Original Article by David Theoret
The Del Webb community of Spruce Creek is an active adult community located between Gainesville and Orlando, just 15 miles south of Ocala. This gated community sits on over 1,600 acres of land and has over 3,250 homes within its gates. At Spruce Creek, you’ll find the best modern amenities any community can offer, including 36 holes of some of the best golf in the area at Eagle Ridge Golf Club.
It’s not unusual for Eagle Ridge to host over 500 golfers on any given day and, even with 36 holes, that’s a lot of play! But you’d never know it looking at the course; it’s in great shape. As much play as the courses receive daily, you would expect the greens to be chewed up, but that is not the case. All things considered, they are in great shape; and fast. Best to leave yourself as many uphill putts as possible. Each course offers six sets of tees, so finding a suitable yardage will never be a problem. And each course has its fair share of elevation changes, not typical of Florida.
At Eagle Ridge, they consider each nine a course of its own. This gives them – and their members – leeway to create six 18-hole combinations. The 18-hole yardage on the scorecard reflects the Heritage/Memorial and Champions/Masters layouts, however slope and course rating for all 6 combinations is provided for both men and women.
Before your round, it’s always a good idea to stretch and hit a few balls. The driving range at Eagle Ridge is massive and offers both grass tees and artificial turf tees. It’s long enough to hit every club in your bag. Each course has its own practice green adjacent the first tee, so that you can get a true feel for the speed of the greens.
The pro shop also has everything you need for an enjoyable round, including all sorts of accessories. And, if you are convinced it’s the arrows and not the Indian, the staff at Eagle Ridge can fit you for a new set of clubs on the spot. You’ll also find a wide assortment of golf apparel including shirts, hats, shorts, and socks for both men and women.
It’s not often that a Par 3 hole is the #1 handicap, even on a 9-hole layout, but Number 4 on the Heritage Course is just that. From the back two sets of tees, you’re looking at 200+ yards -most of it is a carry over water – to a small elevated green with sand on either side. Number 8 is a challenging par 4, that plays 363 yards from the Gold and Blue Tees. The landing area is wide open off the tee, just be sure to avoid the fairway bunker on the left. You may need to hit one extra club on approach as it plays very much uphill; the green sites about 8 ft. above the fairway. The Heritage Course plays 3,461 yards from the back (Green) tees.
The first six holes on the Memorial Course are very player friendly; there’s not a lot of trouble to get into other than the occasional sand trap. Number 4 is a short par 4 (347 yards from the Blue Tees) that’s very picturesque with large boulders in the waste bunker, reminiscent of something you might find in the desert. Play from an elevated tee box down to the fairway and then uphill to a very elevated green with no traps around it. Although the green is large, you’ll need to hold it on approach or risk going down the hill and face a tricky chip shot back on to the putting surface. Number 7, a long par 3 (203 yards from the back tees) is the first hole you encounter water and requires a long carry to a green fronted by two bunkers. From the back (Green) tees, the Memorial Course plays 3,199 yards.The Champions Course has a couple of interesting holes. Water comes into play on 3 holes and Number 2 (Par 4, 383 yards from the Gold Tees) is one of them. In fact, water comes into play on both the tee shot and the approach. If you can play down the right side and avoid the water off the tee, you’ll have the best angle into the green, which is protected by both water and sand on the left side. You can quickly see why this hole is handicapped #1. As par 3 holes go, Number 4 is very interesting. The tee boxes are all over the place: some right, some left and some behind the cart path. It’s also a pretty hole, playing over a valley. From the back tees, the hole plays a mere 126 yards, however the green is small, elevated and has a crown in the middle. Don’t let the length fool you; this hole is no push over. The Champions Course plays 3,440 yards form the back (Green) tees.
The most difficult course – and perhaps the most scenic – is the Masters Course. Water is present – but not necessarily in play – on 7 holes. The starting hole is a long par 5 with bunkers on either side in the landing area. The water on the right side shouldn’t come into play on this hole but will figure prominently into the next two. Avoid the sand traps left on your layup shot and you’ll have a short approach shot and a great chance at par or better. On Number 2, the aforementioned water comes into play both off the tee and on your approach shot and can figure into the scoring with a right pin placement. Number 3 is a par 3 over water that will require choosing the right club as the water wraps around the green. These first three holes are not only challenging, they are very picturesque as is the other par 3, Number 5. The Masters Course plays 3,423 yards from the back (Green) tees.
In addition to great golf comes great food. In golf, topping the ball means coming over the top of it, which makes the name of the restaurant at Eagle Ridge apropos: The Toppers Tavern. I had the opportunity to enjoy both lunch and dinner at Toppers and the fare was anything but usual. Lunch offers such choices as Turkey Brie and Pear Flatbread, Blackened Grouper Tacos or a Crab Cake sandwich. For dinner, entrees include Baby Back Ribs, Grouper Florentine and Pot Roast; not your typical clubhouse menu. Toppers also has a fun tavern environment with five big screen TVs and a redesigned bar area with 8 beers on tap and Happy Hour every day from 2pm to 6pm.
Eagle Ridge boasts some of the best membership opportunities I have ever seen. Memberships include unlimited golf and all trail fees (for private cart owners), unlimited use of the practice facilities with a discounted range plan and a 20% discount on all soft goods in the pro shop. Grandchildren of members can play for free after noon with grandpa or grandma and you’ll also receive reciprocal play with cart fee at all other Brown Golf facilities. But the one feature that stuck out to me was the unlimited complimentary golf lessons. Take advantage of this perk and you’ll be taking money from all your friends before you know it!
If you play golf in Florida, you need to experience Eagle Ridge at least once. Odds are if you do, you’ll be back. Tee times can be booked by calling (352) 307-1668. Because of the volume of golfers, don’t be surprised if you are part of a shotgun start. You can visit them online at www.playeagleridgegolf.com.