Imperial Lakewoods Golf Club opened for play in 1987 and was promptly ranked as one of the area’s best courses by Golf Digest; quickly earning 3½ stars. The family owned and operated facility now plays 7010 yards from the back tees with a course rating of 73.9 and a slope of 136. Five sets of tees allow even the newest of golfers to enjoy their round without cussing up a storm.
Within the last few years, Imperial Lakewoods has experienced a $3 million expansion and renovation of the course, clubhouse, restaurant and related amenities. The improvements include among other things upgrading a couple of existing holes, a complete transformation and redesign of 3 other holes and adding a set of senior tees that plays 5600 yards. Ted McAnlis handled the redesign at Imperial Lakewoods and his creation has been well accepted. Over 60,000 rounds a year will attest to this.
Situated on more than 200 beautifully wooded acres with 16 lakes, plenty of lumber, and rolling terrain, Imperial Lakewoods is unique among Florida golf courses in the area. Number 18, a long, sweeping dogleg left that plays 600 yards from the back tees is regularly voted the best par 5 in Southwest Florida each year.
In addition to the championship caliber golf, Imperial Lakewoods Golf Club offers a wealth of amenities including a grass-tee driving range; practice bunker and chipping areas; practice putting green, a fully stocked golf shop; breakfast and lunch; an on-course beverage cart, golf instruction by PGA professionals, as well as banquet and tournament facilities.
Number 1: Par 4, 430 yards. There is nothing like starting off your round and needing to hit a straight drive to a narrow landing area. That’s exactly what you are faced with at Imperial Lakewoods. Water awaits tee shots left as does a large palm tree just off the fairway. You will find woods on the right side should you happen to slice your tee shot. Your approach shot will be a mid-iron to a green that slopes from back to front and has a little bit of mounding on the left side. Par is a good score here.
Number 2: Par 4, 420 yards. Number 2 is another tight driving hole with woods on either side so you will need to be straight once again off the tee. The green slopes back to front and is protected in back and front left by two large bunkers.
Number 4: Par 4, 400 yards. Yet another long narrow par 4 that adds an element of water way down the fairway on the right; long ball hitters beware. Hit a draw off the tee on this dogleg left or carry the trees to shorten the hole. Don’t hit too far left or you will be in the houses and out of bounds. Approach shot is to a very small green that slopes left to right.
Number 6: Par 5, 510 yards. This hole may very well present the best chance at birdie thus far into the round as the green is definitely reachable in two. Keep your tee shot on the left center side of the fairway; anything right is OB. For those that are forced to layup, keep your shot right as a small pond guards the left side of the green. The green is very large and long and features several undulations.
Number 12: Par 4, 370 yards. Off the tee you will see a marker that reads “235 yards to water” however the water will not come into play if you keep the ball right off the tee. A good drive will leave a short iron into a small, elevated green surrounded by sand. The green features a crest in the middle that will influence which way your putt will break.
Number 15: Par 4, 310 yards. This is a great birdie opportunity provided you hit it well off the tee. Long ball hitters beware of the water on the right side, just beyond the fairway bunker. You may want to leave driver in the bag on this hole as out of bounds comes up quickly on the right. Hit your approach shot to another small green that is slightly elevated and protected by a large bunker on the front right side. Actually par is a good score here.
Number 18: Par 5, 600 yards. If this isn’t the signature hole, it should be. It is reminiscent of another famous McAnlis hole, number 18, The Blue Monster at Doral. Joe Average will want to hit his tee shot left of the fairway bunker on the right side. Your layup shot will be to a narrow landing area between two fairway bunkers with the ever present water on the left. Your approach shot is to a small, elevated green where the water on the left really comes into play. To complicate matters, a small pond will catch anything hit wildly to the right. Take a par and head home.
Last Word: Imperial Lakewoods is worth every penny you will pay for a round. It is very unusual for a course that has as many rounds as Imperial Lakewoods does to remain in such peak condition year round. The greens are impeccable and roll very true; not too fast and not too slow. Many golfers have it in their head that daily-fee facilities are not in that great a shape and typically I would agree however this course breaks the stereotype. Access to Imperial Lakewoods is easy, right off of exit 229 on I-75. The course is located approximately 10 minutes from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and 30 minutes (or less) from St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Bradenton and Tampa. For more information, they can be reached at (800) 642-2193 or visit their website at www.ilwgc.com.