Sara Bay Country Club

Donald Ross's Influential 1926 Design

Posted by Alistair Orr

Sara Bay has a long and storied history dating back to 1925 when Atlanta based developer Perry Adair recruited the services of Donald Ross to design a premier course, reminiscent of Pinehurst #2, for his Sarasota real estate project. When Ross surveyed the property Bobby Jones was on hand for the walk-through and a year later the course opened as the Whitfield Estates CC. Jones later described the course as “ of the finest I have ever seen...” and Ron Whitten, Golf Digest Senior Editor/Architecture, in his 2010 article “Game Changers” described the 1920’s as the golden age of golf design and Whitfield is listed alongside such giants as Winged Foot, The Olympic Club, Oak Hill and Riviera.


This Ross design will present the skilled low handicapper with a stern test from the back tees, yet the novice or intermediate golfer will really enjoy the round if played from an appropriate distance for their abilities. The routing presents numerous challenging holes with many requiring strategically placed drives and special care must be taken on the approach shots to these devilishly sloping, false fronted greens. Superbly conditioned, the course flows naturally over the gently rolling terrain. Well placed sentinel trees and great use of the meandering creek that flow through the property will greatly influence decision making throughout the round.


Course Stats:

Par 72, 4885 - 7021 yards, rated 69.3 -74.4, slope rating 118 - 136

Access: Private


Sarasota, Florida.


Editor's Shot Makers Picks:

Hole 5   Hole 7   Hole 15   Hole 18  
Par 4 HCP 9 Par 5 HCP 1 Par 4 HCP 12 Par 5 HCP 6
Blue 378 Blue 588 Blue 447 Blue 515
White 337 White 533 White 399 White 481
Silver 324 Silver 470 Silver 354 Silver 429
Gold 324 Gold 442 Gold 354 Gold 429
Red 307 Red 429 Red 340 Red 415
Orange 241 Orange 388 Orange 297 Orange 378


Feature Holes Descriptions:

Bowness Creek can have an enormous impact on your scorecard at Sara Bay. The creek plays an integral role in the design of nearly half the holes, and is present on many more, so it is fitting that the four holes named to our shot makers collection may have you cursing the Bowness name before the round is over.


Although short in length the sharp dogleg left fifth hole is no push-over. A long iron off the tee is needed to lay up short of the crossing creek and to avoid a bank of right side bunkers at the far corner of the dogleg. The raised green complex slopes severely back to front and the right side is guarded by deep green side bunkers and the creek –don’t be long or right.


The par 5 seventh is a beast that typically plays in to the prevailing wind and is a true three-shotter. A drive down the left centre, avoiding right side bunkers, followed by a lay-up second to a comfortable yardage short of the creek that crosses at the 40 yard mark is the play. The green falls off in all directions so a precise approach in needed.


Hole 15 presents a narrow landing area featuring overhanging trees and Bowness Creek makes another appearance crossing just outside the 100 yard marker. The green is pinched by bunkers and falls off steeply short and back right towards the creek. Conservative play is the order of the day here.


Success at Sara Bay’s par 5 closing hole requires a big drive left of centre skirting a collection of right side bunkers followed by a walloped second shot that must negotiate an overhanging tree left and cross Bowness Creek one final time and before safely reaching the putting surface setting up an eagle attempt.



Sara Bay Country Club

7011 Willow Street

Sarasota Fl. 34243