The nine-hole executive golf course will open its doors on September 29th. The grand opening includes the opening of two large practice greens—one for pitching and one for putting. “It’s a nice combination of great golf for your more experienced golfer and also for your beginners,” says Golf Operations Manager Todd Basso.
Finishing touches are being made to the newest addition to the golf menu in The Villages, Fla.
The Longleaf Executive Golf Course, an intimate nine-hole trek winding through the Village of McClure, has its grand opening set for Saturday, September 29th and residents can schedule a tee time now through The Villages’ automated tee time system, reported The Villages Daily Sun.
There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8 a.m, and players will be able to participate in chipping and putting contests, as well as a closest-to-pin challenge out on the course, the Daily Sun reported.
While connectivity to the area from the rest of The Villages continues to come online, residents will be able to rent carts and clubs at the facility, if needed, the Daily Sun reported.
“It’s an exciting nine with a lot of water features. It has a nice par 4 with a nice tree to play around to the green,” said Todd Basso, Golf Operations Manager for The Villages. “But from the forward tees, it’s very playable where you don’t have to go around the water. So it’s a great golf course for your more experienced golfer, but also a great golf course for your beginning golfer. It’s a nice combination.”
The grand opening does not just tee off the first rounds on the Longleaf course itself, but opens up two large practice greens—one for pitching and one for putting—where players will be able to refine their short game, reported the Daily Sun.
The practice area rests between Longleaf and its sister nine Loblolly, which is expected to open at the end of October.
“It’s pretty extensive for an executive course,” said Ken Roshaven, the tour pro and facilities manager at Havana Country Club, who is helping to coordinate the course’s launch. “One side is for pitching, and it’s big enough for players to really get shots up in the air. The other green is strictly for putting.”
Ken Ezell, the course’s architect with Clifton, Ezell and Clifton Golf Design Group, said the practice area is a special place.
“In that space we were able to create a great short-game area. It will allow people to hone their short game, but I think it’s going to be utilized for a variety of fun things,” Ezell said. “You can have putting tournaments or chipping tournaments.”
Once rounds begin on Longleaf, players will find an experience agreeable to any skill level, the Daily Sun reported. Each hole runs near water, but unless players are using the longer tee boxes, the features will be more about aesthetic considerations rather than hazards to navigate.
“All of the holes run near water, but most of it is adjacent,” Roshaven said. “The black tees will have to worry about water, but as you move forward, the front tees take the water out of consideration.”
That balance between challenging experienced players but also providing an approachable course to newer players was the goal of the golf division and Ezell, reported the Daily Sun.
“On the executive courses, that’s very important,” Basso said. “The majority of our play is on executive courses. A lot of those people on the executive courses are fairly new to the game. You’ve got to have something there that is exciting for them, but you also want something for those who have played for the game for awhile. And I think this golf course really does that.”
Ezell agreed. “I’ll make a statement that from the back tees, with Sunday pins and the way they can be tucked away on each one, I’m not sure anybody—tour pros or whoever—wouldn’t have a real challenge at shooting par,” he said. “They have that unique flair and feel. But as you get to the middle tees and move forward, they are the fun tees to play.”
Players will not find many bunkers on the course, but what ones they do find will require some thought to maneuver around, reported the Daily Sun.
Ezell said the true test for players, however, will be the course’s undulating putting surfaces. “I think the greens complexes that we’ve done there are terrific,” he said. “They each have an individual character to them. They are some of the best greens complexes that we’ve ever done.
“The unique undulations and side slopes provide the different character,” he added. “If you get in the wrong spot, you’ll have a tough time two-putting.”
While players who opt to play from the shorter tees will likely not run into too much trouble getting to those challenging greens, one hole will stand out as an exception, the Daily Sun reported—the par-4 third hole that Ezell expects will cause a stir. In the middle of its fairway looms a large oak tree.
“It’s going to create a little banter on why we kept it,” Ezell said. “It slims up the hole, so you’ll have to hit a shot that will spin a little right or left. But if you’re in the fairway, you will have a shot at the green.”
The original plan, Ezell added, was for the tree to be removed.
“We had a major storm come through,” he said. “On that par 4, we had two trees near the water that we were going to keep, but [the storm] took those out. It’s a very tall live oak, so we decided to save it.”
From the grand oak, to the challenging greens and picturesque water features, Ezell said he believes Longleaf will have a special place among the many golf offerings in The Villages, the Daily Sun reported.
“It’s compact, but it flows so well and it’s so visual that I think everybody is going to enjoy it and play it many times,” he said. “If they play different tees they will play a different course. And that makes this golf course very, very fun.”
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