Club at Eaglebrooke emerging from the backcountry near Lakeland, Florida

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Club at Eaglebrooke opened in 1997 way out yonder in southern Polk County, and at first, nobody really knew the golf course was there.

The Club at Eaglebrooke
Some of Eaglebrook's fairways are fairly harshly sloped.
The Club at Eaglebrooke Eaglebrooke Golf CourseEaglebrooke Golf Course
If you go

"For years, we struggled," Head Professional John Greiner said. "Carter Road (where the course is situated) is in the middle of nowhere. This is probably as good as it gets with the geography of the land. You can play it every day and not get tired of it. Now, it's really taken off, mainly because of word of mouth."

Word up, this is one of the better Lakeland area golf courses.

The architect is well-known Florida golf designer, Ron Garl, who makes his home in Lakeland, and he built a semi-private course worthy of repeat play.

"It's actually a very, very interesting golf course," member John Laughlin said. "The greens are huge, sometimes a two-club difference from the front of the green to the back."

Most greens have slope and undulation, especially on the back nine, and you'll want to be below the hole. Some of the multi-tiered greens are particularly interesting.

The course is set in the rolling terrain of Polk County, which still has citrus groves, unlike nearby Orlando where they've been crowded out due to development.

It's a modern design in an area full of old-time golf courses, with vast waste areas adding to the natural beauty. It does wind through a neighborhood with adjacent homes.

"I played this course when there was one house," said Laughlin, which surely dates him.

Water comes into play on 14 of the 18 holes, but overall it's a player-friendly course with mounded fairways. The front nine is a warm-up for the rest of your trip.

"The back nine is far more interesting," Laughlin said. "It has water on seven of the nine holes and all of it is in play. The greens are more undulating, and the last four holes can make or break you."

The verdict

Eaglebrooke has some excellent holes that will make you want to come back for more. No. 4 is a classic risk-reward, a 436-yard par 4 that snuggles around a lake to the right, with an approach over said lake, unless you're far left of the tee. The fairway narrows dramatically as you approach the hole and an inlet cuts into the fairway more than you may think.

The last four holes are indeed dicey, and can ruin a low round. Nos. 17 and 18 both play around a lake, with No. 17 a 539-yard par 5, slight dogleg left. Too far left and you're in the bunker, too far right and you're in the water.

There's also water dead ahead, announced by a series of rocks. It isn't that difficult to reach in two, but it has the most unusual and tricky green on the course.

The closing hole is lovely. It's a 426-yard par 4 that requires both an accurate drive and approach. The fairway slopes left to right toward the water and the green is set at an angle off to the right.

The club has a driving range, as well as a chipping and putting area.

Eaglebrooke is good enough to have hosted a 2005 Senior PGA qualifier, and a Futures Tour Championship.

Stay and play

The Holiday Inn on Florida Ave. is a good place to base a visit to Lakeland, if you want to explore Polk County's golf courses. It's a central location, with easy access to I-4 and other main arteries.

If you happen to come during spring training time, expect to see a lot of Michigan plates, as Lakeland is the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers. The motel isn't far from Joker Marchant Stadium.

It's a two-story hotel, with 171 rooms with a free continental breakfast and an Italian restaurant, La Dolce Vita.

There is a bar, fitness center, outdoor pool and whirlpool. With its central location, there are a variety of restaurants nearby, and downtown is only a few blocks away.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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