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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 1: This par 4 was actually built along with the original Commander Course's 18, so its flowing contours are a little more similar to the other course, but it's not entirely out of place on the Piper. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 2: This par 5 can play over 650 yards from the tips, to a horseshoe-shaped green with a bunker in front. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 3: This par 4 mixes gathering (left) and shedding (front right) contours beautifully at the green. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 4: This short par 3 is a striking set piece. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 5: The more a player takes on a lake flanking the right side of the landing area, the better the angle into the green of this par 4. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 6: This par 5 confronts golfers with a classic dilemma: play close to the flanking lake for a better approach angle, or bail wide for safety and deal with a tougher approach? Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 7: If golfers can conquer the false front on the green of this par 3, they'll get some relief in the form of a punchbowl at the rear portion of the putting surface. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 8: This superb green complex has steep falloffs on either side. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 9: The bunkering on this par 4 helps frame the demands of the tee shot. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 10: Brandon Johnson's take on a 'Volcano' green, this par 5 requires two good shots to set up a manageable approach to a small target. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 11: A small notch cut into this par 4's green creates some interesting hole locations. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 12: A wide fairway bailout right of the green may actually be the worse miss on this par 3. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 13: A deep swale short of this par 4's wide green encourages an aerial approach. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 14: Brandon Johnson borrowed from C.B. Macdonald's 'Double Plateau' green concept on this par 3. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 15: A rectangular green with different compartments defines the challenge on this long par 4. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 16: Staying left off the tee of this long par 4 will help the golfer with the angle on the approach. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 17: This short par 5 has an appropriately small green, with a bunker cut into a mound that complicates attempts to reach in two shots. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Lakewood National Golf Club (Piper Course), hole 18: In a somewhat contrarian move, the course ends on a short par 4, where conditions can conspire to make the green drivable. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor

New Piper Course at Lakewood National raises the bar for boom-time residential golf

Arnold Palmer Design Company's Brandon Johnson turns in another sophisticated effort.

LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. - Have you ever noticed how the act of playing certain courses feels a bit different than playing others?

Don't get me wrong: every golf course is challenging to a certain extent because the game itself is challenging in that intoxicatingly elusive way that makes us keep trying and failing to conquer it throughout our lives.

But I've noticed that some rounds take that base challenge up a level or two. It's not necessarily a matter of a course being more difficult (thought that can be part of it), but it's more about a feeling that that challenge is a bit more sophisticated than usual. Another factor contributing to that feeling is often the day's conditions: both the course and the weather.

My recent round at the brand-new Piper Course at Lakewood National Golf Club east of Sarasota, Fla., was one of those occasions.

A 20-mile-per-hour wind is often a recipe for a nightmare round on a Florida golf course in a residential development. For decades, builders have packed as many homes around fairways and greens as possible, churning out golf courses that feel more like bowling alleys with out-of bounds down one side of a hole and lagoons dug out for fill dirt down the other. You can imagine that a breeze of any kind can make courses like this practically unplayable.

Give credit to Lennar, the developer at Lakewood National, for allowing Arnold Palmer Design Company's Brandon Johnson to work within wider corridors than many courses in high-density neighborhoods often receive. This encouraged Johnson to build some fairly wild contours into the Piper Course's fairways, including some features that shunt the golf ball toward the margins. Most Florida community courses have concave fairways that try to gather balls away from the edges of the holes, but at Piper, that bit of convexity infuses some interesting off-the-tee strategy into several holes, such as the standout par-4 8th, where a large mound on the right side of the landing area steers tee shots toward a long, snaking buner on the right.

Hole 8 also showcases Johnson's flair for interesting green complexes, which also tend to slough off errant shots. The 45-yard deep putting surface widens as it proceeds, with sharp falloffs along its sides. It's one of several holes where even though you may miss the green, your putter may still be your best recovery option.

On the back nine, Johnson makes a couple explicit references to classic architects C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor, while putting his own spin on their geometric, "template"-hole-driven style. Hole 14 has a "Double Plateau"-type green, with elevated back-left and back-right sections, with a lower front-middle one that can house hole locations to which cleverly placed shots may funnel.

The following hole, the course's longest par 4, doesn't adhere to any particular template, though the fairway leading up to the green could be likened to the convex "hog back" feature seen on some Macdonald and Raynor courses. But the unbunkered green is the star here: a perfect rectangle, complete with squared-off edges and multiple compartments set off with slopes.

The Piper Course, like its Johnson-designed companion Commander Course, is open to non-member tee times for a few hours a day, with green fees maxing out just over $100. For the quality of golf on offer, it's a terrific deal, and one that will probably fade in the coming years as the community builds out further, with club membership filling up. It's well worth a play if you're in the area.

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for Golf Advisor. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
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New Piper Course at Lakewood National raises the bar for boom-time residential golf
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