The Concession Golf Club is the preeminent private course and club in Western Florida and often ranks among the top courses in the entire state. Anyone familiar with Florida golf knows this is quite a competitive list; Florida boasts some of the best courses in the country. Add the positive effects of the pandemic on the golf industry — the latest numbers show a massive uptick in play — and you have a dynamite mix for success. Membership director Hunter Talcott spoke with me at length when we played the course last month. He confirmed the great growth of golf during COVID and felt this was a sustainable level that will continue well after the crisis is behind us. “Everyone is moving to Florida, and golf is benefiting,” Hunter said. This is evidently true, as we were joined for the round by Frank Wood, a recent Connecticut transplant and digital learning executive, and Wayne Tallman of Global Traveler’s Advisory Board, who was spending the winter months in Sarasota. The overall openness of the state and the great ability to be outdoors make Florida attractive.
The Concession name comes from the 1969 Ryder Cup when Jack Nicklaus famously conceded the final putt on the 18th hole at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England, to Tony Jacklin, resulting in the first tie in the cup’s history. Nicklaus’ concession was in many ways an olive branch offered due to previous unsportsmanlike conduct of both teams during the three-day match. Many years later, the two came together to create and design this course in the Lakewood Ranch section of Manatee County. Opened in 2006 as a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, Concession matured into a must-play venue with a friendly and family-oriented atmosphere. Hunter is proud of the new par-3 course which offers a great way to introduce young players to the game.
366 yards, par 4
We decided to play from the blue tees, which is a total of 6,440 yards — a little on the short side for Hunter and maybe a little beyond our handicaps. Nonetheless, the first hole is always a great place to show off your nerves as you begin a round in a challenging course design. I took the first honors and hit a decent ball, landing just right of the first sand trap on the left. Wayne followed suit, landing in the trap, and Frank followed right behind me, short of my ball on the side of the trap. Hunter killed a ball, which traveled strong but too far left and hit a provisional. Our caddie, Jack, found Hunter’s ball, which bounced out of the trees and lay in a great position to the pin. Hunter landed on the green for a one-putt birdie, Wayne picked his ball out of the trap to the green for par, and Frank and I duffed extra shots for bogey.
527 yards, par 5
A challenging par 5 which doglegs left around a slew of traps presents an interesting driving decision. Off the tee, I planned to stay far away from the traps — a good idea, as catch- ing them can put you in a relentless bad shot position. I drove over the traps, not cutting the hole too much, and landed squarely on the fairway. My second was a clean 3-wood shot that I thought might be too far right, but Hunter assured me it was in a great position. Wayne and Frank overcompensated too far right and played catch-up to the green. Frank “Chili” dipped a couple of balls in the marshy final 130 yards to the green. Hunter caught the line of traps on the drive and had a real beauty to get back in play. Unfortunately, the best score was a bogey by me and Hunter, and we are still calculating Frank’s score — it remains under review!
495 yards, par 5
This is a beautiful hole, and it holds something basic in the design important to note. Nicklaus sloped the fairways so you must shoot more to the right than the eye would ever consider. This was a killer for me. I hit a great drive, but Hunter said, “Not sure” as it was in flight. The ball bounced and continued straight and then started rolling left, ending up in the water. Hunter hit a powerful shot to the center of the fairway, and the “left roll” had no effect on him. Wayne and Frank hit great balls, learning from my error and aiming farther right. The fairway curves left around a large lake and then straightens out to the hole. A large, deep bunker caught Frank’s ball, making for a challenging out to the green. Hunter played the hole in textbook fashion, scoring yet another birdie, and I had a bogey.
166 yards, par 3
This hole appears picturesque from the tee box, with water and a small bridge. Don’t let this serene setting put you at ease, as this turns out to be a challenging hole. We were about 172 yards away, so I decided to use one of my new rescue clubs. Unfortunately, although the distance was just a little long, the ball shot left but landed safely on a nice patch of grass behind the green; up and down, I was able to score a par. Others in the group had equal issues finding the green, some left and some right, making this hole more difficult than it seemed from the tee box.
416 yards, par 4
From the tee box there is a magnificent view of the clubhouse through the narrow shoot to the fairway, which is quite large. Trying to make the best of the last hole, I swung away, sending my ball in play but a little farther left than I would have liked. Hunter killed a ball straight, followed by equally decent drives from Frank and Wayne. The hole is well- bunkered on either side, and any one of these traps can capture a player’s hope for birdie or par. I took the rescue club again, not learning a lesson from my previous use, and sent the ball a little too far left in a planting area just left of the green. I had to take an un- playable penalty which dashed my hopes for par. Hunter landed on the green and secured his par while Wayne missed the green, chipping and two-putting for bogey.
What an enjoyable day and an honor to have Hunter join us to offer some club and course insights. Nicklaus really created a challenging and beautiful course. Afterward, we enjoyed drinks at the grill overlooking the 18th green.
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