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Sarasota Sunshine at The Meadows

By David Theoret

The Meadows in Sarasota, FL is a community unlike any other. The Meadows has three golf courses including two that are open to the public: The Groves, an 18-hole, par 65 course, and The Highlands, an 18-hole, par 72 golf course. The 3rd course is The Meadows Golf Course which is completely private.

The developer of The Meadows community, Frank Taylor, envisioned a community with strong social ties, and wide-open natural spaces that show a commitment to wildlife and ecology. A place where families and friends could build meaningful, lasting relationships with their neighbors. A community that becomes a recreational oasis for all. Lord Frank Taylor passed away in 1995 and never saw his dream become a reality. If only he could see The Meadows now. 

Plans to build The Meadows development were approved by Sarasota County in 1974 and soon after that in 1976, Frank Duane, who had been the chief designer for Robert Trent Jones, designed what would be the first of three golf courses, The Meadows. Renowned golf course architect Ron Garl redesigned the course in 2004. In 2021, the Meadows again underwent a major renovation. Greens were rebuilt and sprigged, and bunkers were added, eliminated, and rebuilt. The result is a course that Is much more player friendly and challenging at the same time.

The Meadows (Member’s Course)

The Meadows Golf Course is the club’s 18-hole, Members-only course. Since being redesigned in 2004 by Garl, The Meadows has become known as one of the finest layouts in the area with its quick and undulating TifEagle greens. Golfers have six sets of tees to choose from; they range in length from 4,586 to over 6,700. With such a wide variety of tees to choose from, The Meadows Golf Club can be enjoyed by golfers of all abilities. 

The Meadows is a unique layout. For example, there is only one par 3 on the front nine, and three on the back. And even though several of the par 4 holes are short from the White Tees – four are under 330 yards – the fairways are wide, so don’t be afraid to hit driver off the tee.  Something else I noticed was that from the White tees, the par 4, 417-yard 14th hole – the layout’s #1 handicap – is followed by a par 5 that plays 435 yards – just 18 yards longer! It’s handicapped right in the middle at #7!

The opening hole on the Meadows Country Club golf course is a long par 4, playing 397 from the White Tees. It’s handicapped #2, making it the toughest hole on this side. It’s a dogleg left and if you want to get off to a good start, you’ll want nothing to do with the large oak trees on either side in the landing area. A good drive is going to leave a long approach shot into a large green that is protected with a pot bunker guarding the front middle portion of the green and two more on the right. Number 1 is one of the most challenging opening holes in the area. 

The par 3, 7th hole is as close to a Ron Garl signature island hole as you can get. The hole plays 129 yards from the White tees with a lake between you and the green. If you tend to hit the ball right, aim for the tree on the left in the “bailout” area. Bunkers in front and behind the green can prove to be a tough up and down.  

Although Number 12 is the shortest par 4 on the course at 298 yards from the White Tees, it is by no means the easiest. That’s because the water that runs up the left side of the fairway off the tee cuts in front of the green. Play something short of the water down the right side of the fairway and leave yourself a manageable distance into an odd-shaped and well-undulated green protected in the front by two bunkers and water.  

The 17th hole is the most challenging par 3 on the golf course and plays 198 yards from the White Tees. All it requires is a long, straight tee shot; there are no hazards to speak of other than a tiny pond just in front of the tee box. The creek down the right side should not come into play at all. The bunkers up by the green have been removed and other than a little mounding short of the green on the left side, it’s a pretty straightforward hole. The green is large and has a lot of undulation to it. Seventeen is a good chance for a par!

The 18th finishing hole might just offer one of the best finishes in the area. A par 4, demanding precision off the tee with water features on both sides of the fairway gives way to a demanding second shot to a green that slopes front to back with water lurking on the left side. Par this hole and most say you won your match!

During my visit to The Meadows, I met Gerry Dunnigan, who at the age of 97, is still an avid golfer. Gerry lives in The Meadows and has been a member for 23 years. He’s seen a lot over the years but seems to think that the course is in the best shape it’s been in a long time, and he looks forward to many more years of playing the game he loves.

The Highlands Course

Although the Highlands hasn’t been open to the public for very long, the word is getting around about how challenging and picturesque it is. Highlands features fairways lined with mature oak trees and massive pines that lead to generous greens that will reward a well-played shot. Golfers can choose from 5 sets of tees. From the back tees, The Highlands plays 6,699 yards with a course rating of 72.6 and a slope of 128. The forward tees play 5,090 yards (69.7/122). It’s another course that can be played by just about anyone. 

The 9th hole is a challenging par 5 that many golfers in the Sarasota area consider to be one of the toughest par 5s in the county. From the White Tees, the hole plays 497 yards, not long by par 5 standards, but the double dogleg created by the trees that line both sides will take the driver out of many players’ hands.  Your best bet is to play your tee shot about 160 yards down the left side of the fairway to avoid being blocked out by several oak trees on the right side. A well-executed tee shot may leave an opportunity to go for the green, but you’ll have to deal with a creek that runs through the fairway about 100 yards in front of the green. Push your tee shot right and you’ll probably be blocked out by more trees. The green is small and slopes back to front. 

The Groves Course

The Groves Golf Course is an 18-hole public golf course that was designed by well-known golf course architect, Arthur Hills and plays 4,211 yards from the back tees. Calling it an executive course does not do it justice, after all, not many executive courses have a 478-yard par 5. The Groves features tight fairways that lead to sloping greens. As with just about any Arthur Hills course, there’s an emphasis on shot placement and accurate approach shots if you want to score well. With nine par 4s, eight par 3s, and one par 5, this is not your usual short course, so be prepared for a challenge.

It has been said that “Membership has its privileges,” and this holds true at The Meadows. Membership here includes access to all three golf courses:  the private Members-only Meadows Course, the publicly accessible Highlands Course, and the executive-length Groves Course. That’s 54 holes of golf as well as 17 Har-Tru tennis courts, pickleball courts, a junior Olympic swimming pool, a fitness center, 2 

restaurants, and 6 unique event spaces. With over 200 social events each year, educational programs, and recreational activities, The Meadows truly offers something for everyone. They also have a “Kids Play Free” program that helps families with aspiring young golfers and encourages practice and skill acquisition. The Staff of PGA professionals offer lessons, free clinics, and club fittings all year round, with beautiful practice areas to help take your game to the next level. As a member of The Meadows, you’ll find a warm and welcoming staff and a club with a very active membership. The club is located in a beautiful and relaxing setting and is convenient and accessible to Sarasota’s downtown corridor and a bevy of residential and shopping centers including the University Town Center Mall.

The Meadows offers a diverse selection of Non-Equity memberships for year-round,  seasonal, or summer enjoyment. To arrange a tour of the club, give Kat Wilhoit a call at (941) 371.6000 ext. 234 or drop her an email:  kwillhoit@theiconteam.com. You can also visit them online at www.meadowscc.org

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