Par 28

Level 3 playing from 892 – 1,592 yards

Sweetgum is one of my favorite courses to play and products to chew.  It’s circles around a large wetland and had it's greens refurbished in 2022.  With only one par four you may think it’s a glorified pitch and putt – you would be wrong.  You’ll use most the clubs in your bag!  With one of the hardest holes, one of the prettiest and with a home that looks like it’s begging for trouble, this track has all the ingredients to satisfy your sweet tooth, with far fewer calories!  It's even got a world-class stretch of holes you'll want to play over and over again - and stretching might a good thing to do after eating all these sweets! 


Lick your lips as you leave the starter shack because #1 looks really easy.  It’s flat, wide open with a level green – what a perfectly sweet appetizer to get your meal started!  #2 is longer and most likely into the prevailing wind, so you’ll need to club up.  But #3 is short enough that you may only need a half swing wedge – and sometimes that’s more challenging than hitting a full shot.  Plus, it’s tricky green slopes back toward the teebox with a pin-placement that’s most often back on the highpoint ridge.  Just like my favorite Hot Tamales candy, it only takes a little to make a taste explosion, so don’t underestimate #3!  Then move on to the hole that maxes my anxiety level - #4.  Not because of the wetlands that ride along the right, nor the large bunker that protects the front.  It’s because of a house with a glass enclosed lanai that sits just beyond the back of the green – it’s just begging me to blade an iron shot into it.  Inevitably, because I’m not immune to self-induced anxiety, I hit it short.  God help me if I ever have to hit out of that front bunker looking at that window - imagine the cavity it would leave in the window! 


Finally at #5 we get the driver out on the only par four.  (see picture below) Even better is this hole has a large waste bunker along the right just over and past the large pond.  Why is that better??  Because the first time I played here an older Villager Veteran told me you can move the ball out of the waste bunker and place it directly in the fairway – I love that rule!  It reminds me of a course in Minnesota that has a similar “Wildflower” rule where you can move the ball back to the fairway if you hit into the protected wildflowers – now I see wildflowers everywhere!  Anyway, back to #5, despite that forgiveness on the right, aim your drive down the left.  It may look longer, but the left side has no overhanging oaks to deal with – so play left and get a par!  After making that good decision, you now have to make a bad one!  Regardless of what color tees you’re playing from, you’ve got to try #6 from the blacks – you rarely have a more interesting, albeit blind approach.  Use a junk ball and a mulligan if you’re unsure.  But you’ll have a sweet story to tell after your round if you hit it from blacks!   The fun continues on the next two holes - both made my Top Holes List!  #7 (pictured above) is on my Postcard List – it’s framed by a beautiful pond on the right and a Villager’s amazingly perfect backyard gazebo left of the green – if I lived there, I would spend all day watching wannabes being mesmerized by #7 and then mocked by #8.  That’s because #8 is on my Hardest Holes List.  It’s about 170 from the gold and a whopping 198 from the black with a pond that fills the entire approach to a green guarded by two large bunkers.  It’s an easy green but getting there’s a mind-bender - there’s few par threes in the bubble more difficult than this!  Just try to remember how beautiful #7 was as you’re kicking it around on #8!  Thank goodness #9 is so simple – and like a good after-dinner dessert, it makes you look forward to the next meal – I mean golf game!  This Sweetgum is really in my head!

Toughest to Easiest:

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

From the blacks!

How does Sweetgum change if you play from the black tees?  #2 requires a challenging tee shot over the wetlands. #6 is a blast!  And #8 is impossible! The top selling type of sweet gum is called Orbit – that’s exactly the type of shot you’ll need to reach the green on #8 from blacks!  You could go with a hybrid round and play gold on all the holes except #6 and #8.  That would make for the sweetest rounds – wouldn’t that be like a Bonbon?

Go Green!

First the good news – the average length of seven Sweetgum holes is 80 yards.  The bad news – the 5th and the 8th holes may still require you to hit over some water from the green tees.  But you'll see a great stretch of holes that will test you and entrance you so it's worth the extra calories to play this sweetie from green!


What’s nearby?

Sweetgum is just minutes from the Eisenhower Regional Rec Center.  After your round head back to Eisenhower for an amazing history experience.  You won’t believe the quantity of photographs and memorabilia honoring General and our 34th President, Dwight David Eisenhower.  It’s also important to note the significance he plays in the demographics of The Villages.  To many of the initial Villagers, he was one of the most important men of his time.  While newly arrived Villagers may not have a personal connection to him, the Villagers who built the culture of this place, having lived through World War 2 and the first wave of the baby boom generation that followed, certainly have looked up to him with reverence.  Check it out:  Eisenhower Recreation Center 


If you want to venture farther out but stick with the “sweet” theme, park your golf cart and drive west on 44 one mile from the intersection of 301 to the Russell Stover Chocolate store!  The immense selection of chocolate options will sweeten any lingering bad taste you have from #8.  Willie Wonka would be impressed!

Some Sweet Pics:

Sweetgum 8 from the blacks takes a 198-yard drive to a green that's so narrow you can't really see it in this picture!  

There is a flag out there - usually somewhere between the traps!  Time to go into orbit!

Check out the Owl near the 7th green! It's another example of a roadside attraction!  Click here to play a match game for some others! 

Sweetgum 6 from the black tees is obviously trying to look like a Pelican hole!  There's only 20 feet of landing zone between the marsh and cup so your sweet shot better be a bit sticky too!

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.  

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