Top 7 Golf Courses Around Bradenton-Sarasota and How They Compare

The abundance of outdoor activities in the state of Florida is endless. There is definitely more to this beautiful state than just amusement parks and beautiful beaches. Florida golf is one of the biggest industries in the state. According to the Tampa Bay Times, 167,000 people play golf, generating about 13.8 billion for the economic engine here in Florida. It’s considered one of the largest golf states in the U.S. Which is why I am sharing an inside look at the top seven golf courses around Bradenton-Sarasota and how they compare to help you navigate through the links.

These exquisite golf courses will impress you just as much as challenge you. They can bring out the best in you when playing a round at these beautiful local Florida golf courses. There are 26 golf courses in Bradenton, Florida and there are 40 golf courses in Sarasota County. Let’s narrow it down a bit and offer you an inside closer look at the top 7 golf courses around Bradenton-Sarasota and how they compare.

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Grab a pen and take notes as I share these features, highlights, and tips from a local scratch golfer. He goes by Mr. Golf and I’ve included some specific details here to help you have fun, enjoy improved play and hopefully have a better overall experience. So if you love golf, you’ll want to arrange a few rounds at these local links.

River Run Golf Links

Public golf courses in Bradenton, Fl
Best public golf courses in Bradenton, Florida
River Run Golf Links

The city of Bradenton runs and operates River Run Golf Links course. You will enjoy a good chance to break par here. As you play River Run, take advantage of the big greens. It’s a course that you may not like the first time; so you may have to allow it to grow on you. The fairways are a little tight and provide an opportunity to shape shots. Meanwhile, it’s suggested that you try to land your ball above the hole on the greens. One of the nice features of this course is there are no houses, its quiet, and is surrounded by nature.

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Rosedale Golf and Country Club

private golf courses bradenton, fl
Rosedale Golf and Country Club

Enjoy one of the most beautiful communities located in Lakewood Ranch. Rosedale Golf Course offers very tight but superior fairways and can be tough to hit it straight. Some of the holes are generously spread out, aligned with water and can be isolated. The undulated greens are pretty good but are challenging. And if you do not position your ball just right, you will miss the putt. Although located within a community of homes, the course is lovely and surrounded by majestic oak trees and pristine lakes that allow you to enjoy a round of golf in a peaceful quiet setting. Keep in mind, there are alligators out there, and you may see one so just be aware.

University Park Country Club

This little golf gem of Sarasota is semi private and if you play here, it can be quite expensive. You will find that the course has holes beautifully spaced out and it is not as tight as other courses. There is also plenty of water and sand. On each hole, there is always a chance to get into trouble. The golf course offers 27 holes, about half have homes located on them. One of the best things about this course is that its always maintained and offers some of the most pretty holes. It is a Ron Garl design and Mr. Golf’s explains that it is quite similar to nearby Lakewood Ranch and River Strand courses.

IMG Academy Golf Club

As part of the old school golf courses and formerly named El Conquistador, this Bradenton golf club was built in the 1970s. In the past, IMG Academy Golf Club was a place where people would walk the course because of the shorter distances between holes, etc. It’s not really aesthetically beautiful, and there are no signature holes; however, the course is usually in good shape. You will often find the greens in decent condition, but the remainder of the course is not up to par and can contain a lot of weeds. The fairways are mostly good and you will notice homes along certain areas of this course.

Florida Golf Tip Reminder: The main defense at IMG is that it can be very breezy. Additionally, there are a lot of adjoining fairways so you must take caution when driving the ball.

Sara Bay Country Club

private golf courses in sarasota, fl
public golf courses in sarasota
Sara Bay Country Club

Although this beautiful historical golf course is private, there are opportunities for folks other than members to play the same course that Bobby Jones played. Sarasota offers another golf gem along the bay. A Donald Ross design and built during a time when land was not wasted. The holes are positioned closer together to make it more convenient to walk. The extremely large fairways makes it a little more straight forward when teeing off.

private golf courses in sarasota, florida
Sara Bay CC

Florida Golf Tip Reminder: You must have good distance control on approach shots. Also keep in mind that there can be tricky wind directions out here.

Riverwood Golf Club

Port Charlotte brings together the best of nature as well as the best of golf. Riverwood Golf Club offers you great fairways and putting greens. There are also several houses on holes located throughout the community. This course offers a little more difficult challenges off the tee as it presents more demanding tee shots.

Manatee Golf Course

Manatee GC is a Manatee County public golf course that offers a full practice facility that includes a grass-tee driving range and separate putting and chipping greens. The golf course is a par 72 with a course rating of 71.0 and slope of 125 from the back tees. The fairways and greens are Bermuda grass that is over-seeded with rye grass in the winter.

golf courses sarasota
public golf courses in bradenton, fl
Manatee Golf Course

The course is generous off the tee with mostly wide fairways. However, water does come into play on 14 of the 18 holes and a couple of the holes do require accuracy off the tee. Particularly hole number four, a par 5 that plays only 469 yards from the back tee, but requires a well placed tee shot in the fairway with mangroves on the left side of the fairway and a strand of trees on the right side of the fairway.  The green complexes are rather small and flat with some subtle breaks. A round of golf usually includes a prevailing wind from the west, southwest off the gulf.

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Overall the Manatee GC is a good course for a beginner golfer but also offers enough of a challenge for experienced golfers as well. Finally, with this course being a county public facility, it is kept up with decent conditions and offers a reasonably priced round of golf. This provides the local golfer with a positive golf experience with value.

Florida Golf Experience

Florida golf can be quite a challenge at times. This state can be inundated with continuous weather changes. This makes it difficult to maintain the area golf courses. But one of the most important things that the golf facilities manager can do is make sure the course is maintained properly. Improper course management can actually create a negative guest player experience.

Realizing that golf course management can result in higher costs, isn’t this the cost of doing business too? The entire area has experienced an exponential increase in population in recent years. As anyone who lives in the central gulf coast area would tell you, the population growth here is large. And with that, come dollar bills and more people to the number one state to play golf.

Why People Love Florida Golf

One of the primary reasons people love Florida in general is its sunshine and outdoor activities, diverse culture, and the golf. You could say that the culture is golf. There are numerous elements about golf that bring together the past, present, and future. And you will be certain to find your share of the best golf courses in Florida. But golf in itself holds sport history like no other. Additionally, several of the local golf courses provide impeccable golf tracks just as well as the pristine surroundings that cradle the course. These properties are full of nature, wild life, and beautiful Florida native birds.

You may not be surprised to know that along with the birds, there are also other visitors that love to roam around the golf course fairways and greens. When playing Florida golf, one must take extra precaution to their surroundings. The American alligator can be lurking nearby or simply wading in the pond with their eyes on you. So always be sure to be aware when you play golf.

Play Golf and Have Some Florida Fun

So, it is really no surprise to know that Florida is the home of golf. Whether playing for recreation or for amateur competition, golf is making a serious impact on the economy in the state of Florida. But the key thing to remember here as well, is to have fun! It doesn’t always have to be about economics and money. Playing golf or even practicing the game can be a great way to make memories with your friends and family. At the same time improving your skills and learn life’s lessons. And this is what truly is important.

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