Anyone who criticizes a golf course is like a person invited to a house for dinner who, on leaving, tells the host that the food was lousy. —Gary Player
Thankfully (who wants to risk the wrath of Th e Man in Black?), I found little to criticize about Misty Creek Country Club.
This was not always the case. Misty had a reputation for uneven conditioning; some days the greens rolled smooth and fast and other days they looked as if they were suffering from the horticultural equivalent of measles.
It was clear that something drastic needed to be done, and in the summer of 2007 it was. The members ponied up $60,000 (birdseed when it comes to golf course renovation) and resurfaced the greens with a bug-resistant strain of Bermuda grass called Champion Ultra Dwarf.
I’ve been playing golf in this area for more than 30 years, and I can’t remember putting on greens better than what they’ve got now at Misty.
Superintendent Gary Smither said the greens were rolling 10 on the Stimpmeter the day I toured the course, which means they were about as fast as the greens the Tour pros play. Smither says the greens heat up to 11 in the winter, which is scary to think about, as Stimpmeter readings are based on level putts, which are few and far between at Misty Creek.
I’ve played Misty many times over the years. Often my main disappointment was that I didn’t leave my clubs in the trunk and instead haul out my cameras and photograph the abundant wildlife that populates the course. If you want to take pictures of deer, there’s no better place in Sarasota County to do so than at Misty Creek Country Club, located only a few miles from Myakka State Park. (Warning: Misty Creek is a private club; you need permission from management or accompaniment by a member before strolling onto the premises.)
When I toured the course in early May with member Joe Bixler, we saw a doe and her fawn cavorting down the 18th fairway. We also spied a sandhill crane nest, gopher tortoises, a big alligator, wild pig scrapings and the usual array of annoying squirrels bent on destroying civilization as we know it.
But back to the course. Misty Creek was designed by Ted McAnlis, the same prolific architect behind Imperial Lakes, River Wilderness, Rosedale, Calusa Lakes and Venice Golf and Country Club, to name just a few local courses. Misty winds through a pine and oak forest and, yes, precise shot-making is a key to success.
It’s not killer-long at 6,384 yards from the blue tees (6,895 from the golds and 6,007 from the whites). Opened in 1985, Misty has a nice assortment of short holes, long holes (including the 605-yard par-ﬁve eighth) and goofy holes, most especially the 11th, a shortish par-ﬁve that big hitters can reach in two if they can clear a copse of tall trees that guard the green at the elbow of the dogleg right. Mere mortals must ﬁgure out a way to lay-up into an area the size of your living room, then wedge onto the green. As you hack around on your way to a double-bogey, console yourself by remembering that this hole is a great place to observe deer.
Misty’s toughest hole is the 419-yard par-four ﬁfth, a squirrely double-dogleg that seems to bring water into play on every shot, including putts. From the tee, aim at the American ﬂ ag ﬂapping in the distance and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to yourself to steel your nerves. The second toughest is the 391-yard par four 13th, a nightmare of trees, sand, water and, for extra fun, a small elevated green that can’t be held by a lawn dart. Female members, according to a source who can’t be named, have dubbed the hole the "double-ditch bitch."
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Misty Creek Country Club is located oﬀ the Bee Ridge Road Extension, across the street from the Heritage Oaks Golf and Country Club. For information on tee times and rates, call (941) 921-5258.
MISTY CREEEK COUNTRY CLUB The Skinny
Misty Creek Country Club Where: 8954 Misty Creek Drive, Sarasota Why: Best greens in the kingdom. What to look for: Bald eagles, osprey, deer, bobcat and errant golf balls. What to bring: A sturdy ball retriever and a stun-gun for the alligators. Practice facilities: A wide driving range (free balls), chipping area and mammoth, undulating putting green that will cause you to lose your confidence before you ever tee off. 19th hole: Good food and panoramic view of golf course, allowing you to laugh at golfers hacking their way down the 18th hole while you suck on your gin and tonic. How to get on: The Big Summer Card is your ticket. Plunk down $35 and you’re in.