Best public golf courses in Sarasota

Sarasota, Florida, is a city steeped in history and famous for its natural beauty. It’s no wonder golfers flock to Sarasota to enjoy the city’s stunning golf courses. Over the years, the city has produced legendary golfers and hosted prestigious golf tournaments.

As a passionate golfer, I’ve had the privilege of playing on many of Sarasota’s public golf courses. Each course offers a unique golfing experience, from challenging bunkers to sweeping fairways and stunning ocean views.

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Here are my thoughts on these public golf courses in Sarasota and why you should visit them. You may also want to check out our picks for the Best public golf courses in Naples.

Top 10 best public courses in Sarasota

The Highlands Golf Course

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The Highlands Golf Course in Sarasota, Florida, was designed by the renowned golf course architect Francis Duane and was opened in 1984. It’s located at The Meadows Country Club, spans over 6,669 yards, and features 18 holes of championship golf. By adding obstacles to some holes, Francis Duane ensured the course was challenging but fair.

Until recently, the course was private. Today, anyone can enjoy quality golfing facilities, service, and layout. The fairway on the course is lined with trees, presenting a unique challenge. But the greens are generous and hence more forgiving.

Aside from nature, the course sports a unique blend of modern technology and classic Florida style. Their Gas powered golf carts are GPS enabled and have 3D images of holes plus information that’ll increase your chances of sinking the ball.

The course costs depend on the time of the day and which day of the week it is. Generally, they vary between $44 and $70. You can book your preferred tee time on their site.

University Park Country Club

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University Park Country Club is one of the top semi-private clubs in South Florida that sports a 27-hole golf course. The course is a masterpiece by Ron Carl and was opened in 1991. Ron Carl perfectly utilized the water and land on site and hid the course from the busy urban life.

Each course has 9 holes, so combining any two forms an 18-hole 72-par course. The last nine holes are 3,700 yards making them the longest on the course. Aside from this, there are six tees, so the course caters to players with all skill levels. Water is in play in most holes and has many bunkers on the fairway and green, making it challenging and fun.

Some course highlights include the 9th and 18th holes, whose greens have water obstacles. Also, the 27th hole has water behind the green and in front of the tee.

Serenoa Golf Club

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Serenoa Golf Club is a public golf course in Sarasota, Florida. It was designed by Mark Alden and opened in 1990. The project’s goal was to create a course that’s never been seen in Sarasota, and yes, he delivered. He combined the wetland with the natural landscape to give you a masterpiece good enough to be named one of the top 100 courses in Florida and the top three in Sarasota.

Alden took 6,270 yards of land and converted it into 7,200, bringing water into each hole to make it even more challenging. When you think of Serenoa, forget about the boring shots between bunkers, and envision something more impressive.

One of the standout holes is the par-3 17th hole. This hole features a picturesque green island surrounded by water, making accuracy off the tee a must. It’s a challenging yet fun hole that will leave a lasting impression on any golfer.

Aside from the beauty, the club has friendly staff who aim to elevate your experience all year round.

Legacy Golf Club at Lakewood Ranch

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The Legacy Golf Club at Lakewood Ranch is in Bradenton, Florida, USA. It features an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Arnold Palmer in 1997.

The green is covered with Tif-Eagle, while the overall layout worms through a mature forest of native oaks and pine. There’s also a significant wetland filled with wildlife and sand bunkers that will test your putting skills.

In addition to golf, The Legacy offers a range of other amenities and activities for visitors, including tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a fitness center. The clubhouse features a full-service restaurant, bar, and event spaces for weddings, meetings, and other special occasions.

Bent Tree Country Club

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Bent Tree Country Club is a must-visit destination for golf enthusiasts in Sarasota, famous for its storied past and breathtaking natural scenery. It was built by Bill Lewis in 1975 and established as a fully-private facility. However, in recent years, it has opened up to the public, offering flexible membership plans that have drawn in golfers of all levels.

The club has a rich history, having hosted the Sarasota LPGA Classic between 1976 to 1988, which saw golfing legends like Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez, Patty Sheehan, and Judy Rankin emerge as champions. The course has undergone significant renovations, with golf architects Ron Garl and Ward Northrup overseeing improvements to give the club a fresh, modern look.

Bent Tree Country Club boasts a challenging yet scenic course that features five sets of tees, tree-lined fairways, manicured greens, and numerous streams and lakes that make for a tranquil setting. The par-3 third hole is one of the signature holes on the course, with golfers having to carry over water to a bunker.

Rosedale Golf & Country Club

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Rosedale Golf and Country Club is in Lakewood Ranch, just a short drive from Sarasota, Florida. Ted McAnlis, a popular golf course architect, designed it in 1993.

The course features 18 holes of championship golf that wind through natural wetlands and wooded areas. Weaved into the natural landscape are five tees with lengths between 5064 and 6714 yards.

One of the standout features of Rosedale Golf and Country Club is its commitment to sustainability. Audubon International certified it for its environmental stewardship, and it’s easy to see why. The course is home to various wildlife, including birds, alligators, and other native species, and the club has taken steps to protect these species and their habitats.

One of my favorite holes on the course is the par-5 14th hole. It features a wide fairway and a well-placed bunker that challenges golfers off the tee. On the other hand, the green is surrounded by water, making it a challenging yet fun hole that will leave a lasting impression on any golfer.

The Groves Golf Course

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The Groves Golf Course is a public golf course in Sarasota, Florida, known for its challenging layout and excellent facilities. The course was designed by Arthur Hills in 1987, with loads of challenges ranging from sloping greens to tight fairways. They built the course to reward accuracy, like with a par 72-course, even though they only did a par 65. Overall, on the gorgeous 50 acres, there is one par 5, eight par 3s, and nine par 4s.

Groves didn’t list any training or practice facilities on its site, but it has a bar and grill that serves lunch and dinner, plus alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. There are also specialty nights, including Pizza Friday and Burger Tuesday.

Village Green Golf Club

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Village Green Golf Club is located in the heart of Sarasota, Florida. It’s known for its excellent facilities, challenging yet fair layout, and stunning natural scenery, making it a popular choice among local golfers and visitors.

Designed by golf architect William B. Mitchell in 1970, the 18-hole course winds through natural wetlands and wooded areas. The 58-par course is 2810 yards and is open all year round. Even better, it has a teaching pro and pulling carts and clubs available for rent.

One of my favorite holes on the course is the par-5 7th hole. This hole features a narrow fairway that leads up to a green surrounded by water, making it a true test of skill and accuracy. Another noteworthy hole is the par-4 14th, which requires a well-placed tee shot to avoid the water on the left-hand side of the fairway.

Suncoast Golf Center

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Suncoast Golf Center & Academy is one of Sarasota’s top-rated public golf courses and practice facilities. The center is renowned for its knowledgeable instructors and excellent customer service. The facility also boasts a well-maintained driving range, chipping area, and putting green, allowing golfers to practice and improve their game in a relaxed and welcoming environment.

Aside from the tees, the course has several bunkers, a golf school academy, and a teaching pro to help improve your skills over time.

Note: It only has two tees, white and Red (W), measuring 893 and 778 yards, respectively.

The Preserve Golf Club

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The Preserve Golf Club is one of the newest courses to be built. It was built by Ted McAnlis in 2001 and is open all year round. McAnlis was keen to enhance and protect the wetlands and other features during the construction.

The course is slightly over 7,000 yards and has four sets of tees that accommodate the skill levels of different players. One of the course’s unique features is the 60ft Mount Matthew, which is between holes 5 and 6 and creates a beautiful backdrop for the shot.

Bottom line

These courses are some of the best in Sarasota. Although public, they give private golf courses a run for their money. Remember, not all of the courses are in Sarasota. For some, you must travel several miles away from the city to get there, but your experience is worth the trouble.

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