Par 27

Level 3 playing from 793-1,452 yards

Play from the gold tees and you can leave your driver at home. You can probably do without your 6, 5 or 4 iron too.  It's all par threes. Last time out I used just five clubs.  But you may need a map to find the starter shack.  It shares a parking lot with the Longleaf course, but the entrance to Loblolly is down a hidden path in the back right of the parking lot.  Once found, you get a nice little drive down to the starter and a view of the best-looking hole on the course! Loblolly is set up as a large clockwise circle.  With the prevailing wind, you’ll likely start by hitting into it, then from left to right and finally with it behind you.  It’s like bad dream that follows you all game!  At first look there’s not a lot of diversity in the holes, but after you’ve played it a few times you’ll find some interesting nuances that’ll raise your appreciation. So, let’s begin the admiration! 


#1 gets your immediate attention with a beautiful tee box and view of water and oaks along the left – it’s one of my favorite openers!  A challenging first shot onto a raised rolling green playing longer than it looks means you should club up to make sure you get there.  #2 is long and narrow and by far the hardest hole on the course.  On my first time here, I hit a roof on the right, so I still get the yips teeing off!  From #3 to 8, the course's circle set up becomes very obvious with all the holes favoring a left to right approach shot.  This suits my friend Steve's power fade drive to a tee!  He was under par the last time out - and we all advised he buy a lottery ticket at Publix across the street.  But it's not luck.  It's a perfect set up for him. And a perfect swing for the set up!  For the rest of us, know that #3 is the easiest hole so get your par there - it gets harder as you round the circle.  The 4th hole, pictured above, has everything - water in front, a wall to hit over, bunkers on both sides, a slightly upraised green with a swale in the center, and if the wind is right, the smell of French Fries from McDonalds across the street!  With all those distractions, your happy meal may just come with a bogey!  The 5th hole has water on the right that wraps around the back with a little round bunker that sits in front of the green to mess with you.  But the green is flat, so keep your head down and don’t think about any of that!  #6 is Loblolly’s shortest shot, but toughest green.  It’s a two-tiered magic carpet ride sloping back toward the tees.  Depending on the pin placement this can easily be a three putt.  It's one of the nine hardest greens in the Villages - click here to see the other eight.


Now comes the longest cart ride in all The Villages.  A veteran Villager told me it was 800 steps.   The ride takes you south along Marsh Bend near a long pond where gator sight-seekers line up in the grass to take pictures for their grandkids.  Or the grandkids are in the carts with them!  It reminds me of tourists in Yellowstone getting just a little too close to the Buffalo.  Ok it’s Quiz time: If Loblolly has the longest “between-holes” cart ride, what courses have the next five? (Quiz Question 10) 


Be conscious of the new wind direction as you prepare to strike your 7th drive of the day.  Put your best Kung Fu face on and “Choose Wisely Grasshopper” when making your club selection on this hole.  Oh, and the elevated green means if you miss it, you’ll be chipping up off the squeaky thin fringe surface.  After all that, maybe you wish the ride to 7 was a bit longer!  Now you make another slight turn around the Loblolly circle.  If you’re playing in the late afternoon, you get an amazing Florida sunset view over the 8th green.  This is the easier of the two closing holes, so work to get your par here.  #9 is longer with a troublesome bunker to the front left and a back ridge fringe shot if you go long. 


The circle is now closed and thanks to the wind and pin placement, the Loblolly round plays different every time!  So come back tomorrow!  Steve will!

Toughest to Easiest:

2, 5, 4, 9, 1, 7, 6, 8, 3 – hardest green #6

From the blacks!   

Forget that opening line - you'll need your driver!  #2, 5 and 9 become really long if you play from the black tees.  The water and trap in front of the 2nd green pose the largest threats. #5 plays at 190 yards so the pond that wraps around the green is not just for aesthetics - it's in play on any slight miss hit.   #1’s tee box forces you to have to hit to the most pronounced elevation of the opening green, but you get an even more beautiful starting point for your round.  Take a picture!  And the front bunker on #9 requires a perfect drop shot to the narrow green.  The other 5 holes will simply require an extra club. 

Go Green!

Loblolly really sets up nice from the green tees.  The angle of approach from the most forward tee boxes are very advantageous.  This is especially so on the 1st 5th, 8th & 9th holes.  You may still have to deal with some water on 2, but that house I hit my first time out is completely out of scope!

What’s nearby?   

There’s a huge short-game practice facility next to the Loblolly Starter Shack.  You can work on your chipping and your bump and run technique.  The Villages executive courses have very challenging fringes around the green, cut unusually short.  So, your short game plays differently than you’re probably use to.  This is the perfect place to get some practice in.  If you want some extra pointers, sign up for a Short Game Clinic with one of the Village Pros at the Villages Golf Academy.  They have instruction sessions right here at Loblolly.  Call the Golf Academy for more information at (352) 259-8121.

Sometimes it's good to look back on where you've come from - especially from the 6th green on Loblolly!  

The tree guarding the back of 7.

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.