Won­der­ful Golf, Spec­tac­u­lar Beaches… and Much, Much More

Golf Vacations - - Sarasota -

The head­line of this ar­ti­cle truly tells it all. Sara­sota, Florida has an abun­dance of won­der­ful golf cour­ses, de­light­fully spec­tac­u­lar white sand beaches, and a myr­iad of things for in­di­vid­u­als, couples and fam­i­lies to see and do in and about the city. The city lim­its in­clude a slen­der, but lengthy main­land along with eight is­lands. Up­scale high­rise con­dos and ho­tels gaze out at the blue-green wa­ters of Sara­sota Bay and the Gulf of Mex­ico. Palm trees and jun­gle like plants sur­round quiet sub­ur­ban neigh­bor­hoods. It has up­scale din­ing and small fam­i­lyrun restau­rants. It has mu­se­ums parks, and sport venues ga­lore. It is a vi­brant city.

When good friends, Larry Ven­able and his wife, Jolyn, who had lived in Sara­sota for twelve years, men­tioned they were go­ing to va­ca­tion in Sara­sota, my wife and I were en­vi­ous. Al­though we’d been to Mi­ami and Fort Laud­erdale, up and down the East Coast of Florida, and had spent time in the pan­han­dle cities of Pen­sacola and Destin, we had never been to Sara­sota.

See­ing our en­vi­ous fa­cial ex­pres­sions, our friends said “why don’t you join us.” When they ex­plained their two-bed­room rental would be only a few hun­dred yards from the wide and lengthy Siesta Key beach, we be­gan to get ex­cited. We had read that be­cause of its sugar-fine, white quartz sand, Siesta Key beach was rated as one of the world’s best beaches. When they said they planned to play golf, dine at a num­ber of their fa­vorite lo­cal spots, and would be happy to be our guides to the many, many, places and things to see and do in Sara­sota, we said “yes, count us in.”

Be­cause we wanted to play two top cour­ses in Sara­sota, be­fore driv­ing to Sara­sota from our homes in Hot Springs Vil­lage, Arkansas we set up tee times at Misty Creek Coun­try Club and Univer­sity Park Coun­try Club. Both were for­merly pri­vate cour­ses that were open for pub­lic play. Both were ex­cel­lent cour­ses.

Misty Creek, which was Larry and Jo’s home course dur­ing their years in Sara­sota, is set in a 350-acre ea­gle pre­serve, com­plete with res­i­dent bald ea­gles. Al­though a flat course, as are most cour­ses in Florida, it has plenty of char­ac­ter. Fair­ways, with small rolling hills and bunkers to ma­neu­ver around and over, are ringed with na­tive pal­metto palms and live oaks cov­ered in Span­ish moss. Wet­lands wa­ter is preva­lent on a num­ber of holes. Large green­side bunkers guard good sized greens which have sub­tle breaks. The course is very scenic, and with five sets of tees rang­ing from 5208 to 6895 yards, a very playable cham­pi­onship length Par 72 course.

As an Audubon Co­op­er­a­tive So­ci­ety prop­erty, it is man­aged with wildlife and en­vi­ron­men­tal qual­ity in mind. With over sev­enty va­ri­eties of birds, in­clud­ing egrets, which float ef­fort­lessly over the many small ponds and lakes on the course, and cor­morants, that sun them­selves on the banks of the lakes and ponds, it is easy to un­der­stand why Misty Creek’s slo­gan, is “Golf in Na­ture’s Back­yard.”

Be­side birds, also to be seen on the course but given a wide berth, are al­li­ga­tors of all sizes. The day we played Misty Creek, there were eight on the ninth hole alone, in­clud­ing one that was at least ten to twelve feet in length. We didn’t get close enough to mea­sure even though the ga­tor seemed quite pas­sive as it re­laxed in the Florida sun­shine. The al­li­ga­tors were ac­tu­ally quite in­ter­est­ing to see and didn’t hin­der our golf game, but since they are ca­pa­ble of short bursts of speed, we cau­tiously avoided them.

The sec­ond course we played, which came highly rec­om­mended, was the Univer­sity Park Coun­try Club course. It is a 27-hole beauty, and like Misty Creek, also has an abun­dance of pal­metto palms and moss cov­ered live oaks. Adding to its beauty are pine trees, wa­ter on seven holes, lengthy waste bunkers, and wide re­cep­tive fair­ways with nu­mer­ous right and left dog legs. Con­sis­tently rated four stars by Golf Di­gest since 1966, any two nines com­bine to make for a Par 72 course. With six sets of tees, it of­fers a plea­sur­able golf­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for golfers of all skill lev­els, in fact, Univer­sity Park has had the dis­tinc­tion for 23 years run­ning of be­ing voted “Best Place to Play Golf in Sara­sota” by Sara­sota Mag­a­zine. Be­sides golf, en­joy­ing the beau­ti­ful Sara­sota beaches, es­pe­cially the ul­tra-wide, ul­tra-long Siesta Key Beach, when va­ca­tion­ing in Sara­sota be sure and tour the Rin­gling Broth­ers com­plex, the Mote Ma­rine Lab­o­ra­tory and Aquar­ium, and Selby Gar­dens. Take time out to shop at the scores of stores in down­town Sara­sota and on St. Ar­mands Cir­cle on Lido Key. Dine at some of the many restau­rants of­fer­ing de­li­cious break­fast, lunch and din­ner menus, and for a change of pace, drive out to Myakka River State Park, which is pre­served within 59 square miles and fea­tures wildlife and na­ture tours. While there, walk “through the trees” on along the quar­ter mile long walk­way lo­cated 120 feet in the air. And, be sure and take a ride on the world’s long­est air boat on the Up­per Myakka River, where wildlife, in­clud­ing rac­coons, al­li­ga­tors and blue herons are quite plen­ti­ful.

For any­one in­ter­ested in the oceans, and the fish that roam the oceans, the Mote Ma­rine Lab­o­ra­tory and Aquar­ium is a must. With more than 100 ma­rine species, it fea­tures a 135,000-gal­lon shark habi­tat, as well as other large tanks where you can ob­serve tur­tles and gi­ant man­a­tees. It also has in­ter­ac­tive ex­hibits and nu­mer­ous work­ing labs where Mote sci­en­tists, who work in the wa­ters around all seven con­ti­nents, do di­verse re­search pro­grams. The more than thirty PhD sci­en­tists on its staff of more than 206 in­ves­ti­gate new can­cer and in­fec­tion fight­ing sub­stances from the sea, find in­no­va­tive ways to re­store dwin­dling co­ral reefs, and de­velop new tech­nol­ogy to seek ways to sus­tain fish­eries while boost­ing sus­tain­able seafood farming.

Univer­sity Park Coun­try Club

Misty Creek CC

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