Looking to get your golf game on this spring or summer? You’re certainly not the only one. Here’s what you need to know if looking to book your optimal tee time, plus easiest ways to reserve, at some of these top golf courses located across Opal destinations.
We’ve seen a lot of surprising activities suddenly skyrocket into popularity over the last year – knitting and crocheting, sourdough bread baking, even snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. So, no surprise, the game of golf has been no different – it’s based outside, naturally conducive to social distancing measures, and there’s a good chance you can find a course not too far from your home. In fact, the National Golf Foundation has been tracking the uptick: Overall, play during 2020 was up 13.9% over 2019 and it’s projected to be another big year (as of March 2021, national rounds played were up an estimated 45% over the same period a year ago).
So, with that in mind, we’ve outlined some of the best public or guest-accessible golf courses located near (or on) Opal properties, as well as how and when to book given that more people are flocking to the fairways this spring and summer.
Two Distinct Ways to Swing Away
The Resort at Longboat Key Club [Longboat Key, FL]
Forty-five holes of championship golf come in the form of two courses at this Sarasota-based property: the tree-lined Harbourside Golf Course that runs along Sarasota Bay, and Links on Longboat that borders the Gulf of Mexico. But while they’re both consistently rated among the country’s finest places to play, they’re far from twin courses, offering completely different golf experiences. The Links on Longboat’s 18 holes boast ocean breezes, big greens, and many small waterways that run alongside one side of the fairways, while the Harbourside’s three distinct nines offer a sampling of literally every golf challenge you can expect, from tight fairways that demand accuracy off the tee, fast greens and hills, to water that plays into many of the shots.
Tips to Book According to Terry O’Hara, director of golf at the resort, the least-busiest days to play either courses are usually Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. If you’re a resort guest, you can book up to one day in advance by calling either 941-387-1631 for tee times at the Harbourside or 941-387-1632 for the Links on Longboat. When you call, please indicate if you want to be paired up or not – singles will be paired with other resort singles to make at least a twosome.
Donald Ross’s Signature Early Course Design
The Sagamore Resort [Lake George, NY]
Built in 1923 by legendary course architect Donald Ross, the historic hilltop Sagamore Golf Course was considered one of his finest works, and the resort is content on keeping it that way with restoration efforts that have always maintained the original routing and features. Today, it plays like a legend with holes routed naturally through an upland meadow and the Adirondack woods, lush narrow fairways lined with hardwoods, and deep bunkers that surround undulating greens. Ross even planted heather here from his own native Scotland. Other signature Ross touches include contoured greens, at least always one short “risk or reward” par 3, and false fronts falling back to the fairway.
Tips to Book The least busy times are usually between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. “We are usually busier in the morning as players want to golf early then enjoy the lake,” says Dave Cummins, PGA director of golf for the course. “Then, twilight rates start at 2 p.m., so that’s when it tends to get a little busier again.” As for booking, guests can reserve tee times online as soon as they book a room reservation (the online reservation system is limited to booking 7 days out) or they can call the pro shop at 518-743-6380.
Layouts that Love the Land
Tiburón Golf Club [Naples, FL]
Located roughly 20 minutes from Edgewater Beach Hotel, this semi-private club features two 18-hole championship courses: the 6,949-yard Black Course and the 7,382-yard Gold Course. Both designed by Greg Norman, they are true to his “least disturbance” design philosophy, which is to create courses that enhance their surrounding environment and highlight the land’s natural features. In Tiburón’s case, this means you can expect features like pine straw-lined fairways, crushed coquina waste areas, and undulating greens nestled amidst acres of pine trees and native Florida foliage – all of which work in continuity with the natural surroundings.
Tips to Book To get a tee time in the morning for anything earlier than 11 a.m., you’ll likely need to book two to four weeks out using their online reservation system (which also offers you to filter by the best available rate). While no one course tends to be busier than the other, if you’re looking to play a specific course, you will need to pay careful attention to the booking engine and the specific day you are booking. That’s because public play alternates daily between the two courses (one course will be reserved for the public, the other for members).
Historic Holes to Hit
Belleair Country Club [Belleair, FL]
Guests of Belleview Inn have access to two private 18-hole golf courses: the East and West Course, located at the neighboring Belleair Country Club. Designed and built by Donald Ross in the early 1900s and considered some of the oldest – and most storied – in the state, they boast two different feels: the East Course is more open, the West Course is tighter, but both offer a great pace of play (each one taking about three hours to finish) and retain signature features essentially as Ross designed them. Take, for example, the West Course’s 4th hole, a par-3 that is elevated and entirely surrounded by a sand moat.
Tips to Book “If you’re a guest of the hotel booking between June and September, you shouldn’t have much of a problem getting a tee time as this is when many of our snowbird members have naturally headed north,” says Bill Conway, who, while retired from the role of director of golf in 2005, still serves as something of the club’s PGA “Emeritus” now. He suggests booking your tee times through the concierge once you arrive at the hotel.
Penobscot Bay Presented on a Platter
Samoset Resort [Rockport, ME]
First built in 1902 with nine holes, Samoset’s golf course expanded to 18 holes designed by renowned architect Robert Elder back in the ’70s. Since then, it has become one of the top golf courses in Maine and has even been regularly ranked among the best American golf resorts by Condé Nast Traveler. So what makes the 6,548-yard course so special? Likely because it’s about a walk in nature as it is about golf: seven of the 18 holes are situated directly on the ocean, while seven more feature beautiful views of the bay (hear more about the head golf pro’s favorite holes here). While it can be moderately challenging because of its uphill slopes and notorious 520-yard, par-5 18th hole, it’s still considered very playable for golfers of all skill levels.
Tips to Book Best time to book if you want to play at a quieter time would be later on in the day, after 2 p.m. “Once you have made your hotel reservation, then I would suggest making your golf tee times especially during July and August as the tee sheet fills up fast,” says Gary Soule, head golf pro. While they do not offer online booking (all times must be booked by calling the golf shop at 207-594-1431), they do book several outings during the season, so it’s a good idea to still check the website, particularly for dates that the course may be having an event.
Short Game Practice Central
Jupiter Dunes Golf Course [Jupiter, FL]
Located just around the corner from the Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa, The Jupiter Dunes Golf Course is known as the place to work on your putting and chipping skills – in fact, it has been compared to the short course at Augusta just with a tropical vibe. Nicknamed the “Little Monster” for its challenging second shots, the par-3’s 18 holes weave through one of Jupiter’s natural estuaries, translating to plenty of water play, as well as picturesque views and an occasional wildlife sighting.
Tips to Book Much like the Belleair Country Club, this course starts to slow down in the summer, so you can book for pretty much anytime (you can book online, call, or simply show up). However, you will likely want to avoid Tuesday mornings as there is a big ladies league that takes over the course until about 11 a.m. Summer rates start June 1!