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Jason played Concession on Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Concession Golf Club

Can I get a Concession?

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The attention to detail is some of the best I've seen. The bag stands at the range keep with the Ryder Cup inspired theme at The Concession.
A look back from the 8th green.
The elegant Concession Clubhouse
A view of the greenside bunker with 16 tee only steps away. This is the stuff that can make places seem unique.
#1 - Don't hit your approach on the first beyond the pin!
#2 - The second green is guarded by deep bunkers and water to the right.
#3 - The bunkering on the course is some of the best I've seen. They are well maintained, well placed, beautiful, and beguiling all at the same time.
#5 - You must be precise with your distance control in order to hit the 5th green.
#7 - After a big tee shot on an aggressive line, a strong player can easily reach the 7th in two shots.
#8 - Be careful not to hit this shot with much spin or your ball will find the creek guarding the front of the green. This hole reminded all of us of Augusta National.
#9 - The huge bunker fronting the 9th makes the approach extremely difficult and disorienting.
#11 - The 11th green is set back in the trees with marshland fronting the right side of the green.
#12 - The short par 4 12th appears to be easy from the tee, but the green will quickly make you change your mind.
#13 - You're gong to need a long tee shot in order to attack this true three shot par 5.
#13 - I loved the two prominent tree which framed the 13th nicely.
#13 - remember that beguiling bunkering?
#15 - My favorite par 3 on the course is truly post card worthy. This is another example of how well Nicklaus and Jacklin utilized the hazards on the property.
#18 - 18 is a strong finishing hole that requires an accurate tee shot. One that's hit down the left hand side of the fairway leaves a better angle, but one that challenges the water on the right leaves a shorter shot. Pick your poison.
#18 - The picturesque approach into the 18th green.

The year: 1969.

The stage: Royal Birkdale.

The scene: Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus are battling for their respective countries. The fate of the Ryder Cup is hanging in the balance.  All square in their deciding match, Jacklin's coin lies a little more than two feet away from the hole. With all the pressure and Europe's hopes resting squarely on his shoulders, though, this could easily be the longest two foot par putt of his career.  Meanwhile, Nicklaus steadies himself over his four-and-a-half foot comebacker for par.  He knows full well he will have to sink it with Jacklin so close.  The ensuing stroke was pure.  As Nicklaus strides toward the hole to retrieve his ball, he pauses briefly and looks over at Jacklin.

What happened next is one of the greatest displays of sportsmanship any sport has ever seen.  Looking down at Jacklin's coin, Nicklaus said "there's no way I'm going to make you putt this one."

The putt was conceded, the match halved and the Ryder Cup tied.  Unbeknownst to them, this gesture would go down in history as one of golf's finest moments.  Furthermore, it would serve as the foundation for what would become one of the most grand golf courses Florida and the United States has to offer.

Its name: The Concession.

Tony Jacklin came up with the idea to build a golf course to memorialize the famous 1969 Ryder Cup moment. When approached with the idea of creating a Signature golf course with Tony Jacklin, Jack let it be known that he only embarks on these kind of business endeavors by himself.  But Nicklaus would once again concede to Jacklin, and they would share the moment and the course construction in Sarasota, FL.

Jacklin envisioned a course that would reflect the beauty of Augusta National. While I'm not sure this can ever be totally recreated, I will admit that The Concession Golf Club is easily one of the most naturally beautiful flat courses I have seen in my life.  Without an ocean, mountains, or even hills for that matter, Concession remains intriguingly majestic.  How did they get this flat piece of land to look and feel so special?

First off, they made it ultra private. Upon arrival, we pulled up to a camera station some 20 yards short of what looked like the pearly white gates of Heaven.  A robotic camera eye emerged, checking us out as if it were alive. We hit the speaker and talked with someone who said the gate would open momentarily - if we gave the right name.  I've never been to a golf course that had felt so guarded.  I cant even imagine Augusta would feel like that - but I've obviously never been there.  I told my buddy Jimmy that I felt like if we had given the wrong name snipers would have taken us out from stations in the trees.  Where else do you have to undergo a staring contest with a robot in order to gain entrance?  Robots don't blink easily.

All kidding aside, the ultra-private feel continued as we drove toward the clubhouse.  It's one of those special places where everything seems just as intended.  The clubhouse looks fittingly grand and tastefully done.  One of the things I really liked about the surrounding area was the lawn behind the clubhouse - a finely mown area on which members and their guests can sit and watch the players come up the 18th hole.  Also close by was the practice area - one on the best I've ever seen. It was double sided and done in a split fairway fashion so that a player could work on hitting fades and draws from the same spot with a visible target in mind. 

A short drive (or longish walk) is needed to get to the first tee box.  Once there, you realize just how natural of a location you're about to play. It's hard to describe any other way than to say it just has that special something in the air. 

Nicklaus took full advantage of the natural setting. The use of the natural wetlands and streams that litter the property is masterful.  This alone could be one of the reasons why Concession is so good. I couldn't tell which hazards were natural and which were man made, and honestly, I didn't care to know.  Perhaps my favorite hazard was the stream that ran through the eighth hole - a shortish par 4 which leaves you with a short iron or wedge in to the green after a well played tee shot.  The green is protected by a stream that runs in front of and around the right side - very similar to the 13th at Augusta and the 14th and Muirfield Village.  Approach shots must be well planned and executed in order to find the putting surface.  Shots hit with too much spin can easily roll off the green and into the hazard, making this hole devilishly tricky.  As we walked over the bridge and approached the green, we couldn't help but notice how peaceful the sound of the trickling water and the look of the majestic pines made us feel.  I would say that it is easily one of the best holes I've ever played - I could play it over and over again for the rest of my life.  It was fun, challenging, beautiful, and serene.  Jack gets two thumbs up in my book for this one.

The attention to detail at Concession is through-the-roof.  I was completely blown away by the bag stands at the driving range that neatly display the results of past Ryder Cup matches. I loved all the teak wood used on the golf course and found that everything was done in a very classy, simple, and subtly over-the-top way.  I loved it. The manicuring on the golf course was beyond impressive. Not a blade of grass nor grain of sand was out of place.  At times, Concession gave me an eerily similar feeling to Forest Dunes in its ability to make you stop and wonder "if I yell right now, would anyone hear me?" Might sound a little bit too much like a horror movie for a place that's so incredible, though.

There is one part of the golf course that may terrify you, though.  If there is one gripe someone would have at Concession, it would probably be the greens. The fact that the course still rates so high on our list speaks volumes for the rest of the course as well as the overall experience. It wasn't that they were slow or in poor condition - if anything, they were too fast and too smooth for having such crazy undulation.  With slopes moguls guarding every inch of nearly every green, it simply became hard to figure out how to attack them.  I feel as though they would have been much better if they were more gradually contoured instead of having mound after mound running all over them.  At times I feel as though Nicklaus is trying to make his greens look like a teenagers face in the middle of the summer - slick and full of pimples.  He could easily make his greens more playable while keeping them equally severe by making the slopes slightly more gradual.  This would make approach shots, pitch shots, and putts a little more fair, but still challenging.  Greens shouldn't be so difficult that they leave you begging for someone to concede every two footer that you're faced with.

While the greens seemed over-mounded, I will give Jack credit for his areas around the greens as well as the bunkers. Concession lets you play a variety of shots on just about every hole on the course - only certain pin placements could dictate that a certain shot be played. The bunkers were probably the nicest I've played from. They had a great firm quality to them but, in sticking with the theme of high short game playability, they were soft enough that you could be creative in your shot choice.  Every bunker was not only finely manicured, but each were shaped nicely to help the course maintain a sort of rugged natural look. 

Of all the Nicklaus courses I've played, I'll concede that The Concession Golf Club was the best I have ever seen.  Like all of his others, I don't agree with many of the greens.  I also still think his courses can be overly difficult, but I really enjoyed this layout.  It was really tough, but I never felt like it beat me up.  Maybe it was because the course was open enough that it never took too much of a toll on you off the tee.  Maybe it was the surprisingly good routing.  Maybe it was because it seemed as though every other tee box featured a ice-cold beverage or a snack or a view that made me feel like I was in heaven.  Whatever it was, there is little doubt that Concession is on to something here.  When you think about the great job that Nicklaus did in partnership with Tony Jacklin as well as the excellent staff at Concession, I would be shocked if the club doesn't continue to rise in years to come as one of our nation's preeminent clubs. 

Special Thanks to B,T, M, and JC for a great round. That was a special one.

The Concession Golf Club scorecard is not available

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