challenging options.
- Glenview Champions (27 holes & 108 Par) Championship golf epitomized, this was designed in consultation with various senior PGA Tour pros. From the back tees, it stretches to over 7,100 yards!
- Hacienda Hills (27 holes & 72 Par) Nice playable parkland track with some big elevation changes coming into play on a few holes.
- Havana (27 holes & 108 Par) Another course with some extreme elevation changes. So much so, one of the nines is called Kilimanjaro! Generous landing areas and big undulating greens.
- Lopez Legacy (27 holes & 108 Par) A Nancy Lopez designed layout routed across the rolling hills of Marion County. Lots of water and majestic live oaks.
- Mallory Hill (27 holes & 108 Par) Mallory Hill features The Villages’ own Amen Corner, which starts on the 7th hole of The Caroline 9-hole course. Lovely elevated clubhouse with splendid views.
- Orange Blossom Hills (27 holes & 72 Par) One of the oldest golf courses at The Villages and also one of the least physically challenging playing 6,213 yards from the back tees.
- Palmer Legends (27 holes & 108 Par) Playing alongside the large prairie nature reserve, this is a challenging layout. Features water hazards, plenty of movement in terrain and tips reach nearly 7,200 yards.
- Southern Oaks (18 holes & 72 Par) One of the newest The Villages golf courses, Southern Oaks is an expansive parkland layout with ample water in play.
- Tierra del Sol (18 holes & 72 Par) Hosted a high-profile tournament, the Samsung World Championship of Women’s Golf, which featured a number of LPGA tour players. One of the most demanding courses in The Villages.
Golf Courses near The Villages Florida
Within a short drive, there are a handful of other golf courses outside The Villages, which are not affiliated.
Foremost amongst these is the superb Harbor Hills Country Club, perched on the banks of Lake Griffin, to the east of The Villages.
The club is home to a Lloyd Clifton designed championship course which is quite splendid. Rated 4 stars by Golf Digest, the course is renowned for being in top class condition.
With a number of elevations and large expansive oak-tree lined fairways, I wouldn’t be surprised if you seriously consider becoming a member! Tee times are well under the $50 mark.
Slightly closer to The Villages, literally hugging the Town Square neighborhood on the eastern side, is The Lakes Golf Club. Being an Executive course, you would be excused for thinking it was part of The Villages golf courses, but it isn’t.
Opened in 1995, it was designed by John Adams and Steve Nugent and is very affordable with tee times around the $25 mark.
One golf course well worth checking out, positioned within The Villages, in the southern section, is Continental Country Club. A championship golf course designed by Ron Garl, this has been a firm favorite in the area, and many residents call this country club home.
Two other options for golf courses near The Villages, include SummerGlen Golf Club which is half an hour’s drive up towards Marion Oaks. And Arlington Ridge Golf Club, which is over towards Okahumpka, the other side of Lake Denham.
Both are open to the public and offer an affordable green fee.
Can anyone play golf at The Villages Golf Courses?
The simple answer is no. If you’re a resident of The Villages, all the golf courses, are free to play. This includes all Championship and Executive courses.
For guests, you need to know a Villages resident, who will be able to request a Guest ID card. These tend to be issued for up to 30 days from the issue date. You will then need to pay a green fee, regardless of whether you are playing an Executive or Championship course. Those green fees vary seasonally.
For residents, there is a tee time system which works on a points system. For each tee time you book, you are assigned a point. When it comes to booking another round, it isn’t a first come, first served basis. Instead, those with the least points get priority. The points tally are assigned on a rolling 7-day basis.