Golfers here don’t just play a round. Thanks to the Citrus Golf Trail, a chain of sterling courses in the towns of Sebring, Lake Placid and Avon Park, they play a round and a round and a round... And because it can take the better part of a week to complete these and other area courses, avid golfers opt for the CGT’s Stay & Play Package, pairing tee times with lodging at Sebring’s charming Inn on the Lakes. I’ve run the numbers and found that not only is this a great deal, mathematically speaking the more golf I play, the more I improve my odds of scoring a hole in one.
There are likely a few dozen “Pinecrest Golf Clubs” across America, but only one was the site of one of the first nationally televised PGA event.
While that’s reason enough for golfers like me to set up a tee time at this Avon Park classic, there are a few dozen others. On this vintage 1926 Donald Ross course, I can play minus the visual distraction of homes along the fairway. Instead, deep woods and acres of orange groves along the fairways create an Old Florida feel. For me, everything comes together at Number 6. When I look toward the pin 478 yards and (hopefully) five strokes away, the pristine view framed by two orange groves always delights me. It’s a sight unchanged since Sam Snead, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played this course long, long ago.
When playing a round here, I never forget the company that built this Jack Kidwell-designed course also built courses designed by Tom Fazio, Greg Norman and, notably, the Jack Nicklaus masterpiece, El Dorado. Their experience shows at this 6,400-yard course where hidden water hazards demand uncanny accuracy and three par fives in the final four holes require me to dip into my reserve tank for some heavy hitting.
Every player is intrigued by Number 9, which is two holes in one. The original green at 442 yards is prone to flooding, so a second green was created at 557 yards. You can take your pick, but since I’m in it for the long haul, I aim for the long hole—even if that means crossing the lake. Twice.
The personality trait I pick up at the Sebring International Golf Resort is enthusiasm for growth and development of the resort. Whether it’s golf, dining out or any of the future amenities soon to arrive, their goal is clear—providing a unique and memorable guest experience.
To modernize the golf experience and to ensure a more sustainable resort for the future, the 18-hole, 7,017-yard Panther course has been converted into a 9-hole, 3,530-yard course with a ton of personality. It now offers elevation off the tee on par threes, long and challenging par fives and drivable par fours. Many of the bunkers have been converted to grass bunkers, providing a natural feel emulating that of its beautiful surroundings. The Panther 9 can be played in a variety of ways, be it as a standalone course or in combination with nine holes from its sister course, Cougar.
The 18-hole, 5,443-yard Cougar course offers a shorter but uniquely challenging experience. Par threes with complex greens, narrow and winding par fours and attackable par fives have proven to be fan favorites for years with Highlands County residents and the many Stay and Play guests who visit annually.
The community is already welcoming the resort’s newest creation—a 12-hole, par-three course that gives a fun and dynamic experience with undulating greens, elevation changes and free form teeing areas. These attributes equate to an interesting and challenging opportunity for golfers of every skill level and all ages. An addictive two hours of golf, The 12 opens a world of possibility and creativity. From junior golf, to group outings or corporate events, a good time will surely be had by all.
Opened in 1928, history here stretches longer than a Tiger Woods drive. As I take in the wide fairways, well-groomed bunkers, manicured greens and tricky par fours on this 18-hole, 6,500-yard championship course, the sense of history is driven home—especially when teeing off at 18. Looking down the fairway I know the clubhouse is 534 yards and five strokes away… but then I always look back for a quick glance at the course behind me. It’s a pleasant reminder that I’ve been following in the footsteps of the legendary players, athletes, industrialists, celebrities and ordinary enthusiasts like me who’ve navigated these same challenging holes for nearly a century.
The club’s twin courses—the circa 1976 6,505-yard Deer Run and the 6,402-yard Turtle Run, which premiered in 1999—are like trying to crack a very large safe: You need the right combination to unlock it.
Don Dyer’s Deer Run is considered the tougher of the two, and I’d agree if only for the finishing hole, which, while only a par three, is an island green that demands a higher level of accuracy. And I have a grudging respect for 14, one of the prettiest in the area. Before sinking my putt I’ve had to clear the water and avoid the four bunkers that guard the green.
With its rolling moguls and plunging sand traps, Turtle Run mirrors the topography of south central Florida. The constant dilemma is club choice because a series of short drives is a constant calculation required to navigate its narrow fairways and doglegs. This comes into play most notably at 14, a not-so-far par five but one that expects me to clear a stream before avoiding a bunker that blocks the green.
No one said golf is easy… but it’s a heck of a lot of fun.
If golf is your reason for going, it is your reason for staying. The Citrus Golf Trail Stay & Play Package combines tee times and overnights at the lovely Inn on the Lakes. For details on this, check out citrusgolftrail.com.
We’ve Got More Golf.
In addition to the courses of the Citrus Golf Trail, there’s even more golf in the area.