I heard it said years ago that by the year 2016, the population of the state of Florida would surpass the population of the state of New York. Not only were they correct, but five years later, the margin continues to widen.
There are several reasons for this sudden influx of humanity, the climate is perhaps the biggest. Not having to pay state income tax has to rank up there as well. For golf enthusiasts, there’s no better place in the country to be, you can swing the sticks year-round if you don’t mind the heat and humidity of the summer. Take it from a golf lover who lived in Florida for 22 years, you can get used to it!
Now that you’ve decided to make the move and join the hordes that are heading to the Sunshine State, you’ll need to decide where to go, east coast or west coast. The further south you go – on either coast – the more expensive things get. The price goes up as you get closer to the water, too. Private golf communities are a great option if golf’s a key reason for your move; it’s like one-stop shopping.
There are some great values to be had inland on both real estate and recreation. Sebring is an area that’s often overlooked. The median home price is well below the national average and as far as golf goes, the area is referred to as “America’s Value Golf Capital.” It’s also home to The Citrus Golf Trail, a collection of five local courses.
One of the members of “The Trail” is Sun ‘N Lake, a golfing community. Sun ‘N Lake was once considered a retirement community but over the past few years, it has become a melting pot for both active adults and younger professionals. About 9,000 residents call Sun ‘N Lake home; many of them are snowbirds.
The community is home to two championship golf courses, which have been voted the number one golf course in Highlands County for four years running, Deer Run and Turtle Run.
Deer Run is considered the tougher of the two. The course was originally designed by Don Dyer in 1976; local golf course architect Ron Garl redesigned a couple of holes in 2003 and put his signature on it by converting the 18th hole to a par 3 with an island green. This championship layout plays host to qualifiers for the Web.com Tour, the Latin America Tour, and the Canadian Tour each year. Deer Run offers golfers 6 sets of tees with suitable yardages to fit every level of golfer. From the Black Tees, the course plays 7,202 yards with a slope of 134 and a course rating of 73.7. Ladies can play a manageable 5,046 yards; most members play from the White Tees which measures 6,170 yards (69.6/127). The greens are Champion Bermuda, and the fairways and roughs feature 419 Bermuda grass.
Deer Run’s final three holes can make or break a great round. Number 16 is a par 4, dogleg right that plays 352 yards from the white tees and requires you to at least hit your tee shot to the corner of the dogleg. If you favor the left side off the tees, you’ll take many of the trees out of play and have a good look into the green. Be wary of the water and sand that guard the green. Number 17 is the toughest hole on the back nine and certainly the most challenging. The hole plays 379 yards from the White tees with a large pond in the middle of the fairway. Most golfers will be able to hit driver off the tee and should favor the left side of the fairway or risk being blocked out by trees. A good drive is still going to leave a long to medium iron into an elevated green protected on either side by sand. As referenced earlier, Number 18 is truly a unique hole to end a round of golf; after all, not many courses end with a par 3! From the white tees, the hole plays 128 yards to an island green. Choose your club wisely, hit a good shot and success can be yours. Find the water and you’re just another statistic!
Turtle Run was designed by Charles Ankrom and opened in 1999. Golfers have 4 sets of tees to choose from: the back tees play 6,402 yards with a course rating of 70.7 and a slope of 127. The ladies’ tees play from 5,002 yards (64.3/114). Two other tee boxes offer yardages suitable for all levels of golfers. The greens are Tifdwarf Bermuda, and the fairways and roughs feature 419 Bermuda grass. The course is built in the middle of a Scrub Jay preservation area and provides safe shelter for this protected species; it’s also a beautiful setting for the golf course.
Distance off the tee is not as important on Turtle Run as it is on her sister course. In fact, leaving the driver in the bag may be your best move on many holes. At just over 6,400 yards the course is not going to overpower the majority of golfers, regardless of the tees you choose. Landing areas off the tees are generous, the greens are incredible, and the emphasis is on the short game. Some greens are open in front and receptive to the senior-friendly bump-and-run shot; the majority are elevated with bunkers in front and require you to carry your approach onto the green. Distance is also key as many greens have multiple tiers and being on the same tier as the hole can shave several strokes.
For me, the most memorable hole on Turtle Run is the par 5, 14th. At only 481 yards from the White Tees, it’s definitely not the longest par 5, but for many players, it’s going to take a driver out of your hand because of the stream that crosses the fairway about 250 yards out. If you play down the left side of the fairway you can get 260-280 yards before you get to the wet stuff. A good line off the tee is the bunker on the right. Keep to the right with your layup and you’ll keep the water on the left out of play and then hit your approach shot to a slightly elevated green but beware of the deep, large bunker in the front left.
Sun ‘N Lake Golf Club is a proud member of the Citrus Golf Trail, which has done a wonderful job of making the Sebring area a golf vacation destination. The Citrus Golf Trail offers a variety of stay and play golf packages that include rounds of golf at several local courses as well as accommodations at The Inn on the Lakes. Inn on the Lakes is a unique property; they have 155 spacious, beautifully decorated guest rooms and suites, and no two are the same. Their fine dining restaurant, Chicanes, offers delicious meals as well as a sumptuous breakfast menu. They are the preferred accommodations vendor of the Citrus Golf Trail.
Sun ‘N Lake is not what they call a bundled community, meaning that you don’t have to join the club if you buy a home there. It seems to me that if you live there and play golf a membership makes sense, especially at the ridiculously low prices they charge! They are offering an introductory membership at 50% off that includes unlimited play on both courses including a trail fee for your private cart, a $200 driving range credit discounts on merchandise in the pro shop, and many other benefits. The first year will set you back less than $2500 for a family! There are also special rates for seniors, super seniors, and seasonal golfers as well.
If you’re looking for an affordable golf vacation or somewhere in Florida that you can call home, check out Sun ’N Lake in Sebring. You can visit them online at www.sunlakegolfclub.com.