The Stables and Meadows nines at the 27-hole TPC Sugarloaf complex were Greg Norman’s first US design efforts when they debuted in 1997 with the Pines circuit following three years later.
The authors of The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses suggest that “Sugarloaf enjoys a fine reputation thanks to its attractive pine forest setting, superior course conditions and its years of hosting a successful PGA Tour event leading up to the Masters. Some even compare the estate to Augusta, which is absurd really given the nature of both sites and both designs.
The use of a wandering creek on the Stables 4th, 5th, and 9th holes is fairly effective, and on the Meadows course the integration of the main lake into both its par three 2nd and longer dogleg 3rd is well done. Also noteworthy is the uphill Meadow 4th, with and interesting front-to-back falling green site.”
Sugarloaf is a Norman design and was his first effort in the USA. Frankly, you can tell. To me, the course is forced. Sugarloaf was originally a horse farm that starting being developed in the mid-1990s. Sugarloaf consists of 3 9s, for this review we will focus on Stable and Meadows, which comprise the tournament course. The Pines 9 is similar in concept albeit shorter.
Stable starts out with a pretty straightforward par 4 with a green that is well protected by 3 large bunkers The short par 3 2nd looks easy and can be. However, it is protected on the right with a BAB and another bunker left. When we played the pin was front right. My playing partner hit a good shot that had a little bit too much jism on it and backed it into the left bunker. The 3rd is a dogleg left with a creek meandering throughout the hole. I would suggest favoring the right side off the tee to avoid the fairway bunkers on the elbow. You can fly them but the fairway narrows. The first par 5 may be toughest. Slight dogleg left with the creek on the left side. Possible to get home in two but, you would have to bomb it left and the fairway is one of the narrowest on the course. Plan a 3 shotter. The 5th is a tough hole, dogleg left with the approach downhill. However, this is an extremely narrow green set at a redan with the creek eating short shots. The 6th is a good birdie oppty. An undulating hole with lots of elevation changes, slight dogleg right par 5. Play it as a 3 shotter and pick your favorite wedge yardage. The relatively straight long par 4 7th is shaped like an hourglass. However, this hourglass has teeth with multiple fairway bunkers covering left and right. The 8th is a long par 3. It has a long narrow green that is protected left and right by bunkers. If you miss it right, you better hope it catches the bunker. The 9th is the number one handicap hole. A long par 4 slight dogleg right with the creek running down the right side. Another narrow green with bunkers providing coverage left and right.
The Meadows (as the name may suggest) nine is much more open. It opens with a non-reachable par 5. The approach shot is to an elevated green with a plethora of bunkers waiting to bounce on errant golf shots. The 11th is a Florida par 3. The 12th throws a little bit of everything at you. Water hazard left, fairway bunkers and the creek bisecting the hole in front of the green. The short uphill par 4 13th is a fun hole. Do not underestimate it, with fairway and greenside bunkers misses can lead to big numbers. The 14th is the toughest hole on the back. Uphill then downhill its strength is its length. The 15th reminded me of the 14th. Being shorter it was easier, but…. The 16th is the easiest hole on the course. A mid yardage par 3 it has a wide narrow green with a W shaped bunker in the front. The 17th is a long dogleg right par 4. Once again be wary of the fairway bunkers. The 18th is a fun hole. A reverse S par 5 tends to have really good scores or really ugly. If you are going to go for it, you need to be as far left and long in the fairway as possible. Otherwise play down the middle, choose the yardage you want for your 3rd shot and fire away.
Sugarloaf has large, fast, undulating greens, a Jekyll and Hyde front and back nine.