John Ringling of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus fame is credited with putting the Longboat Key/Sarasota area on the map. He did so by creating a feeling of glamour, intrigue and curiosity in a part of Florida already blessed with warm, sunny weather and tropical surroundings. His goal was to attracting the rich and famous. Take a drive around Longboat Key; look at the cars and homes you drive by and you can do nothing but agree that he was successful.
The Longboat Key Club has seen its share of stars over the years: Robert DeNiro, Cher, Anne Bancroft, Gregory Peck, Tom Selleck, Barbara Bush, Bill Cosby, Johnny Cash, and even, the late, Lucille Ball. Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow shared romantic vacations here. The band Aerosmith based their tour out of The Longboat Key Club for a couple of years. They come for the privacy – access to this gated, isle resort is only by bridge or boat.
The Resort at Longboat Key Club is a AAA Four-Diamond Sarasota resort that sits on a secluded barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. The resort covers 410 acres of lush lawns and pristine beachfront with authentic Old Florida boardwalks. This environmentally-friendly resort is one of Florida’s “Green Lodging” resorts, and is located just a short drive from the upscale shopping areas of St Armand’s Circle and downtown Sarasota. The Longboat Key Club offers breathtaking ocean views and resort guests enjoy oversized accommodations with private balconies. There is no shortage of dining options here; eight diverse restaurants and lounges await your palette.
Year-round activities at the resort include 20 Har-Tru tennis courts and 45 holes of premier golf as well as a full-service beach club with a full complement of both water sports and relaxation. There is also a full service spa on property.
Golf – The Harbourside Course at The Longboat Key Club
The Harbourside Course at The Longboat Key Club offers a challenging 27-hole layout with three nine-hole courses originally designed by architect Willard Byrd. Recently, the Blue Heron and Red Hawk courses have undergone a rejuvenating facelift by well-known and respected course designer Ron Garl. The third nine is currently under renovation with plans to be open in time for the start of the season 2015.
In its simplest form the Harbourside Course is true Florida golf: lots of sand, water and not so nice places to be. The kind of place where creatures find your ball before you do (I am referring to some sort of insect unfamiliar to me that seemed to be getting jiggy with my Titleist).
Harbourside offers two distinctly different challenges. The tree-lined fairways and oft-encountered water hazards on the Blue Heron Course give way to more of a resort-style Red Hawk course with wide open fairways and what seems to be a much easier time. During your round you’ll encounter all kinds of flora and fauna: oak, sabal palm, fiddle-leaf palm, Washingtonian palm, fig, palmetto and southern pine. The swirling winds that come in off of Sarasota Bay will keep you guessing on club selection so you’ll need to pay attention to the wind if you want to score well out here.
Most Memorable Hole: Blue Heron Course – Number 5
The most memorable hole on either nine is found on the Blue Heron Course. From the back tees, the hole plays 605 yards and is the number 1 handicap. To call the hole a dogleg right is an understatement; it’s more like a horse’s shoe then a dog’s leg. It not only goes to the right, like the Energizer Bunny, it keeps going and going and going. Water comes into play the entire length of the hole on the right side and must be crossed twice as well before reaching the green. Off the tee, large waste bunkers awaits errant shots hit left. Ron Garl and his entire staff did a great job in revamping this hole last year and creating a small, peninsular green that drops off into the water. Number 5 is by all accounts a three shot hole and ends up giving the majority of players fits.
Last Word: Ron Garl’s renovation and slight redesign of the Blue Heron and Red Hawk nines at the Harbourside Golf Course in Longboat Key, FL is amazing. Acre after acre of SeaDwarf Paspalum grass has been laid down as if it were carpet, a very tightly knit carpet. Everything from tee to green is incredible; tee boxes are immaculate and well-manicured, fairways are tightly mowed – especially for a hot Florida summer day! It’s hard to get a bad lie on these fairways and you almost feel guilty taking a divot out of them.
The Blue Heron nine could not be more different from the Red Hawk nine. Tree-lined fairways on the Blue Heron course call for strategically placed tee shots to make accessing the greens easier. Still it helps to know the greens and where to land approach shots in order to get the ball close.
The greens The Harbourside at Longboat Key Club are incredible. Lots of undulation but nothing absurd. The roll is true and they keep them running fast. It’s best to take your time, even on the short ones. Try and leave the ball below the hole when you putt, otherwise you could very well end up putting off the green.
If you’re in the area and looking for a course that will challenge you and at the same time offer some incredible views of the water, than the Harbourside Course at Longboat Key Club has to top the list. For more information or to book a tee time, call the golf shop at (941) 383-8821 or go online at www.longboatkeyclub.com.