By Peter Mumford
As I noted in my recent review of ClubLink’s Renaissance course, the section of the west coast of Florida south of Tampa is something of a fly-over, drive-past territory, with many snowbirds headed for the wealthier and warmer destinations to the south in places like Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples.
As we discovered however, the Sun City region is home to thousands of retirees with dozens of golf courses, shopping areas, restaurants and beautiful beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, just minutes away. You might think the pace would be slower and more laid back than some of bustling big name vacation spots but that didn’t appear to be the case. A quick peek at the Members bulletin board in one of the golf clubs we visited explained why. The message read, “You may be retired but you’re not dead yet!” Then it went on to list a staggering array of activities available for members and their guests, both at the club and around the community.
ClubLink Members have access to these 3 great courses at Sun City Centre: Club Renaissance (18 holes), Scepter (27 holes) and Sandpiper (27 holes). After a great experience at Club Renaissance, we were looking forward to our next game at Scepter Golf Club.
We arrived for our 8:30 a.m. tee time and couldn’t believe how busy it was. Turns out there was a member’s shotgun ready to go off on the main course and we would be playing the Falcon nine that was a few minutes down the road by golf cart. The starter was very apologetic that most of the members were playing in the event so it was unlikely we’d have any company on the course.
I don’t think I’ve ever complained about having a golf course to myself and likely never will. The Falcon nine was designed by Ron Garl (Taboo, Wooden Sticks) and is an intriguing layout over what is essentially flat terrain dotted by large ponds (small lakes?), occasional intrusions of mangrove wetlands and enough cypress and palm trees to make you think about shot placement.
The greens were magnificent, certainly among the best conditioned putting surfaces I’d experienced in over a dozen rounds on my Florida adventure. They were contoured, tiered and so much fun to putt. With nobody pushing us, you can bet we tried putts from a lot of different spots too.
Falcon isn’t long at 3,000 yards from the tips but more than makes up for its length with challenging greens and some tricky, narrow holes that skirt the wetlands. It’s ideal players of all calibre with three sets of forward tees ranging from 1,731 to 2,556 yards. Likely for seniors and juniors too!
Due to the members event we didn’t get a chance to see the other two nines at Scepter, aptly named Ibis and Osprey. They were designed by Chip Powell who did such an excellent job at Club Renaissance and I look forward to checking them out on my next visit.
Our stay in the area was highlighted by our accommodations at Little Harbor Resort, a picturesque suite hotel right on the water in the town of Ruskin and just a few minutes from the golf club. Our two-room suite was very spacious and looked directly across Tampa Bay to the St. Pete skyline. If you stood on the balcony and turned to the right, you had a majestic view of the Tampa skyline. The hotel was chock full of amenities too with everything from pool to private beach, a 250 foot fishing pier, jet skis, tennis courts and two fitness centres. (For more on Little Harbor Resort visit www.staylittleharbor.com)
Just 15 minutes from ClubLink’s Sun City Center courses, The Resort & Club at Little Harbor, a full-service, AAA Travel Guide three-diamond resort and conference centre surrounded by the waters of Tampa Bay, offers a wide array of accommodations for individuals, couples, families and group, mouthwatering cuisine, and just about every beach and water-sport activity imaginable. ClubLink Members receive 30% off the published rate by unit type or the best rate available, guaranteed.
Depending on your mood and travelling style, looking for places to eat can be a royal pain or part of the fun. Fortunately, there are excellent restaurants close to Little Harbour, none better than the Sunset Grill, which is on the private beach directly in front of the hotel. The fare is mixed American but the specialty is fresh fish. After dinner, the pace ramps up a bit with live entertainment outside at the Tiki Bar.
As we discovered, the entire coastline from Sun City to Apollo Beach is full of coves and inlets, each with pockets of civilization featuring all manner of shops and restaurants. If exploring is your thing, there’s no end of interesting spots to discover.
And, of course, still more golf, which we will tackle on our next visit.
For more information on the Scepter course, please visit http://scepter.clublink.com
Peter Mumford is the Editor of Fairways Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @FairwaysMag.