The Founders Club Blog

A Beautiful, Rich History of Golf in Sarasota

There are over 90 golf courses across Sarasota and Manatee counties. We'll take a closer look at the Sarasota area's embrace of the beloved pastime and highlight historical courses, famous players, and events past and present.

Golf’s beginnings in Sarasota

John Hamilton Gillespie built the first nine-hole course in what is now downtown Sarasota in 1905. It was the only course available for the next fifteen years. In 1924, it was sold for development, and Sarasota was without a golf course altogether. It wasn't until later that the first 18-hole golf course was built at the Whitfield Estates Country Club. Famed golf promoters included Bobby Jones, "Sir Walter" Hagen, and George Adair. Additional notoriety for the new course came with its architect, Donald Ross. Originally from Scotland, he became well-known for his course design, along with his pro status.

Sarasota's Most Historical Courses

Donald Ross is estimated to have designed over 400 courses in his career. Four of his courses are in Manatee and Sarasota County. If you haven't played them, add these challenging and breathtaking courses to your 'must-play' list.

  • Bobby Jones Golf Complex
  • Bradenton Country Club
  • Palma Sola Golf Course
  • Sara Bay Country Club (Whitfield Estates)

In addition to Ross' courses, a few other historical favorites were developed over the years and well worth your tee time to play.

Bent Tree Country Club

East on Bee Ridge Road sits this beautiful course, respected by the best women professional golfers in the late seventies and eighties. It was the host of the Sarasota LPGA Classic for more than ten years.

TPC Prestancia

This 'Stadium Course,' designed by Ron Garl, was the premier challenge for the best senior golfers throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

The Concession Club

The home of the 2015 Men's and Women's NCAA Championships, this course was featured as one of the top 100 golf courses by Golf Magazine.

Famous Golfers in Sarasota

Where there are challenging and beautiful golf courses, the best of the best in golf talent is sure to be. The historical courses of Sarasota are no exception. Some of the top professional names in golf have teed off here over the last fifty years. Some of the early pro-women included Kathy Whitworth and Judy Rankin. Nancy Lopez also played Bent Tree as the Champion. In more recent years, the great Arnold Palmer played The Concession Club, as did Chi Chi Rodriguez and Hale Irwin. 

Celebrity athletes like Jim Palmer and Yogi Berra also played in Sarasota, proving the area has been a golf enthusiast magnet for decades.

Popular Hot Spots Today

If you're looking for the best clubs to golf today, with the most challenging holes and amazing layouts, Sarasota is the place to be. According to the locals and, here are a few of the best four and five-star places to tee up.

University Park Country Club

This course offers public and membership benefits and features 27-holes, for those looking to play more than the typical 18 holes.

The Bobby Jones Golf Course

Uniquely refurbished, this historical gem has eight sets of tees, making it welcoming for any skill level. Play 18 holes in one direction on your first day, then play in reverse for an experience like none other.

A few other notable mentions include:

  • Venetian Golf & River Club
  • Lakewood National Golf Club - Commander Course
  • Waterlefe Golf & River Club
  • 1 & 10 at University Park Country Club
  • Scepter Golf Club - Osprey/Falcon Course
  • The Club Renaissance

Sarasota is arguably the historical hub for the best in golf courses and rich golf history. The pros and celebrities frequent many of the local hotspots, and for good reason. If you haven't experienced some of these courses, you should. If you're looking to move to the Sarasota area, contact us!

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