BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Ritz-Carlton Members Club-Sarasota is an exclusive high-end private club in most every respect except one: there is limited outside play.
Guests at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota 19 miles away can be a member for a day. It's a phrase that's certainly overused in the golf industry, and it means something entirely different depending on the club. But Ritz-Carlton guests who are avid golfers will want to take advantage of the opportunity.
First off, the 10-year-old course, which can play as long as 7,400 yards, is one of Tom Fazio's best and most playable designs. Conditioning is perfect and you won't get bored. The course ends with a stretch of holes called the "Lion's Den," where guests, if they can make par or better on the final three holes, can earn a free shirt in the color of the tees they played from. Let's just say the club doesn't expect to run out of those free shirts anytime soon.
Most importantly, the course is as fun as it is challenging. And the use of a forecaddie really does enhance the experience.
The other part of this member-for-the-day experience begins at the front gate, where the guard refers to you by name and so does everyone else you encounter on your way to the golf shop, locker room and first tee. In fact, you'll find a locker reserved for you in the clubhouse, and it has your name on it. And be sure to arrive early to take advantage of the club's extensive practice facilities. Dining in the clubhouse is also worthwhile.
And finally, don't expect to see many other players on the course. The members like to tee off early and they play fast -- like three hours fast. The club does just 20,000 rounds annually, which isn't much for a year-round facility. Most guests will feel like they have the golf course all to themselves, which is exactly how they're supposed to feel.