THE VILLAGES, Florida – There’s never a dull moment at The Villages – “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown” – and the buzz this week is all about the grand opening of an 18-hole championship layout called Southern Oaks Golf Club.
With the opening of the 13th championship golf course here in The Villages, I did some research on CEC Golf Design Group – the golf course design company that designed all 13. Could this new course qualify as a Links Course? None of the other 12 are links style courses.
“The definition of Links is near or next to large water bodies with multiple weather varieties like wind and rain changing the daily, if not hourly, playing conditions,” said architect Ken Ezell, who has been directly involved with the design of 13 of The Village’s courses. “Void of most trees! Typically, they are what I refer to as Core Courses and not associated with real estate development. Our 13th course at The Villages – Southern Oaks – is about as close to a Core Course as you can get. While it is a Parkland type.”
Southern Oaks Golf Club is only the third course in the family of 13 that is 18 holes, and the first to be added to The Villages southern expansion program. The course consists of the Live Oak and Laurel Oak nines, mirroring each other in an “L” shape as they approach the turnpike and split in opposite directions before looping back.
Both nines feature something unique: a configuration boasting three par-3s, three par-4s and three par-5s.
When stepping onto the first tee, you can feel the adrenaline rush, which is expected at a new course opening. No sweaty palms or first tee jitters, but you know something special and unpredictable is happening!.
This is not just another golf course at The Villages. What makes Southern Oaks special is the unique blend of strategically designed holes, surrounded by the beauty of the natural settings found throughout central Florida. This distinguishes Southern Oaks from all the rest. The Villages has finally stepped into the future with the investment in Southern Oaks.
As you explore the landscape, you’ll notice impressive features that other Village’s courses lack. First, the wide undulating fairways and thick rough may produce uneven lies that will require you to hit skilled shots, something some of us are not always accustomed to.
Second, if you want to score, you’ll need to adjust your club selections to insure both accuracy and distance are a priority. By Florida standards, the fairways are not all flat which will shorten your normal roll out after drives, fairway woods and long irons.
Third, don’t be fooled by the distances on the scorecard identified with five colored tee boxes. This course will challenge all levels of golfers from all five boxes.
Playing any golf course for the first time can create course management snafus, and Southern Oaks is no different. After all, isn’t part of the fun navigating shots from all sorts of interesting places.
There are bail out areas on some holes so the wise player will use that strategy to avoid a big number. Once you get comfortable with the layout, Southern Oaks will challenge your shot making skills from tee to green, and you’ll want to come back and try it again soon, probably, three or four strokes lower the second time.
Total yardage from five tee boxes is: Friendly– 4,019, Green– 4,746, White– 5,544, Blue– 6,052 and Gold– 6,512. My suggestion is play from the tee box you are comfortable with and don’t ruin a good day by saying “let’s play from the tips.”
Southern Oaks features three par-3s, three par-4s, and three par-5s on both nines, which is different than most 18 hole projects. The course is remarkable because there are six par-5s, which should produce birdie possibilities for both the single digit and under-20 handicap player.
Southern Oaks has all the characteristics of a championship course while giving the golfer the feeling that with the proper tee selection and dozens of well-placed shots, a low round is probable. This is an energizing and enjoyable opportunity for an aging golf community.
Southern Oaks Golf Club is a welcome addition and “must play” course at The Villages – “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.”