Lowlands brings new flavor to golf options

The par-29 Lowlands layout adjacent to Cattail Recreation Area is The Villages’ 41st executive course.

Driving away from the ninth green, it’s time to add up the scorecard and do some reckoning. Settle some bets. Maybe celebrate your best round in months — or a hole-in-one. Or on the flip side, ease the sting of a tough slog. Where do you go? At most executive courses in The Villages, there’s no obvious choice. Maybe the nearest country club. Maybe a nearby watering hole. When the new Lowlands layout opens for play, the answer sits no more than 100 yards to the left. Ednas’ on the Green, with its food trucks and indoor/outdoor pavilion, avails itself for any and all purposes.

That alone could make The Villages’ 41st executive course one of its most popular.

“It’s going to be a hub,” said Ken Roshaven, golf services administrator for The Villages Golf & Tennis. “It’ll be a great place to celebrate your golf — or drown your sorrows.”

Lowlands, with a grand opening set for Oct. 19, represents a departure from the executive prototype built into communities but largely away from the beaten path. The par-29 layout in the Village of Marsh Bend sits adjacent to the Cattail Recreation Area and its wide array of amenities.

A walking trail cuts behind the eighth green. The Hogeye Preserve lies just beyond the finishing hole. Pickleball, shuffleboard, bocce and a swimming pool all lie within a well-struck driver of where the cart path returns to the Cattail parking lot.

“It’s another reason for residents to get out and have fun,” said Danny Jacobs, recreation facilities manager who oversees the Cattail complex.

A ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Oct. 19, with the first tee time at 8:15 a.m. Requests for Lowlands tee times will be accepted starting Saturday both online at thevillages.net and via phone at 352-753-4653, utilizing the same system as The Villages’ other 52 courses. Unlike some past openings, there will be no special process to assign Day 1 tee times.

Opening Day also will feature a hole-in-one contest off the first tee, along with a closest-to-the-pin competition at No. 4. Instructors from The Villages Golf Academy will offer short-game demonstrations at 10 a.m. and noon at the Marsh View Pitch & Putt practice green; Villages Golf Cars will have a display.

“I think we’re going to get a lot of repeat customers here,” said Roshaven, noting that many Villagers tend to sample a new course once before settling back into their previous patterns.

“We’ve got some great tracks out there,” he added. “You’ll get people that travel because they really like a certain hole or certain course, maybe they have friends that live there. But people tend to stay in their area and play those courses nearby more than others.

“I think this one is going to draw from a little further away.”

The fifth executive course to open in the newest expansion south of Florida’s Turnpike, Lowlands figures to be a jaunt for a number of Villagers. But with the challenge of two par-4s, as many as five tees on some holes and elevation changes largely unique to the area, the notion is that golfers will find the trip worth it.

“We’re very pleased with the way it turned out,” said Kenny Ezell, architect and partner at CEC Golf Design Group. “We were given a kind of flat piece of property without a whole lot of character to it and were able to turn it into something interesting.”

Ezell and his team moved a little more dirt than usual in the creation of Lowlands, building up a series of mounds that create a strategic play at the par-4 third hole and help define the par-3 sixth. The most dramatic elevation changes come during that stretch, most notably at the 123-yard fourth.

“Within Lowlands we’ve created a couple of mountains,” Ezell said. “I call it going from the lowlands to high land. All four of those golf holes have some unique views and blend into the natural landscape.”

No. 4 features a 25-foot drop in elevation from tee to green, offering different challenges depending on the tee box a golfer picks. A bunker prominently guards the putting surface from the left, longer tees but is less obtrusive from the right — where that tee shot must travel over water.

“The water is there, but it’s doable,” Roshaven said. “It’s not a big forced carry, as long as you’re not hitting it off to the right. You play it accordingly. I think this is a pretty cool little hole.”

No. 5 takes golfers back slightly uphill before ascending to the sixth tee, where five teeing areas await that present a smorgasbord of yardages and angles.

Three solid par-3s make up the homestretch before golfers emerge back into the Cattail hub, where a quick left turn takes you to food trucks and libations.

“If I’m going to travel a little bit to get here,” Roshaven said, “we’re going to have a drink and we’re going to have some lunch afterward. We’re going to make it into a little bit of a destination.”

If the hub concept proves popular enough, Lowlands could become part of a new golf prototype as The Villages continues to expand.

“The Villages always reviews how things go,” Jacobs said. “When there’s a formula that works and residents like it, the numbers will be there. It’s about understanding what our residents want.”

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