My parents live in The Villages and I wanted to stay close to town on Saturday. I considered making a tee time at one of the community’s courses, but the reservation system is very inefficient! I’m not a terribly patient person so I gave up on that and headed over to Teeoff.com, where I’ve had good luck this year. I stumbled across Harbor Hills Country Club, nearby in Lady Lake (for $24) and gave it a shot.
My dad tagged along to enjoy the day as a spectator and we were paired with a of couple friends who actually live in The Villages as well. They told us it is tough to get tee times in The Villages during the winter, the courses are expensive, and the reservation system is goofy. One day I’d like to play all of the courses in The Villages, just to say I’ve done so as a guest! But, most of that work will likely have to be done during the summer months. Anyway, it was a good pairing as we had lots of laughs and ended up enjoying plenty of sun after the fog burned off. We played in 4 hours 15 minutes, which I thought was decent this time of year.
Harbor Hills is a golf community located about 20 minutes east of The Villages, close to Lake Griffin. I doubt Central Florida visitors will find a reason to play at Harbor Hills, but it seems the course is popular with locals. I know people who would scoff at playing a course like this. Most of the holes have homes on each side and there are plenty of dull holes at Harbor Hills. I’m not going to try to convince you that Harbor Hills is a great course, because it isn’t. And, I’m not going to say the homes don’t take away from the golfing experience, because they do. What I will say about the homes is that they are set back a good distance compared to many community courses, which is nice for the golfers and homeowners!
However, if you live within a half hour of Harbor Hills I’d say give it a try. As I played my round I pictured the members being able to enjoy each and every round here. I pictured husbands and wives and families being able to golf together. Harbor Hills struck me as the perfect members course! Many times, courses are designed for high level amateur play so it was refreshing to find a course that wasn’t designed for that purpose. I did some reading and Lloyd Clifton designed the course. I’ll share a bit more about his courses in my coming posts!
The fairways here are wide, mature trees line many of holes, there is some elevation change, and very little pressure of having to hit a great shot. Trouble can be found but it isn’t lurking on every shot. Heck, on one hole I topped a hybrid and made a par and on another I popped up a tee shot and still managed to hit the green. I played the blue tees which are 71.0/127/6389 and from there the biggest difficulty is going to be a few crazy greens. The greens are tricky to putt and some are just big ski slopes! The 15th and 17th greens come to mind in that regards.
The best thing about Harbor Hills is the rolling terrain. On the front nine, the 3rd hole plays downhill while the 7th is uphill. The 3rd is the best hole on the front nine! It is a 494 yard par 5 that doglegs left. A draw is the best shot off the tee and you may need a hook to find the green if going for it in two. The green sits off to the left, behind a group of trees. You can layup to a wedge distance, go for the green, or play out to the right to set up a short pitch for the third shot. I had 215 yards into the green from the right edge of the fairway and couldn’t decide what I wanted to do!
I think the back nine is the better nine as it has more elevation change, highlighted by the 10th. The 10th is the longest par 4 on the course and the signature hole! It drops a couple stories from the tee down to the fairway and offers a nice view of Lake Griffin off in the distance. You also get a glimpse of the lake from the 14th green, which is another high point. While you aren’t playing in the mountains here, you will find a nice mix of up and down. The 16th gets overshadowed by the 10th, but I thought it was one of the strong tests at Harbor Hills. It is a 175 yard par 3 where you need to carry water and a bunker. If you want to bailout you need to miss the green long and/or right. The course’s initials “HH” are cut in grass within the bunker, so it is a bit unique.
The conditions at Harbor Hills were fair. Management seems to put money into the fairways and greens, which are good spots for the dollars to go! The fairways were in various stages of being overseeded so they looked a little funny. We had to keep the carts off them, but I had plenty of nice bermuda lies in the fairways, where the ball sat up. The greens were a pleasure to putt and they rolled true and quick. You may need to play some bump and runs as the greens weren’t too receptive. Off the fairways everything was a step down. The course has cart paths only around the tees and greens, so the rough takes a beating from all the cart traffic. The rough was thin, sandy, and had plenty of loose twigs in it. I think my price point to play here would be about $40.
Overall, I think Harbor Hills is worth the drive from The Villages and maybe Ocala, if you’ve played everything else up there. The course has a good look to it with all the oaks and pines and I found it friendly to play. I certainly think the good outweighs the bad here.
#1 (361 yard par 4):
#2 (373 yard par 4):
#3 (494 yard par 5):
#4 (358 yard par 4):
#5 (168 yard par 3):
#6 (485 yard par 5):
#7 (327 yard par 4):
#8 (155 yard par 3):
#9 (392 yard par 4):
#10 (433 yard par 4):
#11 (372 yard par 4):
#12 (525 yard par 5):
#13 (157 yard par 3):
#14 (341 yard par 4):
#15 (359 yard par 4):
#16 (175 yard par 3):
#17 (374 yard par 4):
#18 (540 yard par 5):