Sarasota Area Rich in Golfing and Vacation Choices
Enjoy Beach, Cultural, Family Activities & Great Cuisine

Showcasing the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota Hotel and Members Golf Club.

Story & Photos By: Ed & Fran Stone

(Above) The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota overlooks the bay.
(Below) The Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club is one of the areas most beautiful and challenging courses.

The Sarasota, Florida area offers more than 20 golf courses open for public play and some superb semi-private courses. Every type and style of course is available featuring some of the biggest names in golf course design such as Fazio, Palmer, Ross, Hills, McCumber, Garl, etc. Golfers with families looking for the best in golf, accommodations, pristine beaches, cultural venues, varied cuisine and outstanding service need look no further than the beautiful region of Sarasota…Florida’s Cultural Coast. 

We’ve played several golf courses in the Sarasota area. Courses played include The Ritz-Carlton Members Club, University Park, Rosedale, Heron Creek, Heritage Oaks Golf Club, Tara Golf Club and others. We’ve chosen The Members Club and University Park for this article, to give our readers a cross section of what’s available. To review all the available public and semi-private courses and book a tee time, we suggest you go to

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is ideally situated overlooking the bay and downtown Sarasota. The Members Golf Club is located approximately 12 miles from the hotel. “In November 2001, the 266 room Ritz-Carlton opened as more of a ‘city hotel’” states Liza Kubik, Public Relations Manager for this upscale property. “With the concerted effort of adding more family oriented amenities, a Mobil Four-Star spa, a 30,000 square foot beach club on the Gulf of Mexico and in 2005 the Tom Fazio designed golf course, we are truly a destination resort.” 

In early 2013, the hotel completely renovated its restaurant. This upscale, casual eatery is named Jack Dusty after an 18th century short-hand term for the naval store clerk whose responsibility included doling out the daily lot of rum to sailors and maintaining the ship’s inventory of food supplies.  

The Jack Dusty restaurant with seating for 236 both indoor and outdoor, taking advantage of the beautiful bay.

The restaurant offers some of the best options in the area of dining and beverages with magnificent views. San Francisco-based EDG Interior Architecture & Design created Jack Dusty with seating for 236 both indoor and outdoor, taking advantage of the beautiful bay. Hours of operation are from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. 

Entrees’ include modern American cuisine with a seafood sensibility. Favorites include grilled Pork Chop with black-eyed peas and seasonal greens; Red Brick Chicken, a modern twist on the Sicilian classic Chicken Mattone, prepared in a cast iron skillet weighed down by a brick and served with Anson Mills’s grits and market veggies; and 1855 Beef Tenderloin with smashed potatoes and seasonal mushrooms. Seafood dishes include Blackened Grouper Etouffee with red beans & rice and braised greens; Speared Hog Snapper, fried whole and served with grilled vegetables and a coconut & curry broth; and Sarasota Cioppino, gulf shrimp, bay scallops, clams, mussels and grouper in an orange peel and tomato broth. The signature Seafood Boil is available for two or four featuring seasonal crab, gulf shrimp, clams, mussels, chorizo, oysters, potatoes and corn on the cob. And, let’s not forget the dessert. You’ll not want to pass up either the Baileys Warm Chocolate Cake, Key Lime Bar or Pecan Cheesecake served with Steen’s Cane Syrup.

The General Manager for Jack Dusty is Patrick Bucko who has served the local area since 1993 with positions at esteemed restaurants Euphemia Haye, Cork Restaurant, Beach Bistro and Eat Here bring many years of local service and experience to The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota. 

The Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club course was the largest landscape budget Tom Fazio has ever had in the State of Florida.

Tom Fazio designed the golf course, which has many impressive and unique features. For starters, this course is not surrounded by a housing development. The practice facilities are the best…period. The 315 acres of tropical landscape for the course and facilities are dedicated to golf and golf only. Fazio attended the grand opening, stating The Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club course was the largest landscape budget he has ever had in the Sunshine State. From the entrance with an impressive water feature, to the stately clubhouse, to the practice tee, through all 18 holes, this is a showplace featuring native and indigenous plants, flowers, trees and ground covers. This is a “must see and must play” golf course in the Southeast. No matter what the season, something is in bloom, i.e. plumbago, periwinkle, ice pink and purple oleander and bougainvillea. 

With six sets of tees, from championship lengths of 7,417 yards to forward tees of 5,175 yards, golfers of all skill levels can play the course at a length that will challenge them.

With six sets of tees, from championship lengths of 7,417 yards to forward tees of 5,175 yards, golfers of all skill levels can play the course at a length that will challenge them. Says Fazio, "The strong low handicap player will want to attack the direct lines of play. But for the higher handicapper, we’ve created options and varieties around strong hazards." 

Adding an extra special touch to the enjoyment of playing this course is the Caddie Concierge Program. The caddie is specially trained and understands the needs of the golfer. Golfers can walk the course with a caddie or use a forecaddie. 

Glen Murray
Director of Golf Operations

Glen Murray came on staff in 2005 as the Head Golf Professional and now is the Director of Golf Operations. Murray states, "We have a world-class golf staff to meet the needs of the facility and our team is part of something special putting the stamp of The Ritz-Carlton on an unparalleled facility." Prior to coming to Sarasota, he was Head Golf Professional with the Nick Faldo Golf Institute in Orlando. The course does not have a “signature” hole, but Murray points out his two favorites are numbers 3 and 18. 

Tom Fazio designed the
Sarasota Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club golf course.

Fazio was the ideal person to design this golf course and a delight to interview. His impressive credentials speak for his ability to create such an impressive facility. He commented:

  • When planning and designing the Sarasota Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club golf course, he compares to having a blank canvas and a great frame to place his work. The land had been a tomato field and there were few obstacles he had to deal with in his design, i.e., grading elevations, lakes, etc.
  • “Having the landscape budget was the icing on the cake with a cherry on top.”
  • The course is not designed for a high or low handicap golfer. Tom had to design from the back tees, but the course is designed for all levels. There is a great variety from the tees and there are very few forced carries on the course.
  • Having a practice area has become a major part of any golf course. Land has become so expensive, but the public demands such a facility. This course spared no expense in the expansive practice area.
  • Biggest challenge was dealing with droughts, hurricanes, erosion…and keeping as many existing trees as possible.
  • Respecting the environment and keeping it environmentally friendly was a primary objective.
  • “I do not have a specific style. Of the some 30 or 40 courses I have built in Florida, I tried to make each of them unique and distinctive.”
Special events for group meeting at The Ritz-Carlton or other convention properties are held at the expansive Clubhouse area.

Special events for both local organizations and corporate groups meeting at The Ritz-Carlton or other convention properties are held at the expansive Clubhouse area. Whether groups are connected to a golf outing or just looking for a unique place to hold an outdoor/tented area, this is an ideal spot. Inside the Clubhouse, guests can select from a wide selection on the menu as well as beverages of choice. The Pro Shop is well stocked with the latest in golfing merchandise and apparel. 

As a reward for playing a great game or soothing the aching muscles, be sure to treat yourself to The Ritz-Carlton Spa Sarasota. This is a full-service wellness destination featuring massage therapies, body treatments, facials and salon services inspired by indigenous natural treasures. There are 16 treatment rooms for massage therapy, hydro-therapy, facials and skin treatments, plus saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools and relaxation lounges to provide you the ultimate Spa experience. 

The University Park, an upscale-gated community allows public play. The course has been ranked one of Florida’s top layouts as evidence by its four star rating by Golf Digest.

Another favorite golf course in Sarasota is the University Park Country Club, an upscale-gated community allowing public play. University Park has been ranked one of Florida’s top courses as evidence by its four star rating by Golf Digest, nationally ranked as one of Florida’s best courses by Golfweek Magazine and number one golf course in Southwest Florida by Florida Golf News…just to name a few. Ron Garl is the designer of the 27 challenging holes in this development. There are six sets of tees for each of the three 9’s stretching from 2,394 to 3,699 yards per nine holes. 

This award-winning community is home to The Golf Academy at University Park. We’ve had the privilege of meeting Sue Ertl a former LPGA tour player and currently the resident LPGA Golf Professional and Head Teaching Professional for the new Golf Academy. Also, on hand is Ashley Hayden the Head PGA Pro. Evidenced from our arrival to departure, the pros and staff are customer service and team oriented. You are warmly welcomed and genuinely given attention to every detail in making your golfing experience top quality. 

The Visit Sarasota County promotes the destination as Florida’s “Cultural Coast.”

The Visit Sarasota County promotes the destination as Florida’s “Cultural Coast.” This area offers not only an atmosphere to unwind on beautiful beaches, golf courses but also with cultural experiences. Here are just a few you can consider when visiting the West Coast vacationland: Towles Court Artist Colony, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, The Asolo Repertory Theatre, The Florida West Coast Symphony, Jazz Club of Sarasota, Inc., Sarasota Ballet of Florida, Sarasota Opera, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Florida Studio Theatre, The Player’s Theatre and Venice Theatre. Now that’s a lot of culture to enjoy! 

Cá d’Zan was the home of John & Mable Ringling, overlooking the Sarasota Bay.

Having visited this area on many occasions, we have enjoyed many of the above cultural offerings. Consistently, we return to The John & Mable Ringling Museum. After all, who doesn’t like the circus? But this museum offers much more than just circus artifacts. The complex is more of a campus including not only the display of circus memorabilia, but also the Art Museum, Cá d’Zan (Home of John & Mable), Tibbals Learning Center, PAL’s Sailor Circus, Circus Ring of Fame and the Flying Trapeze Academy & The Flying Fantasy Circus. You can spend all day viewing and exploring all of these interesting facets of this cultural center. 

After the family has enjoyed the white sand beaches and museums, there’s always plenty of fun to experience at places like the Florida Pioneers at Historic Spanish Point where you can view sharks, sea turtles and manatees at Mote Aquarium or make a bolt of lightning at G. WIZ. There’s also the Sarasota Jungle Gardens, The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, The Sarasota Children’s Garden and Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary. Something for everybody! 

Jack Dusty is located in The Ritz-Carlton and fast becoming one of Sarasota’s “local places to dine.”

When it comes time to select local restaurants…take your pick of cuisine. Choose from a choice of outstanding seafood, steaks, local and cultural dishes. Some of our favorite places include:

  • Jack Dusty - Opened in early 2013, Jack Dusty is located in The Ritz-Carlton and fast becoming one of Sarasota’s “local places to dine.” The upscale, casual seafood restaurant/lounge/marketplace is outstanding. It is a must experience place for dining. Recently renovated and newly designed, it is gorgeous with great views, food and service.
  • Mar Vista - The Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant and Pub is located on the North end of Longboat Key in the heart of historic Longboat Village.
  • Harry's Continental Kitchens is one of those “not to be missed” restaurants on Longboat Key with fine dining at its best.
    Beach House Restaurant – Located on the South end of Anna Maria Island, just west of the quaint Cortez fishing village in Bradenton Beach is a great place for families and kids to play on the beach while enjoying the sunset, a tropical drink and fresh Florida seafood.
  • Harry's Continental Kitchens – This is one of those “not to be missed” restaurants on Longboat Key with fine dining at its best. A relaxed atmosphere, lovely tropical dining room, award winning menu and wine list, friendly and expert service combine to make dining at Harry's a satisfying and enjoyable experience.
  • Columbia Restaurant – Located in charming St. Armands Circle. The Columbia Restaurant in Sarasota serves up delicious home-style Spanish cuisine and offers the same elegant atmosphere and outstanding service that patrons have enjoyed since the original restaurant opened in 1905.
  • The Famous “Euphemia Haye” – Chef Raymond Arpke and wife, D'Arcy contribute to the innovative flair, and a love for fresh foods providing outstanding, American, global and slow cooked foods. Their breads, stocks, sauces, soups, dressings and desserts are homemade on the premises.
  • The Lazy Lobster – Casual, laid back but excellent selection of seafood, steaks, chops and chicken. Not pricy and very good service. There are two to select from in the area, Sarasota and Longboat Key.

For additional listing of restaurants and dining options, check the following link: 

Beautiful pristine beaches and memoriable sunsets on the Gulf are always spectacular especially in Sarasota, Florida.

Sunsets on the Gulf are always spectacular. The mornings and late afternoons are perfect for a stroll on the beach with seafaring birds of all types to keep you company and entertained. Many times, the dolphins are at play as an added attraction to your visit. 

Sarasota boasts a string of eight islands…Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key, Manasota Key, Siesta Key, Casey Key, Englewood, Nokomis, North Port, Osprey and Venice. Located between Tampa, 60 miles to the North; and Ft. Myers, 75 miles to the South, then mix in the fact that the city is easily accessible via I-75 and the Sarasota/Bradenton Airport. The area is blessed with great weather all year, but especially good during the fall, winter and early spring. This area has become very popular for the upscale-gated communities featuring golfing, boating and tennis facilities. So, when The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota came on the scene a few years ago, the market was primed and hungry for this upscale property…a great addition to an already long-standing golfing and vacation destination. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION:                                                               
Visit Sarasota County
701 N Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34236
Phone: 800.800.3906

The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota
1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive
Sarasota, Florida 34236 USA
Phone: 941-309-2000