Par 27

Level 3 from 950 – 1,461 yards

Briarwood is one of the most diverse, unique and fun courses in The Villages.   It shares a bond with its sister course, Walnut Grove, that compels me to play them both on the same day whenever I can.  No two courses compliment and play better together than these two – Briar and Walnut are true sisters!  Be sure to read the Walnut story in conjunction with this one. 


My first impression of Briarwood is that it’s a “ride”.  First the ride it takes to get to the northern edge of town.  Then that it rides alongside Walnut Grove and the beautiful Nancy Lopez Championship course.  And finally, because of the distance traveled between holes - you'll put on more miles here than any other exec course.  So, come along with me as we take a spin around this interesting track of threes, a circle of turtles, a restroom worthy of a rest, a closing hole like no other and maybe even a birdie or two on this beautiful Briar Ride!


The first hole is an attention getter.  155 yards to start your day.  It's a simple start - aim away from the water and sand!  Then cross the road for the rest of the ride.  #2 is pictured above.  It's a beautiful hole with a set of symmetrical trees in the background.  Aim right of that perfect lone pine for an uphill putt and your best shot at par!  The 3rd hole is your first look at the circular fence surrounding an endangered species.  If you look at the course from above on google maps, you’ll see the circle.  Up close it’s even better.  But don’t get distracted - #3 is a tough uphill drive, likely into a southerly headwind.  Club up to hit the green.  And get use to the distractions – there’s more to come.  At #4 you can see the full turtle circle – it’s actually filled with a close relative – a tortoise - specifically the Gopher Tortoise.  As a Minnesotan I have a keen affinity for gophers, so I was very comfortable teeing off with “gophers” looking on. (see picture of my gopher tortoise fan below) The green funnels everything far left.  I imagined the heads of a hundred tortoises shaking in unison as another Villager’s shot runs off the green in that direction!  Best to aim left for an uphill putt.


The next part of the ride is through a forest of oaks on the way to the 5th hole.  The rest room in the center of this park-like setting is the best in town!  Make a pit stop before getting to Briarwood’s signature 5th.  And get your camera out for your last view of the turtle circle behind you.  The green on 5 is a ride of its own – fast and furiously downhill.  Aim for the left side over the trap for the best putt approach.  The longest ride comes between 5 and 6 to another short shot over sand.  The 6th hole is just 114 yards but it’s full of the worse kind of sand - frontal.  The good news is the green, like all at Briarwood, is huge, fair and in great condition.  Ok, now it’s time to power up on #7, literally.  Take your cue from the power lines above your head and take an extra club to drive this uphill over-the-water green.  Obviously, it’s better to be long!  At #8 you get three views.  First, look up on the power line stanchion – see the eagle's nest up there on the crossbeam?  Last time I saw two birds – hopefully an omen for the last two holes of the day!  If you look left, you get another view of the Nancy Lopez course.  Briarwood is one of six executive courses that are immediately adjacent to a Villages championship course.  Can you name some of the others? (Quiz Question 12) The third view is the most important – it’s the one you need to land - uphill 137 yards with sand on the left.  Aim right with for your last good chance at par.  Ok, let's hope you've left something in your tank because Briarwood 9 is one of the Hardest Holes you’ll play.  179 yards, with multiple, massive traps on the left and a fairway sloping hard right toward a grove of trees.  My fade requires I hit over the traps or risk running it deep into the right-side trees.  What a way to finish!  Get out a big club and let it ride!  Just like the best road trips, wherever it goes will be just a part of the journey - unforgettable!  

Toughest to Easiest

9, 7, 6, 1, 8, 5, 3, 4, 2 - toughest green – 5

Speaking a Road Trips - the best parts are often the Roadside Attractions you encounter along the way - click here to see 18 of The Villages best "attractions" and see if you can match them to the nearest course.   (hint: 2 of them are on Briarwood!)

From the Blacks!

The journey from the black tees will be way more than a leisurely "Sunday drive". Four holes exceed 178 yards, the massive 9th at 206!  And if distance alone is not warning enough, the tougher angles you’ll play on #1, 2, 5 & 8 could trip you up as well.  Easily one of The Villages most challenging courses from the blacks – but a ride of a lifetime!

Go Green!

Yes. Absolutely.  Beginners or light hitters or anyone just wanting to enjoy the round instead of facing the stress of this game should play Briar from the green tees.  Even #9, at just 146 yards, is comfortable.  The rest of the holes play about 100 yards each.  The box on #5 will feel great.  But the one on #7 means you’ll still have to bomb it over water – if you want to skip the possible splash, the drop zone is near the cart path on the back left side of the green.  Don’t miss out on this course because of the tee box – go green and enjoy it!

What’s nearby? 

You likely drove past the Nancy Lopez Country Club on the way to the Briarwood starter shack – drive back!  It’s renowned for good food in a classy setting.  Most of the country clubs have a similar feeling dining room – not Nancy.  They don't call it the Legacy Restaurant for nothing! And if you wear your best red golf shirt you might just blend in! Check it out!

Beauties at Briarwood

That's the beautiful Nancy Lopez Championship course alongside the 3rd hole at Briarwood.

This Gopher Tortoise was close enough to the 4th tee box to see me roll my drive off the green.  He looks unamused! There are hundreds of mounds with his relatives just beyond the fence line near holes 3 through 5.  

Easily the best Restrooms on any Villages course - it's worth drinking your whole water bottle on holes 1-4 just so you have to stop here on the way to 5!  (But save the birdie juice until the 8th)

My impressions are based on playing from the Gold tee boxes.  The Black and the Green tee boxes pose different challenges or benefits described as well.  The rankings of the toughest to easiest holes are just my opinions - yours will be far different, as will your favorite courses and most difficult and attractive holes.  I welcome your opinions or thoughts on any of this - click to leave a comment.