LONGBOAT KEY, FL – A gold search was what brought Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto to Longboat Key in 1539. Manning a “longboat” with scout Juan Anasco, they found a beautiful Gulf of Mexico beach and never dreamed what the future held.
This warm weather stretch of Florida is now home to The Resort at Longboat Key Club, a AAA Four Diamond resort, plus another beachside resort hotel in the Lido Beach Resort just a few minutes away. Both are Opal Collection Destination properties.
But with all the water sports, beach activities, fishing and tennis, I came for the golf.
The very first stroke you make on Longboat Key Club’s silky smooth greens you know: These are perfect putting surfaces that run quick and true. You can’t ask for anything better in the USA. And with 45 newly renovated golf holes to play the variety is excellent.
Longboat’s John Reilly, director of agronomy extraordinaire, has worked with Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, and has the task of keeping the greens and paspalum turf in superb shape.
LINKS ON LONGBOAT
The Links on Longboat (formerly Islandside) is 18 holes next to the beachside hotel, and features water on every hole. It was redesigned by Ron Garl and has many characteristics of a seaside links course.
Most importantly each green, during renovation, was redesigned and all 18 holes re-grassed with the superior, salt tolerant Platinum Paspalum grass. In addition to the beauty of the natural wildlife seen on a daily basis, more than 5,000 palm trees along with pink and white oleanders line the Links on Longboat.
Large greens complement massive natural areas, waterways, and a par-71, 6,748-yard ribbon of perfect grass. If you can’t putt these greens you will still walk away knowing Garl, Reilly and the staff created a no-excuse line to every hole.
Harbourside, located a couple of miles from the beachside resort hotel, completes The Resort at Longboat Key Club’s 45 holes with three nine-hole beauties named White Egret, Red Hawk and Blue Heron. Originally opened in 1982, it has also been completely redone by Garl.
“Harbourside had become pretty tight with the original trees,” Reilly said. “We removed many of the Australian Pines that had grown, making some fairways like bowling lanes. We used sod instead of seeds for all the new Platinum Paspalum and in many cases put a lot of movement into the all-new greens.”
Many of the holes border Sarasota Bay and the resort’s Longboat Key Club Moorings which makes for a beautiful setting.
The White Egret nine measures 3,426 yards and has the least amount of water of the three nines. Red Hawk, 3342 yards, features risk and reward opportunities and is open and more forgiving than the White Egret, this nine has water that plays into many shots. The final nine is Blue Heron measuring 3,401 yards.
“The new paspalum grass allows Longboat Key Club to use an irrigation source that’s 7,000 parts per million salt,” said Reilly. “Bermuda grass is more susceptible to disease so paspalum works great and the ball sits up nicely even in the rough.”
And here’s another tip: bring your sunglasses. All the bunkers have white sand – some 400 tons of high-grade sand was trucked in for all 45 holes.
Complementing course improvements were complete renovations to both the men’s and women’s clubhouse locker rooms. On all of the courses carts are now outfitted with the latest GPS technology. These upgrades offer access to a golfing experience unlike any other private or public course in Florida.
Longboat’s 45 holes are opened to members, guests and resort guests.
Things to do at the resort and in Sarasota
Probably the most famous attraction in the area is The Ringling Museum, which includes a miniature circus that is amazing. The grounds also contain a priceless art collection, and the Ca d’Zan Mansion, on Sarasota Bay — home to the family beginning in the 1920’s.
Kayaking at Ted Sperling Park, with Kayaking SRQ Tours & Rentals, will take you beneath a cluster of canopied mangroves with an interesting history. Manatees and dolphins might swim by. We witnessed and osprey’s successful dive for a fish.
The Resort at Longboat Key’s Tennis Garden is first class, with 20 Har-Tru courts set amidst beautifully landscaped acreage along Sarasota Bay. The Tennis Gardens are also home to the Court 21 Café and Lounge, serving up post-game refreshments and a grilled menu. The other excellent restaurant choices here include Portofino at the Marina, Sands Pointe, Spike ‘N Tees at The Links course and the Tavern & Whiskey Bar at Harbourside.
At Lido Beach Resort my favorite places to grab a bite were the Tiki Bar next to the pool complex and Lido Beach Grille. Also, if you want to venture to Sarasota for a meal try Boca Bistro. Here you can discover a menu of Spanish cuisine and tapas. Try the shrimp and grits.
What a trip! I’m remembering the fantastic junior suites I had at both resorts with a kitchen, awesome décor, views of the Gulf of Mexico and beach – even a washer and dryer. Both resorts are great places to catch up on sleep after the busy warm days with Gulf of Mexico summer breezes always present. Try this itinerary with the kids and the family – you might just want to come back year after year.
Story by David R. Holland