OVER THE EASTER HOLIDAY, we planned a tee time at Waterford Golf Club in Venice, Florida. As the day progressed, it looked like we’d have a washout; even the course reached out to warn us of possible cancellations as record rains headed toward the region. In the morning, we checked the forecast early and called to see if our tee time could be moved up so we could get in the round prior to the storm. Course PGA professional Jack McFaul told us to come on out and the team at Waterford would make sure we got out earlier, so off we went.
I was under the impression Waterford, located between Sarasota and Venice, would be an “old man’s” course — boy, was I wrong! The well-maintained course features narrow fairways and water that surprisingly comes into play. It is a challenging, shot-makers course where long drives can pay off or prove disastrous.
The club comprises three nine-hole courses: Gleneagles, Turnberry and Sawgrass. We teed off on Turnberry and then went on to Sawgrass for our 18; this combination kept us moving at a good clip, so fast we caught up to a group — but this allowed us a couple of enjoyable hole replays.
Ted McAnlis designed the three nines at Waterford. He started life as a NASA civil engineer then migrated to golf course design, specializing in courses in Florida such as St. Andrews in Boca Raton. His career ended abruptly when he was incarcerated for tax evasion. So if you feel some of these holes place you in jail, well, McAnlis understands. Aside from his personal issues, he was a great designer, creating some challenging but playable courses throughout the state.
I teed up with Paul Gosselin, who dared me to beat the storm and tame this “old man’s” course. The staff in the restaurant, pro shop and on the course added to the enjoyment of playing Waterford. I would consider a return visit.
HOLE 5 | 531 yards, par 5 – Turnberry
This is one of the holes we replayed as we flew though the course at great speed. There is no question a little course knowledge helped the second time through. From the tee box the fairway is fairly wide open, but on first try I took a more leftward trajectory, leaving me to contend with tree branches. I also did not realize water lurked on the left, and every ball landing within a few feet was deflected away and wet. Paul equally had issues; so when we finished with a set of double bogeys, we decided to go back to the tee and retry, as there was no one in sight behind us. We saw a vast improvement in scores; I carded a par, and Paul a bogey!
HOLE 6 | 208 yards, par 4 – Turnberry
With water on the right and screeching winds, I slammed a 3-wood to the left side of the green, nearly rolling into the water. Paul overshot the green, causing him issues returning, while I managed to chip up and two-putt for bogey. Playing the wind on a day like that is crucial at Waterford.
HOLE 9 | 378 yards, par 4 – Turnberry
As we wound down our first nine, the Turnberry closing hole did not disappoint. Just before we teed off, I had to take a phone call from a contractor working on my house. He seemed to have a complete memory loss about our agreement, so this had me worked up for my drive. In the layout of Hole 9, water sits on the left and wraps around the fairway, then crosses and splits the terrain between the green and your landing area. I mishit my drive, which turned out to be a benefit as the ball landed dead center and short of the water. Paul shot his ball, clubbing down but still dangerously short of the water. Up and down got us near the green but unable to secure par. We each walked away with a bogey — blame the contractor, I said! When driving between Turnberry and Sawgrass, check out the cool totem pole the locals constructed.
HOLE 1 | 390 yards, par 4 – Sawgrass
Not particularly long and not ranked top on the course, this hole certainly can present the ultimate challenge. The rangers drove by as we prepared to tee off, and we laughed at how narrow the entire course was, this hole particularly. “You lose a lot of balls here at Waterford,” one said. Remember, all the while we were playing rather fast to beat the pending tropical storm. As we had caught up to the group in front of us, we enjoyed a unique opportunity to play the hole twice — this kept us from playing on top of the foursome in front.
I teed up and sent my drive to the left side of the fairway, landing in a prime position. Paul also drove toward the left, passing me by some 40 yards but kicking into some high grass and branches. My second shot landed on the green, and I took an easy two-putt for par. Paul had to take a penalty and carded a decent bogey. We found it amusing our replay was not any better than the first time — tossing out the thought that course knowledge is king!
HOLE 6, |423 yards, par 4 – Sawgrass
Hole 6 showed its angry face: very narrow with trees and brush running the entire left side and a pond and marsh lining the right from the tee box nearly two-thirds of the way down to the hole. With trepidation we teed up and sent our bombs out with the best intentions, mine landing right center and Paul’s taking a precarious bounce near the edge of the pond but far out. After much searching, Paul discovered his ball rolled into the pond, causing him to drop a ball and take his second shot, which landed on the green. My second shot was less on target and landed right, nearly out of bounds among some palm trees. I fortunately had a nice line to the cup and sent my lob wedge over a trap and onto the green. Those wasted shots caused us each to score a bogey.
HOLE 8 | 346 yards, par 4 – Sawgrass
Hole 8 is interesting, as the design takes this dogleg around the right side of a pond at a sharp angle. Big hitters can take the ball over the corner of the pond, leaving a short chip to the green. The wind was blasting, so we made every effort to keep our drives in play. I shot forward, blowing through the fairway and nearly out of bounds to the houses on the other side of the cart path. This kept me far enough from the water where the course “pet” — Bessie, a 12-foot alligator — likes to sun herself. Paul cut off the corner a bit for an easier chip, but through a series of decent chips we both carded pars.
Waterford Golf Club
1454 Gleneagles Drive
Venice, FL 34292
tel 941 484 6621
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