Golf Coast | New Esplanade Golf and Country Club course player-friendly

February 21, 2014 

The view of a green at the new Esplanade Golf and Country Club course on Thursday. JASON DILL/Bradenton Herald

LAKEWOOD RANCH

As soon as you get to the Esplanade Golf and Country Club at Lakewood Ranch, you immediately feel at home.

The staff is courteous and friendly, from the bag drop to the pro shop, food and beverage and everyone else associated with the club.

But playing the newly opened course was a different treat altogether.

The track was in great condition in Thursday's round, which I started playing alone in the afternoon.

Two gentlemen playing behind joined me for the final 12 holes as there were a couple of foursomes ahead.

Those guys, Eddie Santa Maria and Gary Beck, had played the course the previous Friday.

Santa Maria has been visiting the area for the past 29 years and is from Cambridge, Mass., while Beck has lived in Bradenton since 2007 by way of Michigan.

It was a great time navigating the course, overseeded with rye grass on the Celebration Bermuda greens.

The large fairways and spacious greens, which ran true, make the Esplanade course a bona fide player-friendly venue.

That's a huge bonus for me, because golf is a time-consuming sport and having a difficult course to play can slow the game down and even dissuade people from coming back.

There isn't much trouble on the course, and it isn't super long, either.

It measures 6,756 yards with a 132 slope and 72.1 rating from the black tees, which are the deepest markers on each tee box.

I played the gold tees, which played at 6,157 yards and sported a slope of 121 with a 69.4 rating.

If there are any negatives to report about the new course, it isn't anyone's fault.

It's simply that the course is new. The palm trees, for instance, were just planted.

Also, for a first-time player, there are no pictures of the course layout on the scorecard or at the tee box for each hole.

This likely will change as the course continues to mature.

But the course is in phenomenal shape with greens that have subtle breaks but roll very true.

And those are the main two things that golfers care about.

It's enough for yours truly to give it a 4½ golf ball rating out of 5 balls.

But a word to the wise: If you play the course, make sure to take one less club on your approach shots as the ground is still pretty hard.

Until more rounds are played, which only will happen with time, the course plays more like a links-style track.

Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7017. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill

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