Overdevelopment amid great golf is the legacy of Legacy Golf Club in Bradenton

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

BRADENTON, Fla. - Rarely has such a good golf course been played in such lousy surroundings. Even for Florida, where condos out-number insects, Legacy Golf Club stands out - or down.

Legacy Golf Club - 18th hole
Trouble can find you in a variety of ways at Arnold Palmer's Legacy Golf Club in Bradenton.
Legacy Golf Club - 18th holeLegacy Golf Club - 5th green
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Legacy Golf Club

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Legacy Golf Club in Bradenton is an Arnold Palmer signature design that is one of southwest Florida's premier courses. The challenging but fair layout will appeal to players of all skill levels. The course features multiple elevated tees and like a true Palmer course, there is water and sand surrounding nearly every hole.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 7008 yards | Book online | ... details »

The golf course itself is one of the best in this part of southwest Florida, but its stature is diminished by the long cart rides through the shadows of looming condo buildings.

"These are some of the best golf holes in the area," said Alistair Campbell, a transplanted Scot who now lives in Sarasota, and plays the course once a week with his buddies. "But, I hate all the driving through the condos. I'm a (United Kingdom) guy, I'm used to walking. I'm used to having the next tee close to the green. It would be a magnificent course if not for that."

Virtually every hole, the PR material says, is "framed with sand and water." Add condos and houses to that. It's a shame - though not to the developers - because the course is surrounded by beauty: towering pines and oaks, wild grasses and open marshland attract nearly as many wading birds as golfers. What a contrast: Wet and wild, natural Florida combined with sky-scraping development.

It's an Arnold Palmer design, one of his tougher tests. You can get into trouble easily if you're off with the driver.

"The fairways are wide enough, but when you miss the fairway, you're penalized a little more," said Assistant Professional D.J. Coutu. "And it may not look like it, but there aren't a lot of level lies. There are a lot of subtle indentations out there."

Palmer also messes with your head on this course.

"There are a lot of psychological hazards," Coutu said. "A lot of things you see out there aren't as difficult the second or third time around."

Then there are the hazards that are purely physical. With a slope rating of 143 off the back tees, you can be sure there are plenty of them, and when the wind whips across the open course, it plays extremely difficult. This really isn't a course for women, juniors or seniors, especially when the wind kicks up: the slope is 140 even from the middle tees and 125 from the forward.

The first four holes and the last four holes play into the prevailing wind. Like No. 18, a 472-yard par 4 with a split fairway. It's a 235-yard carry to the fairway from the back tees; if you can't make that, you should play to the right fairway, which requires a carry to the green over a large waste area. Not that drastic except for when the wind is in your face.

Or No. 2, a 539-yard par 5 that requires a long draw away from the fairway bunker 241 yards from the tips. Again, wind will play havoc with your tee shot.

"'Survive the first five' is my motto," Coutu said. "You get past that and there are some birdie holes."

Legacy Golf Club: The verdict

Legacy Golf Club is one of the toughest courses in the area, with some beautifully laid out holes by Palmer. If it were in a pristine setting, it would take your breath away.

Still, even with all the development, this is a must-play in the area, especially when you consider the low green fees.

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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