(from The Villages LIFESTYLE magazine, fall 2002, page 31)
Striding onto the plush links of the Nancy Lopez Legacy Country Club golf course, one gets the feeling of stepping on hallowed ground. The spirit of the Ladies Professional Golf Association star who designed the course and for whom it is named seems to permeate from the first tee box to the final approach shot.
The course is tough, yet fair. Scenic, and at the same time - playable. Depending on a golfer's ability, one may be forced to take an objective view of the beautiful surroundings and the posh 18-hole golf course that currently has residents, and guests alike, lining up to experience The Villages' golfing gem.
I'm personally incapable of relaying how the course plays from the fairway, but for pointers on the rough, sand or water - I'm your guy. Conversely, resident PGA professional Teddy Lausier places his shots with precision, elevating a round at Lopez's 27 championship holes that are named for her three daughters, Ashley, Erinn and Torri, to a Sunday round at Augusta. Only my errant shots bring the daydream crashing back down to earth.
Nancy doesn't hide her feelings when it comes to the newest addition to Florida's Friendliest Hometown.
"It's a wonderful place and they're wonderful people. Doing the 27-hole golf course here and really representing The Villages now, I really feel like family," Lopez said while visiting her course. "They've been so good to me. To be, really, a part of the family now and to represent The Villages is really a super feeling for me to be able to do that."
As far as the actual layout of the completed Ashley Meadows 9-hole course and the adjoining Errin Glenn 9-hole loop, golfers are usually taken aback by its challenging, aesthetic lure. There are no snide remarks about a woman designing the course or men choosing to play elsewhere due to the abundant presence of the LPGA icon.
After all, it's Nancy Lopez, the reigning queen of golf.
"I was looking for some differences between a lady-designed golf course and one designed by a man, but I don't really see any differences," Villages resident John Gorry said after a round on the Lopez links. "It's as challenging as any other golf course out here. It's not short, it's not too long - it's really challenging."
The Villages Golf Operations manager Erik Greulach whole-heartedly agrees with the challenging aspect, but he does see some aesthetic distinctions.
"I do see some differences (between men) as far as friendliness of the golf course," Greulach explained. "She left a lot of bail-out areas, especially from the ladies tee. There are some areas where, if they can't make it across the water, they can bail out a little bit.
"And she likes trees," he said. "She left a lot of trees and I think that adds a lot of beauty to the course."
Ashley Meadows - Hole-By-Hole
Hole No .1
At the first tee box of the Ashley Meadows nine, water looms in front of the black tees, however, a smart golfer can play around it to the left if need be.
With bunkers lining the left side and flanking the front of the green, the 346-yard par 4 plays fair. Assuming you can place your shot, which isn't a problem for Lausier or Lopez. The ladies can also choose to tee-it-up from the red tees, which lie 241 yards from the cup and provide some shelter from the water hazard.
Teddy's Tips - "Out of bounds right and bunkers protect the left side of this hole, the distance won't require a driver, just a fairly straight tee ball. No hidden problems, what you see is what you get."
Hole No. 2
The second hole has some water down the right side, but shouldn't come into play unless your tee-shot makes a pronounced right-hand turn. The 392-yard (black tees, or 249 from red) par 4 gives you plenty of room in the fairway, with a trap protecting the left front of the green.
Teddy's Tips "A water hazard lines the right side of the hole with a severe slope towards the water. Bunkers are placed on the left with the slopes directing balls back into the fairway. A tee ball favoring the left center of the fairway is ideal."
Hole No. 3
The third hole is considered the toughest hole of the 18, according to the course handicap index. The black tees play 536 yards (400 from red tees) on this lengthy par 5, which starts out with water to the right of the tee box and leads into a bending fairway that bears to the left. A couple of trees and two fairway bunkers are the only real trouble. Another tree and bunker sit to the left. front of the green to further protect the flag. A very playable par 5, especially with crisp, relatively straight golf shots.
Teddy's Tips "The bunkers on the left tend to act like a magnet with golf balls, so favor the right side of the fairway. This will also help to set you up for the second shot. The Oak tree left is in play, so again, favor the right side and life on this hole is a breeze."
Hole No. 4
The next hole is the first of four very intimidating par 3s that grace the Lopez loop. With a huge bunker flanking the left side of the green, which lies some 174 yards away from the black tees (89 from red) and nowhere to land it short, the accomplished golfer attacks the flag. A conventional approach should produce tee shots on the spacious green. Another fair hole if played from a common-sense approach.
Teddy's Tips - "This hole has a large green so you may have two, maybe three, club differences with yardages depending on the pin placement. The right side is the perfect spot to bail out if needed."
Hole No. 5
The fifth hole is a 418-yard par 4 from the black tees that opens up nicely if you don't start your drive too far left and clip the tree. With a bunker in the center of the fairway, golfers must place their tee shot accordingly. From there only a bunker sitting on the right front of the green stands in the way of attacking the cup. A fair hole if played correctly.
Teddy's Tips - "Yes, that bunker is smack dab in the middle of the fairway, and no, I do not know what they were thinking. A very straight tee shot is required between the left side of the bunker and the cart path. Hang in there, the hole does get easier."
Hole No. 6
The sixth hole offers another shot at getting your golf ball wet. The par 4, 389-yard hole is a scenic one and golfers should stay left if possible, although a tree does sit off in that direction of the fairway. From there the green is practically surrounded by water and a bunker to the right front.
Teddy's Tips - "This is a hole that your mom may have warned you about. The large oak on the left is reachable, as well as the water on the right. This hole will also require a very straight tee ball. Once in place keep in mind the next shot will require all carry, you must carry water, rocks and sand -oh my.
Hole No. 7
The next hole is a 412-yard par 4 from black tees, with tee boxes strategically placed behind more water. After clearing the drink the fairway opens up nicely for the landing area. Long hitters may want to beware of the two bunkers that flank the fairway about halfway up the chute. After clearing those, the fairway opens back up for an iron shot to the green, which is obstructed only by a bunker set off to the right side.
Teddy's Tips - "Well, after the last two tee shots, here you can take it easy. Any shot left center on the green will go left."
Hole No. 8
This hole plays awfully tough from the black tees which sit 212 yards away from the large, sloped, undulating green. The par 3 throws water, sand and a large bank in front of the green for good measure. The trouble lies mainly in front and to the right of the spacious green. However, the hole plays a little farther than it appears and there is still work after landing on the green.
Teddy's Tips - "This hole, for some reason, is one of my favorites. It's not because of the way I play it that's for sure. Notice the green, most shots will break to the right. The left side of this green is a great bail out - trust me, I know it well."
Hole No. 9
This finishing hole is a solid par 5 that gets a little narrow, but the 507 yards from the black tees is reachable in two if you can get out of the box in good shape. Bunkers line both sides of the fairway with water to the extreme left of the big sloped green. Several traps protect the front on the putting surface.
Teddy's Tips - "I also enjoy this hole. When standing on the tee box, notice the clubhouse in the distance - a most beautiful sight. The tee shot should favor the left side, as the right side has out of bounds all along the length of the hole. The second shot is fun, grip it and let it go, no trouble until the front of the green. The smell of the Lopez restaurant will entice you, but be careful, you may want to sample everything on the menu."
Erinn Glenn - Hole By Hole
Hole No. 1
This hole offers a 395-yard par 4 from the black tees with a pronounced dog-leg right. Bunkers flank the narrow fairway landing area, forcing golfers to place a higher priority on precision rather than length.
The green has some trees off to the left and a good-sized trap flanking the right side. The green is roomy and fair.
Teddy's Tips "Make sure to favor the left side of the fairway, the bunkers on the right are further away than you think. The left side is an easier approach. The green has a rather big mound on the right and in the front."
Hole No. 2
This 202-yard hurdle is another par 3 with water smiling at you all the way to the green. The hole demands that a player carry 140 yards of drink into the incline green. Two traps on the front left and right side of the very sloped green present further problems as this hole ranks 16th on the handicap sale, but No.1 in my aquatic golf ball's heart.
However, for those without water-related phobias, this hole is very playable.
Teddy's Tips - "This hole will play a little shorter, but don't let the distance fool you. Play to the right side of the green, be safe, not sorry - the bunkers are deep."
Hole No. 3
The third hole of Erinn Glenn is a 435-yard par 4 that brings water into play early on the left side of the tee box, and beyond. Some traps down the right side and trees to the left demand accuracy once again. The green is fair, but with a pronounced left-to-right banked slope.
Teddy's Tips - "This is another favorite hole of mine, again, not because of the way I play it. Tee shots need to be right center, this will help avoid the Oaks on your second shot. The green is narrow, so choose your club well."
Hole No. 4
This is a monster par 5 from any of the tee boxes with a green that sits some 568 yards from the black tees. The bunkers down the right side and a fairway with a late cutback to the right make this a challenging hole. A large bunker sits to the right front and another smaller one off to the left. A fair green slopes from back to front to finish a tough (rated No. 2 in handicap system), but very agreeable hole.
Teddy's Tips - "Favor the left side of this fairway, behind the bunker on the right looms a hazard area. Second shots can be short of the fairway bunkers, the shots will go right, because of the slope. The green is exactly what you see with exception to the front. Some shots may come back towards you."
Hole No. 5
The fifth hole (419 yards from black tees) has an open, expansive fairway with bunkers down the right side and trees and water - late - down the left. The hole gives players a good shot at the green following a solid drive. Another back-to-front sloped green awaits you once you've covered the 4+ football fields.
Teddy's Tips - "If you can carry the bunkers on the right, have at it. If not, favor a line just to the left. Water lurks on the left side of the hole starting about 140 yards short of the green and continuing well past the green. This green is protected on both sides with bunkers."
Hole No. 6
This is the last of the pesky par 3s, and plays 179 yards from the black tees. Again, there is water to carry, but the green opens up nicely as only a bunker to the left front and one in the center back region come into play. Still, I lost at least one Titleist on this hole.
Teddy's Tips "Be cautious of the bunkers on the left, if you need to bail out, bail out to the right."
Hole No. 7
This 406-yard par 4 is fairly straight with fairway bunkers flanking the landing area, and a big bunker sitting in front of one of the smaller putting surfaces on the course. There is some water off to the left of the tee box, but shouldn't come into play barring a shank job.
Teddy's Tips - "Don't be fooled by the distance, this hole still requires a tee ball that favors the left side of the fairway. The green is shallow and you will be better off long than short. The front bunker is very deep."
Hole No. 8
A very stout par 5 at 557 yards from the black tees, and the fairway bending to the left. Following some fairway bunkers, there is water and a significant sand trap protecting the left side of the green. There's a landing area off to the right of the green for the faint of heart. Two large tiers grace this green, but the back-to-front design does help hot shots.
I missed a 3-footer for par, so it's definitely reachable.
Teddy's Tips - "The lone Magnolia tree on the left can play havoc when setting up the second shot, so favor the right side of this fairway. The second shot should favor the right side of the fairway, as the left is protected by hazard and a bunker. The third shot can be interesting to say the least. Notice the green, which has two tiers - upper and lower.
Third shot club selection is critical, the difference can be as many as three clubs."
Hole No. 9
Another very nice finishing hole with a bevy of water all the way down the left side of the fairway. The 359-yard par 4 (black tees) has an elevated green with traps on the left front and right side of the green. Water cuts into the fairway a bit near the green and the putting surface is a little quick if you find yourself on the back half putting downhill.
All in all, golf operations manager Erik Greulach may have said it best.
"It's playable, but it's very challenging too."
Teddy's Tips "Another one that I lean toward as a favorite. A short hole, no doubt, but a narrow landing area makes up for it. An iron may be the club of choice off the tee. Before you hit, check out the view of the pro-shop and restaurant - what a sight.
"The second shot will be a short iron, so take advantage with the accuracy. The green can be deceptive in ball carry and that front pin placement sometimes seem a bit unfair, so be long, not short."