We started the New Year with our first visit to Lakeland, which is about halfway between Orlando and Tampa. The most prestigious address in this city is that of the communities within the confines of the Grasslands Golf & Country Club, a private golf club with a links style course designed by Jerry Pate and Bobby Cupp. Upon arriving at the bag drop we were met by Isaiah, the gracious cart attendant, who took care of our bags both before and after our round, and directed us to the well-appointed Pro Shop. Our host for the day was Steve Knott, the Director of Golf, who is a PGA Master Professional and has been at the club since 1994. Steve and his fine staff of PGA professionals do a great deal of instruction with clinics for the youth of the community as well as individual appointments for the membership. The expansive two-sided driving range with target areas, as well as separate bunker, chipping and putting practice facilities allow for pinpoint work on all areas of the game. They also have an extensive club-fitting program from the major brands coupled with a complete swing analysis to insure the proper product to enhance your ability. Grasslands was named one of the Best Clubs with the Best Players in the Nation by Golf Digest.
Prior to our round Steve gave us a tour of the beautiful Grasslands clubhouse. The lovely dining area overlooks the golf course and the upstairs has meeting space for private functions as well as boardroom meetings. The downstairs includes the Grille Room, comfortable men’s and ladies locker rooms with full time attendant. Other amenities include a junior Olympic size swimming pool and an excellent tennis facility. Six Tour professionals, including Andy Bean and Marco Dawson, are residents. Grasslands was developed by the Drummond Company, a mining and real estate company from Birmingham, Alabama, who also include Rancho La Quinta near Palm Springs, California in their portfolio of top ranked communities.
The golf course measures just over 7000 yards from the tips and has four sets of tees to allow everyone an enjoyable round. The first hole is a 379-yard slight dogleg right par 4, with minimal trouble to allow even a duffer a par to build that much needed confidence. Begonias frame the back of the1st green, which makes it aesthetically one of the prettiest holes on the course. The 2nd hole is a 530-yard par 5 with a creek crossing the fairway that could come into play on your second shot. The Duffer hit his second shot right to its edge, which left a wedge, and another par. Both the 3rd, 4th and 5th holes were straight away and the Gang was tearing Grasslands up. Holes 6 & 7 are both par 3s’(one long and one short), which we played well. My first hiccup came on the par 4, 8th, their #2 handicap hole, when I had to use both hands to count my strokes, but I found redemption on the ninth, a 417 yard par 4 with a bogie 5. The front nine is 3450 yards while the back nine plays over 3600, so you probably can guess where the Duffer played the best. Yes, I liked the front better.
The back nine starts off with an easy 161-yard par 3, unless you are a duffer and your ball rolls off the putting surface into a bunker. I had trouble on the par 4, 11th, while the Gang was cutting into my lead, and then on the par 5, 12th, I at least matched them. The greens had been resurfaced this past year with Champion Bermuda and were running superb, so I don’t have any excuse for my poor play other than that’s why they call me the Duffer. I lost my lead and had to pay up at the end of the day while the Gang played the back nine very well. The finishing hole is a great 583 par 5, the longest on the course, and the #1 handicap hole where the begonias once again frame the fairway. So while I wasn’t playing very well I could enjoy the beauty of Course Superintendent Adam Ellison’s handiwork.
You need to see for yourself why the best players play and live at Grasslands. For membership information call 863-680-1600, for real estate information call 863-647-1100 or go to www.OakBridge.com.