The Golfing Dads recently had the opportunity to play Sanctuary Ridge Golf Club located in Clermont, FL. Many players might recall the course’s original name as Diamond Players Club. The best part of this golf course is the layout. Unlike virtually any other golf course in central Florida, this course offers players severe elevation changes on all but a few holes. Greens are large and undulated.
The driving range is located behind the maintenance building. In the area where we warmed up, the grass was almost non-existent. We had to move the ball around to find “tufts” of grass to hit our practice shots. In looking around to other areas of the practice range, conditions were similar. We didn’t see markings on the range to indicate distance. Also, the golf balls used for the range were old and beaten up.
Sanctuary’s putting green is adjacent to the first hole. The area is very slim and can be described as almost oblong shaped. The speed of the practice green is similar to the golf course greens-slow. One other point is a player could not hit from one side of the practice green to the other side and experience a putt as long as some putts on the greens.
The course layout is terrific. Designed as a links course, no 2 holes parallel each other at any time. On all but 4 holes, a player has to hit down to a green/fairway or up to a green. This elevation change makes for much more interesting golf. For the 4 flatter holes, there is still humps, bumps, and undulations on the course that require players to think before they hit. For example, there are many shots with the ball located above or below a player’s feet. We found we had to play strategically and use most of the clubs in our bag to get around the course. Overall, the fairways are wide and forgiving. Bunkers seemed to be waste areas as we only saw a rake in one bunker. There were many areas with marsh and tall grass that gave the course a wilder look which was nice. In several instances, shots had to be hit over these areas to hit to the fairway or green. Unfortunately, the rough on the sides of the fairway was mowed but not raked. The grass was heavy and players lost balls underneath the non-raked grass. In fact, it seemed the grass went from fairway to first cut to deep rough in only a few feet.
The Black tees play at 7,005 yards. There are 4 other sets of men’s tees that range from 6,581 (Gold) down to 5,035 (Green). As designated on the score card, there are 2 sets of ladies’ tees that play 5,695 and 5,035 yards respectively. Since information was originally published on Sanctuary’s website, it appears the 9 holes have been switched. Hole 11 seems to be the course signature hole since it is mentioned on the website (listed as Hole 2 on website). A long tee shot is required and the second shot is all downhill. Trees guard the right side of the fairway and there is plenty of open space on the left side of the fairway. The second shot necessitates a precise shot to a green guarded by a bunker and marsh on the left and thick rough on the right. Hole number 9 is the number 1 handicap hole and plays long because of an uphill second shot to a deep green. The tee shot looks formidable to the eye because of a hill and deep rough on the left side of the fairway and water on the right side.
Number 13 is the 2nd handicap hole (425 yards from the Black tees) and requires a long tee shot followed by a long second shot. From the front of the green to the back edge, we’d estimate this green is 75′ deep with a ridge in the middle and numerous undulations. Hole 4 measures 445 from the Black tees and is a great golf hole. Players are required to hit a long tee shot (250 yards+) in order to have a clear shot to an elevated green. To hit to the green, there is marsh and heavy rough between the fairway and green so don’t be short. Three of the four Par 3 holes are elevated tee boxes with Hole 2 being the most elevated. Distance wise, the holes measure from 250 yards down to 190 yards (Black tees). We did see distance markers on the course but, other than the 150 yard stake, these distance markers were in the ground and hard to find. Sanctuary uses a red, yellow, blue flag system.
Like the practice green, the greens on this course were S-L-O-W. With such large greens, it was almost impossible to get the ball to the hole. We found any putt longer than 10′ had virtually no chance of getting to the hole no matter how hard the putt was struck. It almost seemed like the grass on these greens was made of Velcro. We didn’t see any bare spots on the greens. There were balls marks on many greens but they weren’t old as the grass hadn’t started to die around the mark. Overall, conditions on all greens was good and we saw very few situations where the ball “hopped” to the hole.
Unfortunately, this great design and challenging golf course is poorly maintained. On some tees, grass was not mowed and looked like a rough area. There were numerous areas of crab grass on almost every tee box. We didn’t see bare areas on the tee boxes. Due to the poor maintenance, we couldn’t tell if tee boxes were moved from previous days. On the fairways, we found them generally good but with many areas of crab grass. In our group, we didn’t need to roll the ball to get a good lie unless we were in a crab grass area. There were areas where fairway grass was very thin. Around the course, there were numerous dirt areas where grass died and had not been replaced. Near a few greens, there were some bare areas. In some areas around greens, grass was extremely thin and felt like a shot had to be hit off dirt. The biggest issue was the “second cut”. In fact, there was no second cut only deeply mowed grass. Granted some of the areas were on hills and hard to mow, but this thick grass was too punitive to a player who might only be 5 yards off the fairway.
Dad’s Says So while the layout is great we would look to play other courses. Conditions on the golf course ruin an otherwise awesome golf experience. This course could easily be one of the best in Florida if properly maintained. Visually, the course is exciting to play. Elevation changes are challenging and don’t allow players to roll the ball onto the green. Shots have to be hit to the green. Fairways are wide and forgiving. While large, greens would be better if more tightly mown. Even though the wild look of the course gives players a different feel, course conditions negated the difference. We feel the price we paid ($30) was high based on the conditions of the driving range and course. If, however, you decide to play this great designed but poorly maintained golf course, the website is www.sanctuaryridgegc.com