Enthusiastic golfers greet newest course

Jim Hayes, of the Village of DeSoto, tees off on No. 5 of the new Lowlands executive course during the grand opening celebration Sunday. The opening was postponed until Sunday because of wet weather.

A quartet of sandhill cranes flew along the edge of the Hogeye Preserve and settled into the water just as Pam Donohue and her playing partners walked onto the ninth green at The Villages’ newest executive course. “I think the next time I come out, I’m going to take a pull cart just to be able to walk it,” said Donohue, part of Sunday’s first foursome after ceremonies to officially declare Lowlands executive course open for play. “I think it’s a great course,” Donohue continued. “It’s very picturesque, really nice.” It was a sentiment voiced often Sunday as Lowlands, looping its way through marshland and sprouting neighborhoods just north of the Cattail Recreation Area, conducted its ribbon-cutting after a day’s delay for stormy weather.

Perhaps two dozen Villagers turned out at daybreak to witness the ceremony, most of whom already were on the tee sheet to experience Lowlands for the first time.

“The people who know more of the history of golf here, they were real excited about this one,” said Donohue, who took up golf shortly after arriving in The Villages this spring after returning stateside from a military job in Germany.

Though Saturday’s ceremony was postponed by storms from the outer bands of Tropical Storm Nestor, tee times were honored for anyone who still wanted to come out and play. About 100 golfers did just that, said Ken Roshaven, golf services administrator for The Villages Golf & Tennis.

“We had a lot of people enjoying it,” said Roshaven.

“I think with everything we had, (delaying the ceremony) was probably the best decision. We’d have loved to been able to go off on Saturday, but it wasn’t what we were looking for. This course deserves a good showcase, and I think we were able to do that (Sunday).”

Though a few moments of misty rain greeted the ribbon-cutting, the last clouds moved out of the area within an hour and left golfers bathed in gentle sunshine. The only real drawback was damp ground, though golfers were quick to add that the area needed rain.

“This was a little bit of an extra perk, going right after the grand opening,” said Linda Luciana, a Village of Lake Deaton resident who joined husband Fred as part of Sunday’s third group off the tee. “I can’t wait to come back when it’s a little bit drier.”

Lowlands is the fifth executive course to open in the newest Villages expansion south of the Florida Turnpike and already stands as the most visible.

Whereas the Red Fox/Gray Fox and Longleaf/Loblolly layouts are tucked into their neighborhoods, Lowlands tees off less than 100 yards from the Cattail Recreation Center’s parking lot. The Hogeye Preserve walking path cuts behind the last three holes, offering a scenic backdrop.

“Actually, I think this one is my favorite so far,” said Linda Lauria, who lives in the Village of Collier and was part of Sunday’s second group along with husband Ralph. “It’s pretty and I don’t get into too much trouble.”

Jon Roudabush, a Village of Fenney resident already getting his second look at Lowlands, also noted the view looking down from the elevated tee at the par-3 fourth hole. “But all of them have a nice view,” he said. “It’s well worth it. You can’t go anywhere else and have this.”

Lowlands is one of the few executive courses in The Villages that offers two par-4s, a feature frequently lauded by Sunday’s golfers. They are Nos. 2 and 3 on the card, with the third hole a semiblind dogleg over mounds if golfers choose to cut the corner.

“I took it on,” said Ralph Lauria. “I put it in the sand trap right in front, but I got away with it. I still parred the hole.”

Fred Luciana, Linda’s husband, was particularly happy that both par-4s “follow the shape of my shot, which is a gentle fade. I had a clear shot to the pin on both of them, even though I couldn’t manage to birdie them.”

After the round, a quick left after returning to the lot takes you to Cattail’s food trucks and the Ednas’ on the Green pavilion.

“This is another example of how wonderful The Villages is,” said Jim Hayes, who lives in the Village of DeSoto. “The golf course is beautiful; the greens are laid out very well. It’s a slice of paradise, no doubt about it.”

Senior Writer Jeff Shain can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5283, or jeff.shain@thevillagesmedia.com.