Nestled amidst lush scenery and breathtaking natural splendor, University Park Country Club in Sarasota, Florida stands out as the foremost master-planned enclave in the Sarasota vicinity. Offering a 27-hole golf course with a four-star rating, tennis courts, a state-of-the-art fitness hub, croquet facilities, and an exquisite dining experience, University Park Country Club is a must-see destination.
A respite from the cold is usually a good enough reason for any Chicagoan to consider a trip south to Sarasota, Florida. However, when the topic of where to play golf in the Sarasota area comes up, there are a number of terrific options that are made even more attractive during our bitter Chicago winters.
On a recent trip to Sarasota, I had the opportunity to play golf at University Park Country Club in nearby University Park, Florida. A 27-hole facility, I can attest to the fact that University Park is one of the top golf courses in the area after playing holes 10-27.
There’s often a lot on the line when scheduling a getaway trip during the early months of the year to a warmer climate such as Sarasota. Your time is often limited to a specific window, placing a greater level of emphasis on course selection than a typical round at home.
For example, the Sarasota area received an inordinate amount of rain throughout my trip to the Sunshine State. Unfortunately, more than a few local courses were actually closed during a part of my stay. Thankfully, University Park was not one of the them.
Although the course was wet, the fairways, greens and bunkers drained very well. In fact, the only real consequence of the larger than normal precipitation was a little less roll on your drive and probably greens that were slightly more receptive to approach shots.
Needless to say, I was delighted to see the course at University Park Country Club perform so well when another local course that I was scheduled to play had to close due to flooding. This was a great reminder to all snow birds – choose your golf courses wisely. The wet and stormy conditions could have very easily derailed my highly anticipated winter getaway had I not chosen a course like University Park.
In addition to the functional ability of the course to handle moisture, University Park proved to be highly picturesque, challenging and unique. No hole was similar, often providing unique vistas and experiences while requiring accurate club selection and distance assessment.
I’ve played other nearby courses that were repetitive, boring and dull. That’s definitely not the case with 18 holes that I played at University Park, where each successive hole brought on a new challenge and often a new environment.
Consistently rated four stars by Golf Digest since it opened in 1996, University Park Country Club offers lush fairways that traverse the natural woodlands and native habitat. I can attest to the variety of vegetation as I was often off the fairway searching for my ball, whenever possible. The greens ran true and fast, but fair.
The 27 holes of championship golf were designed by Ron Garl, who has designed over 250 golf courses worldwide, including courses in Canada, China, Colombia, Nigeria, Panama and Thailand. Local courses that Garl has been involved with near Chicago include Stonehenge Golf Club in Warsaw, Indiana and Minocqua Country Club, in the north woods of Minocqua, Wisconsin.
I would highly recommend visiting University Park Country Club on your next trip to Sarasota, or to southwest Florida. You’ll never be able to control Mother Nature, but finding a course that can manage the elements can go a long way towards a happy golf getaway.