Sara Bay - Florida - USA

Sara Bay Country Club,
7011 Willow Street,
Sarasota,
Florida (FL) 34243,
USA


  • +1 (0) 941 355 6544

The greens at Sara Bay Country Club are said to most closely resemble those at another great Donald Ross design, Pinehurst No. 2.

Founded in 1926, as Whitfield Estates Country Club, Sara Bay Country Club has flown under the radar for more than nine decades. Several unsympathetic renovations down the years erased much of the initial design intent.

In 2017, the club commissioned Kris Spence to restore the greens and bunkers which Donald Ross envisioned. Spence used Ross’ original hand drawings to painstakingly return each bunker and putting surface to the character intended. The work completed in 2018 and many commentators believe Sara Bay is now Florida’s truest Ross design.

Kris Spence clearly agrees: “The finished product is splendid, Donald Ross in all his charm. Say what you will about Seminole, but Sara Bay may be the most authentic Donald Ross design in the Sunshine State.”

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Description: The greens at Sara Bay Country Club are said to most closely resemble those at another great Donald Ross design, Pinehurst No. 2. Rating: 7.3 out of 10 Reviews: 3
TaylorMade
Colin Braithwaite

Sara Bay was originally called Whitfield Estates Country Club. It was developed by a friend of Bobby Jones, named Perry Adair, who brought in Donald Ross for the course design. Bobby Jones worked as the real estate sales manager for three winters 1925-1927. It was here that the “Match of the Century”, between Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen commenced. The format was 36 at Whitfield Estates and another 36 at Pasadena Golf Club, Hagen’s home club. It was not much of a match as Hagen won soundly 12 and 11. As with most Ross designs, there are lots of table tops greens and they do not hold especially well (or at least in the dry season)

The first hole is welcoming. A what you see is what you get par 4, straight ahead with a fairway bunker right. The 2nd is wee bit tougher, longer with a fairway bunker left and another greenside. The green tilts back to front. Three through six provide good birdie opptys. The 3rd is a slight dogleg left. Favor right of center off the tee. This is a multi-tiered green with a bunker front right. The 4th is the shortest. A neat little par three over a creek to a green that tilts back to front and is protected by right and left front bunkers. The dogleg left 5th is a birdiehole, but DO NOT HIT DRIVER. You must carry the creek twice, off the drive and on your approach. To be safe leave yourself a 125 yard shot to the green. The 6th is straight forward, favor the left off the tee to avoid the right fairway bunkers. The green is protected by 3 bunkers, right, left and front. However, the center bunker is about 10 yards short of the tabletop green. The 7this the longest hole and the number one handicap hole. That I don’t see. Yes, there are 6 fairway bunkers right and 3 left, but it is a 3 shot hole. Yes, one must carry a creek about 70 yards short of the green that has green-side bunkers front right and left, but three average shots have you putting for par. The 8th is a mid to long par 3 with a creek near the green. If the flag is right of center the tree on the right provides a bunker in the sky affect. The 9th is an interesting par 5. Dogleg right and definitely reachable, but there are some decision points along the way. Th right hand bunker is a drive eater. If you are a big hitter you can fly it or favor the left. A creek cuts across the fairway about 110-130 yards out. If you are laying up plan accordingly, but in most cases don’t be a wimp. The elevated green is protected by a greenside bunker right and three on the left.

The back starts off almost identically as the first and second, they are within 5 yards of each other and run parallel. The 12th is a relatively straight par 4 with a creek about 80-110 yards in front o f the green. The 13th is a long slightly uphill par 3 with a very narrow green and a bunker right. Difficult to hold this green. The 14th is a good birdie oppty, straight away, fairway bunkers right and the classic bunkers left, middle and right. The 15th is a long par 4 and the number two handicap hole. The omnipresent creek is about 120-140 yards out, greenside bunkers right and left front to another green that does not hold very well. The 16th is 194 yards and is ranked the easiest hole on the course. The 17th is a bombs away par five. Fairway bunkers left and a gaggle of bunkers on the right side in front of the green. Defintie birdie oppty. The finishing hole is also a par five. Favor the left off the tee to avoid the right fairway bunkers. Warning, warning, you cannot see the creek on your next shot. It looks like clean sailing fairway all the way to the green. It is not. Just about anything inside of 110 yards will end up in the %$&*^% creek. Layup.

My expectations were probably too high. The designed felt like production golf, as opposed to making the most of the piece of property. I encourage you to spend time in the clubhouse. There are some really neat artifacts, awards, articles and trophies on display. Glad I went, don’t need to go back

February 25, 2020
6 / 10
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Steve MacQuarrie

In 2018, Sara Bay hired Kris Spence to restore their course. His work here is at least the equal of his past successes at Roaring Gap and Sedgefield.

Previous changes had eliminated much of the original design and rendered Sara Bay’s greens so heavily contoured that hole locations were severely limited. Spence not only improved the greens (while still retaining challenging contouring) but also improved the bunkering. His best work came on the four par 5s. Bunkers confronting every tee shot require strategic decisions as well as on each second shot, an area where architects often fall asleep.

Though Donald Ross is the original architect, Spence also channeled some Alister Mackenzie. Two bunkers on # 11 appear to be greenside but are, in fact, well short of the putting surface. It's not all Spence's work however. An interesting pot bunker on #5 came at the suggestion of member Gary Cole.

With this work complete, Sara Bay is now ready to move from “Gem” to a spot among Florida’s top courses. I liked it better than Sawgrass, Burnt Pine or Dye’s Valley and thought it comparable to North Palm Beach, Timuquana, Pine Tree, Indian Creek and Country Club of Orlando, placing it easily among top 50 in the state on this site.

February 23, 2020
8 / 10
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Jeremy
I am really happy Sara Bay is now featured on this website. I've had the pleasure of playing Sara Bay many times over the past year. I fell in love with it, the day I first played and it has since never disappointed me.If you have the opportunity to play Sara Bay, do not forget to take a look inside the clubhouse. It presents the club's rich history, including the match between Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Bobby Jones called Sara Bay ("Whitfield Estates" before 1964) as one of the best courses in America.The course lies on relatively flat land, less than a mile away from Sarasota Bay. A stream winds itself through the property which possesses many old trees. Donald Ross designed a true masterpiece. His par 72 layout makes for a lot of diversity. Par threes vary from 152 - 224 yards. While three of the par fives are reachable even by shorter hitters, the seventh hole stretches to 588 yards, often playing into the wind.Sara Bay is not a typical Florida golf course and only features water on one tee shot. However, tee shots are very interesting with well placed bunkers. It is important to have a clear shot into the greens. The greens are probably the most fun greens I have ever played. All of them are severely crowned, and many seemingly alright approach shots will roll off the green. Positioning is key, as it is hard to hold the green from certain spots. Sara Bay is a hidden gem overlooked by almost any ranking. In my opinion Sara Bay is way better than the nearby Ritz Carlton Members Club, and IMO also better than Innisbrook Copperhead. Is it anyone's taste? No it is not. But I can not recommend you to play Sara Bay highly enough when given the opportunity.
June 10, 2013
8 / 10
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Hans
June 10, 2013
We were rained out in early May visiting from Sweden. It still annoys me as I know I would really have liked the course.