RITZ-CARLTON MEMBERS CLUB (SARASOTA)
Course Architect: Tom Fazio
Year Opened: 2005
Location: Bradenton, Florida
Slope: 133. Rating: 75.6
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 418 Yds 10 - Par 4 441 Yds
2 - Par 4 441 Yds 11 - Par 5 588 Yds
3 - Par 3 208 Yds 12 - Par 4 449 Yds
4 - Par 5 535 Yds 13 - Par 3 226 Yds
5 - Par 4 321 Yds 14 - Par 4 376 Yds
6 - Par 5 571 Yds 15 - Par 5 559 Yds
7 - Par 3 190 Yds 16 - Par 3 231 Yds
8 - Par 4 448 Yds 17 - Par 4 472 Yds
9 - Par 4 470 Yds 18 - Par 4 473 Yds
Par 36 3,602 Yds Par 36 3,815 Yds
Awards Won: Rated 4 1/2 stars by Travel + Leisure Golf Magazine (2006).
Website: www.ritzcarlton.com and rcmcsarasota.com
HISTORY: The chronicles of The Ritz-Carlton Members Club in Sarasota will
begin to grow in time, but how this course came to pass is what legacies are
When a project begins to develop, many course architects come to mind, such as
Jack Nicklaus, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, Tom Doak, Rees Jones and Pete Dye.
The name that stands out above the rest, however, is Tom Fazio.
Named Golf Digest's "Best Modern Day Golf Course Architect" on several
occasions, Fazio was brought in because of his design philosophy. According to
Fazio, it's simple: "Golf courses should reflect the natural beauty of their
environments." Just look at his resume -- Wade Hampton Golf Club (NC), Shadow
Creek (NV), Victoria National (IN) and Flint Hills National (KS) -- and that's
just courses in the top-50. In all, Fazio boasts 14 courses ranked in the
latest top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest. Let's not forget that
Fazio is a consulting architect for Pine Valley, Augusta National, Oakmont,
Winged Foot and Merion, to name a few. So the stage was set.
The Members Club is located on 315 acres of farmland, featuring wetlands,
mature oak trees, and bordering the Braden River east of Sarasota. Fazio went
to work, moving 1.9 million cubic yards of earth, creating elevation uncommon
to the region. It also helps to have "the largest landscape budge we have ever
had for a Florida golf course."
What makes the Members Club so unique to South Florida and most low-lying
courses are its rolling fairways, framing bunkers and contours, a dozen
spectacular lakes and landscape, to make some of the most botanical gardens
envious. Director of Golf Brian Henderson loves the diversity of the land.
"The amount of earth that was moved around creates a theatre affect on a lot
of holes with an intense landscape package, featuring over 69 different types
of plants, providing unique colors and looks to the different holes that a lot
of courses don't have."
REVIEW: The first at the Members Club is a perfect starting hole, playing
straightaway from an elevated tee, stretching 418 yards from the tips. The
fairly wide fairway is guarded on the left by sand, so favor the right side,
as any shot hit towards the bunker will kick left. Your approach shot will
play slightly uphill to a very wide green that cants from left to right and
features a large bunker, back-right. A great hole to kick start your round in
the right direction.
Bending slightly to the right, the second is one of the eight par fours over
441 yards in length. Two gaping bunkers right and one massive trap left guard
the landing area off the tee. Following a successful tee ball, a medium iron
remains to a green flanked on the right by sand. Any second shot left of the
putting surface will leave a difficult pitch up to the hole. Making par here
is no small task.
The first par three on the course, the third, is a gem, playing from as few
as 117 yards to as many as 208 yards. Framed by lush vegetation behind the
green, the putting surface slopes from right to left and back to front with
three gaping traps guarding the left side. A nice, high draw should get the
Talk about your risk-reward holes, the fourth is just that, an outstanding par
five, just 535 yards in length. The tee shot is critical to have any chance of
getting home in two. The left side of the fairway leaves the best angle to the
hole, however any shot pulled slightly left will end up in the sand. On the
right, a lake starts at 250 yards out and encompasses the entire side to the
green. There is ample room to layup, short and left of the green for those not
daring enough. The second shot must carry several bunkers en route to the
putting surface, with the most difficult pin position, back-right. The green
is quite large and very undulating, as it slopes from right to left and falls
off behind the green. Yes, birdie is nice, but par is not a bad score.
The fifth, the shortest par four on the course, also rewards the aggressive
player. The big hitters can reach this hole with a mighty blast, however
accuracy rules the roost. The lake from the previous hole flanks the right,
while trees guard the left. Let's not forget the sand in the fairway and the
waste bunker left of the green. The sensible play: take a long iron or fairway
metal off the tee and leave yourself a simple wedge to a not-so-simple green
that slopes hard towards the water. Par for sure, but watch out for double-
Another solid shot at birdie, the sixth is the longest hole on the opening
nine at a robust 571 yards. Although considered a three-shot hole when firm
and fast, this hole can be reached in two. From the tee, the sixth doglegs to
the left around waste bunkers and wetlands. A pair of bunkers on the right
protect the landing area for your layup. The green, which cants from right to
left, sits above the fairway and is quite slick towards the back.
The seventh is one of a trio of par threes that can play over 200 yards in
length. Usually playing into the wind, this hole requires a long iron or
fairway metal to a long green that is guarded by water and sand left and a
long bunker right. A back-left flag could cause plenty of angst. If you can,
take par and move on.
Although a straightaway par four, the eighth possess many obstacles heading to
the promised land. Off the tee, you're greeted by a lake down the entire left
side of the hole. To make matters worse, one trap left and four right tighten
the landing area. A medium to long iron will remain to a slightly elevated
green with sand left and fall off right. The view is spectacular, the hole is
a bear, not to mention a rolling putting surface straight from the moon.
If the eighth hole is a bear, the ninth is a monster. Playing to as much as
500 yards, this par four -- yes, par four -- is quite a challenge. One of the
12 lakes around the course guards the entire left side, as the hole bends to
the right. From the elevated tee box, favor the right side of the fairway.
This will set up a long iron or fairway metal to a expansive green. If you
thought the front nine was a challenge, you ain't seen nothing yet!
A whopping 213 yards longer than the opening nine, the inward side begins with
a stellar par four. The elevated tee box affords a sweeping view of the final
two holes and Nos. 1 and 9. From one of the highest points on the course, the
10th requires a blast towards the right-center of the fairway, with water
guarding left on this slightly dogleg right hole. The two-tiered putting
surface slopes left to right and plays uphill from the fairway. Lush
vegetation surrounding the green makes for a beautiful setting.
Lock and load as you reach the 11th tee, a massive par five reaching 588 yards
from the back buttons. Framed exquisitely down the right side by trees and
left by sand, the 11th plays a smidgen downhill off the tee. With a successful
tee shot, down the right side, the player is rewarded with a great look at the
putting green, for most, out of range. The corner of the dogleg to the left is
guarded by a large oak, while the right landing area opens up and is the best
play. The putting surface is elevated and slopes from back to front, with a
ridge in the center. Bunkers left and right guard the wide green, which is
very slick and quite demanding. Steep mounding behind the green makes for a
perfect spectator setting.
You would not believe you were in south Florida when standing on the 12th tee.
An amazing 65 feet above the fairway, this rugged par four features a waste
area down the left side and bunkering down the right side of the landing area.
A mid to short iron remains to a generous green, bunkered behind the surface.
This hole can be had with an easy pin.
A corridor of 226 yards awaits on the par-three 13th. Mounding on both sides
of the hole and tall oaks to the left frame this wonderful one-shotter. The
two-tiered putting surface is quite slick from back to front and is protected
by two bunkers left and one right. Short-siding on this hole will take par out
of the equation. One of the few spots on the course where none of the other
holes are visible.
Quite deceiving off the tee and by the scorecard, the 14th is not your run-of-
the-mill par four. At 376 yards from the back tees, this hole generally plays
into the wind, with a narrow landing area that features sand right and left.
Bending to the left, the fairway tends to move balls to the right, which
brings the bunkers into play. The second shot, albeit short, must negotiate a
lake right and deep and a well-tiered putting surface.
The final four holes at The Members Club rival any in South Florida, and that
includes Bay Hill and Doral. First up is the massive par-five 15th. A robust
559 yards, this hole winds to the left with a waste bunker down the left side
of the landing area and water some 330 yards out from the tee on the right.
Your layup shot must contend with numerous bunkers left and again the water
right. Reaching this green in two is not out of the question, but an elevated
green and a pair of devilish traps, front-left, should deter even the best of
players. Most golfers of the single-digit range expect to make a four, but on
the 15th, par is a great score.
Other than the 17th at Sawgrass, the par-three 16th here is the best in
Florida, hands down. Let's start with 231 yards from the back markers. Next, a
direct carry over a lake to the green. Don't forget the wind that blows dead
into your face as you stand on the box, making you hit driver off the tee.
Trees and a protected natural setting make for a great back-drop, but once on
the putting surface, you'll be hard-pressed to two-putt. The green has sand
and a tall oak to the right, so the smart play is to bail-out left, chip up
and make a 10-footer for par. The key here: don't be disappointed with bogey.
From the tips, the view off the 17th tee is quite daunting, over an endless
lake which flanks the right side of the landing area. Fairway traps narrow the
driving zone, but don't cut too much off, as a watery grave awaits. A mid-iron
approach will remain after negotiating the hazard off the tee. The putting
surface is slightly elevated with a rise through the center and is guarded by
sand on both sides. Making par will be one tall task.
There's is no let-up when you reach the final hole. A rugged 473 yards, the
18th is a great dogleg-right par four that requires both accuracy and length.
The tee shot is critical, in that you must favor the right side and bring the
last bit of water -- yes, another lake -- into play. This will, however,
shorten your approach shot to the green. Would you rather have a five iron or
fairway metal into an ever-so slightly elevated putting surface? The left side
of the landing area features a pair of framing bunkers, so the play would be a
nice fade. The green is inviting with bunkers on either side and the soon-to-
be clubhouse in the background. What a great finish!
FINAL WORD: Just a short drive from the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, The Members
Club is worth the price of admission. Available only to members of the Ritz-
Carlton Members Club and their guests, this world-class venue is suitable for
all players. With six sets of tees, and an overall length ranging from 5,175
to 7,417 yards, the Members Club is a perfect addition to the Ritz-Carlton
Destined to become one of the best new courses of 2006, the Members Club
features an outstanding practice facility, complete with chipping and putting
greens and teaching areas on both ends of the range. When finished, the
clubhouse will overlook the ninth and 18th greens, complete with men's and
women's locker rooms, golf shop, restaurant and lounge.
Another aspect of the club that's unique for the region is its Caddie
Concierge program, designed to serve members and guests with everything from
bag toting and course strategy to providing refreshments and amenities
throughout your round. According to Henderson, service is not just a seven-
letter word to the Ritz-Carlton. "A lot of high-level training and discipline
is required, not just for golf operations, but for maintenance staff and
caddie operations, making the service-level expectancy extremely high," says
Henderson. It's pretty cool, too, when your caddie greets you wearing a white
jump suit, similar to those at Augusta National.
This is not a resort course, it's a golf club in every aspect of the term. No
homes, hotels, traffic noise or screaming children in the nearby pool, just
unadulterated golf. According to Fazio, "This is a high-end, dramatic,
distinctive golf club -- the type of course that all levels of players can
This is a venue that will require you to use every club in your bag and create
shots you're not accustomed to making. Don't be surprised if it lands a
professional event in the near future. The Members Club is an outstanding
course to walk and the short distance between greens and tees is quite
With no housing, the course serves as a wildlife sanctuary. Deer, waterfowl,
numerous species of birds, wild boar and, of course, plenty of alligators dot
the land. Lush landscape, palms, mature oaks and beautiful vegetation make
this course a sensational treat. It comes as no surprise that The Members Club
has a full-time horticulturist. This will be one round you won't want to end.