The Ritz Carlton Members Club Golf Course in Sarasota , FL
I consider myself privileged that I was able to play this course many times. Of all exclusive golf clubs I played over my career The Ritz Carlton in Sarasota is one of my favorite tracks and places to practice.
2 weeks ago I was very lucky to play in a Golf Channel Amateur Tour event held at this great golf destination. Although I will not go into the GC AM Tour now, I have to say it was a very nicely organized event. This description of the conditions is based on July 27th 2013.
The Ritz Carlton Members Club golf course is a private course which can only be played by members or resort guests. At times you might be able to play events, charity etc. But in total, whenever you can play, it is a special and exciting event.
When driving on the property you feel like driving into a different natural landscape and world. The way to the club house is nice in itself and, as all of the property, in excellent condition.
Approaching the clubhouse you get a sense of the exclusivity of this club. As seen on the top photo, the clubhouse is a wonderful building which really gives you a feeling of being in a different environment.
First I drove up and dropped my bag. The guys of the bag drop area are on top of things. They are friendly, smile, address you by name ( if they know you or have a starting list ) and do not rush you or give you in anyway a feeling of rushing.
There is plenty of parking available where I parked my car. Whenever you play there, there is golf carts right in front of the pro shop for you to put your things on. You usually then go into the pro shop to pay for your round of golf and get any necessities you might need for your round.
The pro shop is well organized and has a good selection of products. Because you are at The Ritz, you need to expect higher prices for everything. Ask for sales and make sure you get the free stuff, like the divot repair tool, tees, markers which are all available at the counter. That is something nice and I always take a new one, which I then pass on to a friend or playing partner.
After signing in I went straight through to the locker room area. I like to get refreshed and get myself ready for I go out on the range. The locker room area has everything you need. Sun screen and so on. Also fresh cold water with lemons, which I find nice and refreshing. Here you also find the showers for after the round, if you want to shower and change.
From there I am back to my cart and off to the incredible practice area. The practice area is very impressive. They have a huge chipping and pitching green with two bunkers and all kinds great spots to hit any shot you might encounter around the green. There is a second green for chipping and pitching which is nice to learn about green speed.
So I started with some short pitching shots to warm up and then moved my way to longer shots with my GW. Balls are available for your use and they are all Titleist Pro V I range balls. Which makes your warm up not only a fun thing but also gives you a true sense of the greens and your feel on that day.
Next I did some bunker shots. Those bunkers are truly as they would be on the course. Huge, deep and wonderful shape. I spent about 10 minutes there. The entire short game area is in great shape. From there I moved over to the driving range.
Endless great balls are waiting for you. They have plenty of pins on the range , so you really can do some targeted warm up. It is all grass tees My warm up on that day was only 30 minutes, so I went through my warm up routine. But if you have time, spend some time on your club charting. Those range balls are true golf balls and not range balls like on a regular range, which helps you to get true distances.
I moved on to the huge putting green. This green is fantastic and you can spend hours on it without getting bored. The speed is exactly like on the course, so you are prepared for the round as it should be. The pro shop will give you the measured speed for the day. Do not forget to ask. On this day we had 12.3 , which is tournament speed.
On the range they have cold water for you to drink or take on the round. I have never seen the box empty. Again a sign of how much they care about your well being. By the way, there is a cooler on the cart as well. In that cooler you find water and cool refreshing towels with fruit scents like peach, lemon and others. A nice thing to have on the hot course.
The practice area is a relaxing place and when I was done, I felt calm and ready to go. Simply a great experience.
In tournaments they will call you to the tee. If you play there for fun you just go to the first tee when you are ready around your tee time. No stress. There is not many golfers on this course.
The golf course is in absolute pristine condition at all times. Even after all this rain we had ,it was nice and dry and we could drive on the fairways. Amazing drainage system I must say.
The tee boxes at times look like putting greens. That is how nice they are groomed and cut. Playing the fairways gives you a good lie at any time. This makes a big difference. After all you are practicing on good lies ( for the most part) on any driving range.
The rough is tough and deep. So avoid it if you can and if you are a beginner, either chip it out or even throw it back to the fairway. You do not want to spoil your round trying to move a ball forward from a lie which is tough to be played by any pro.
There is plenty of sand traps on this course and not only are they deceiving when seeing them from the tee box, but they are also huge and many times deep and tough. The good news is , that they are in great shape and not as soft. Which makes it a little easier to get the ball up.
On this day I had no bunker shot for the entire round, which makes it much easier.
Once on the green you need to remember, that we talk about championship greens. So , do not hammer any balls. Even uphill you need to be careful. The ball rolls nicely and fast. Best of all, it is a true roll. That means, that even if there is a little break 2 inches before the hole, you will miss it if not enough speed. That makes this even harder. Just start slow and let the ball roll. You will be amazed how far they go even when only touching them a little bit.
The landscape is amazing as well. This is a natural preserve and it projects peace and serenity. With plenty of water, trees and great wildlife.
View on the a short par 4. Tough little hole but beautiful setting in nature.
If you are not in a tournament, enjoy the landscape and everything around you. But please, if you take pictures, do it in a way that you do not hold up the group behind you. Do it fast when it is not your turn or from the next tee box. It is no fun to play behind a group who plays 5 hours.
The wildlife is impressive. Gators, sand cranes, snakes and much more. That being said, make sure you do not run around in bushes and high grass. A few weeks ago we ran into a huge diamond back rattle snake, which looked beautiful but was huge and not to see us. Also , she is deadly at times. The gators will stay away from you, but watch when you approach water bodies. You do not want to get too close to even the smallest of them.
The sand cranes are pretty and have no fear of any golfer. Sometimes you see them with the new borns and that is a wonderful experience.
Even the water bodies are kept up perfectly. Make sure you respect that.
There is several stations with bathrooms, fresh water and ice. Use them. It is hot and you need the water. Also you do not want to go in the bushes for any WC needs. Remember, there is all kinds of animals living there. If you prefer to drink something else you can purchase beverages like soda, beer and others from the cart which is passing you about 3 times per round, depending on how busy it is. Do not be surprised about pricing. A can of beer is 5 $. That is not exactly a good price, but remember where you are. The cart girls are professional, friendly and treat you like a member. I tip them good and you should as well.
We played a nice and relaxing round. Enjoying the views and the quality of the course. Our playtime was 4 40 minutes. That is a fair time. The heat index was 105, which gave the water which was available at the stations and on some other holes even more valuable.
Overall this golf course is nothing short of being perfect. It is a little long, so play it forward. You will have more fun and not be as stressed. As a beginner that is even more important. Take advantage of all you can get to have as much fun as you can have without loosing many balls.
This is the yardage guide so you can check out the course lay out before you go there. You can buy this one for 8 $ in the pro shop. I did and it not only helped me , but it is also a nice memory.
After the round we met at the bar and lounge. A great place to be.
The photo shows most of the area and some of the bar itself. It is a very , very nice place to come in, relax and reflect on your round. They serve drinks, beer and also food. Pricing is OK for what you get. It gives you country club feeling. That is how the professionals spend time after and before a round. Take advantage of it if you can. Note: They usually close at 5 pm but ask the pro shop before your round to make sure.
I had some beers after my round. The selection is good. Stella Artois was on my list but they have all kinds of draft beer and bottled beer. My draft was fresh and cold. The staff in the bar is very friendly and making sure you are happy. I did not try the food, so I can not write about it. But what I saw looked good.
We had hot dogs which was part of the tournament deal. The hot dogs were OK. Honestly, considering where we were at I was disappointed on how they were presented, cooked and what came with it. On the other hand , I know that the GC AM Tour budget is not huge. Still, to advertise the grill they could do a better job.
Grill room area which is next to the lounge and bar area. Great place for small events.
After the round you drop your bag at the drop area again, where the nice guys clean it and hold it for you until you drive up with the car again.
So, after being done with the bar. Relaxing in the nice leather chairs etc. I picked up my car and drove up to the bag drop area. My bag was ready and clean and they put it in the car. I gave 5 $. That is a reasonable amount. But that is up to you. You can give 10 $ and have friends who give 20 $. I think , it is also a matter of your financial status. You do not have to worry. Those guys are thankful for 1 $ or for 20 $ and will not treat you any different whatever you give them.
I have to say. The Ritz Carlton Members Golf Course in Sarasota is a very high quality golf course, clubhouse and range. No doubt, that this is a true championship course on which at any time a PGA event could be played and many mini tours and other events are being played.
If you have a chance, do not turn it down. Getting on this course is tough. If you are invited for a 50 $ round, do it. Tournament? Sign up. Whatever chance you get. The only other way to play is to be a registered hotel guest. Right now I read that you then can play for free ( but there was a time when you had to pay some fee to play even staying in the hotel)
Check for hotel rates. But I am sure that it still is a pretty high price if you just want to play some golf :).
I know , that whenever I get an opportunity, I will be back and enjoy this wonderful course and clubhouse.
Picture Gallery of Ritz Carlton Members Club Sarasota
A scorecard and hole by hole description will follow soon. As always I update reviews and write comments about events. Feel free to comment about your experiences.