Golf in Lakeland

Experience two top notch golf courses in the Lakeland area.

I spent most of the day watching balls being whacked by the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians. It certainly was exciting, but no one cheered, I didn't see a soul selling peanuts and Cracker Jacks and not a hint of organ music could be heard.

Then again, this "ballpark" was all about golf balls, not baseballs. I teed it up in the 11th Annual Major League Scramble for two reasons: To get a chance to hang out with the Boys of Summer, and to finally swing my clubs on a course I'd been hoping to play for years - The Club at Eaglebrooke in the Central Florida city of Lakeland.

To see what I mean about how good this layout really is, check out a few select holes as I played them:

  • Hole 6. Ah yes, this gorgeous par three has the beauty of Spanish moss trees, a lovely bass-filled pond and sunny skies, and I hit a rotten 5-iron that flew the green. Nice chip, but my putter didn't behave on a four-footer.
  • Hole 10. It's a par five with water all along the right side and a well-bunkered green. Gorillas can bite off the corner, but being more of a chimpanzee, I opted left of center to keep dry. A nice 3-iron left a short pitch and two putts for an easy par.
  • Hole 13. A short par four, maybe, but the drive's landing area is an island with water left, right, short and long - to a green that's a peninsula. I hooked left into the water, dropped a ball and hit a career 8-iron inches from the cup. Just a routine par!

Designed by Ron Garl, you'll find every hole reflects the beauty of Florida's resources with a challenging flair, making the course fair, beautiful and a joy to play.

Getting a taste of The Club at Eaglebrooke whetted my appetite for another course in the area: Haines City's Southern Dunes Golf and Country Club, with its 4-1/2-star rating by Golf Digest and Golfweek designating it the state's sixth best course. And I wasn't a bit disappointed.

"We've got 183 bunkers," said Kevin Woodard, the head pro, and that leaves little doubt as to why the word "dunes" is part of its title.

You'll love the greens at Southern Dunes – they're quite remarkable, featuring huge undulations (especially the 6th and 16th holes). Built upon the rich soil of a former orange grove, course architect Steve Smyers must have studied desert warfare, because the sweep and angles of the fairways through the bunkers is absolutely brilliant. And formidable, per the following examples:

  • Hole 3. After two easy starters, this one slaps you awake. A par three that's 235 yards with mega-bunkers right, left and in front. My 3-iron dived into the left bunker, left it in again and then spanked it 12 feet for a one-putt bogey.
  • Hole 7. A dogleg left that leaves a severe uphill approach shot that's more akin to a mountain course. I looked up on the drive and caught half the ball, sending the sorry spheroid into a (what else?) bunker. A good shot fell just off the edge of the green for a two-putt par.
  • Hole 11. A zillion fairway bunkers but most players will fly them with a 4 or 5 iron to this par three's green. Don't hit it over as the back mound of the green drops at a steep angle. My 5-iron went so far left I stayed in the cart and watched Kevin putt out.

Take my word for it: If you're planning a golfing vacation or can get away just for a couple of days, put The Club at Eaglebrooke and Southern Dunes on the itinerary - like me, you'll be back for more.

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