The Sun ‘N Lake of Sebring Improvement District was created by Highlands County in 1974. It occupies about 12 square miles in an area just north of Sebring on Route 27 and has grown from what was wilderness 30 years ago to around 5,000 residents. Although the development was once considered a retirement community, it has evolved into a melting pot of both older adults and younger families. And according to the master plan, there is still plenty of room for growth.
Sun ‘n Lake is home to two championship golf courses: Deer Run and Turtle Run. Deer Run is considered the tougher of the two. The par 72 Deer Run Golf Course at Sun 'N Lake Golf Club was designed by Don Dyer and opened for play in 1976; in 2003 architect Ron Garl redesigned the course, including the conversion of Number 18 to a par three with an island green. Each year this championship layout plays host to qualifiers for the Web.com Tour, the Latin America Tour and the Canadian Tour.
The Deer Run Course has 6 sets of tees with yardages to fit every level of golfer. From the Black Tees, the course plays 6,919 yards with slope 134 and a course rating of 73.7. Ladies can play a manageable 4,446 yards or challenge themselves at 4,992 yards. Most members play from the White Tees which measure 6,170 yards with a slope of 128 and a course rating of 70. A seventh set of tees adorns the scorecard and combines the White and Gold Tees for a distance of 5,847 yards (68.5/118). Out here, there’s something for every golfer.
At 364 yards, Number 1 is a fairly easy driving hole; hit a decent shot off the tee and none of the trees on either side should come into play. The green is elevated and holds well hit approach shots nicely. Finding the bunker that sits on the front left could prove to be a costly start. Number 2 is a medium length par 3 with another elevated green. Miss the green on either side and you’ll be facing a tough up and down. Number 3 is another straight forward par 4 that plays 385 yards from the White Tees. The water on the right shouldn’t come into play off the tee, however the bunker that guards the left side of the green seems to attract errant approach shots.
Number 4 is a dogleg left par 5 that is reachable in two if you can hit your tee shot past the large oak tree that juts out into the fairway on the left side. If you need to lay up, try and set up so your approach shot is from the right side of the fairway. This takes most of the large bunker on the front left out of play. The 5th is all about accuracy and distance control off the tee. Many will choose to hit less than driver as a large lake comes into play at about 240 yards off the tee. Water and a bunker guard another elevated green. Favor the right side off the tee. Keeping right seems to be the theme thus far as water guards the left side of the fairway on Number 6 as well. The fairway is fairly narrow, so accuracy is a must if you want to hit an approach shot from the short grass. The green is elevated and smaller than usual and guarded on both sides by bunkers.
The 7th hole is a short par 4 that plays 333 from the White Tees. Keep right to avoid the large waste bunker. The green is long and narrow and guarded on the right by sand. Number 8 is a straightforward par 3 that plays 183 from the Whites with no trouble to speak of. Number 9 is a long par 5 dogleg right, 554 from the White Tees, over 600 yards from the back. Large oak trees protect the right side with one in particular that keeps you honest right at the bend of the dogleg. Favoring the left side off the tee and on your layup shot will go a long way in scoring well on this hole. The green is one of the smallest on the course and guarded by a small pot bunker on the left.
The back nine starts off with an innocent looking short par 4 that plays 316 yards from the White Tees. You may need to hit something less than driver to stay short of the pond straight away. Approach shots can be tricky into this small, elevated green. Miss your tee shot wild left and you may be surprised that you still have a shot into the green. Number 11 is a par 5 dogleg left with a large oak tree sitting on the left side of the landing area and sand to the right, so you’ll need to decide to hit short or go over. Getting past the tree and sand gives you a chance to go for the green in two. The green is well protected on either side and for most, risk outweighs reward. Number 12 is a 377-yard par 4 dogleg left that is best played down the right side and takes many of the hazards out of play.
Thirteen is a medium length par 3 at 148 yards with sand guarding the front left of this elevated green. A well struck tee shot can help you quickly make up a shot or two on your partners. Number 14 is one of the prettiest golf holes out here. It’s a long sweeping dogleg to the right with trees dotting both sides of the wide fairway. At only 496 yards from the White Tees, it’s tempting to go for in two, however water and four bunkers guard the green. Best to layup and take your chance with a short pitch shot. Number 15 is a narrow par 4 with trees infringing on the fairway on either side. This hole is all about control. The green is small with a little bit of room on the left to bail out if need be.
That bring us to the make or break part of the course; the last three holes. Number 16 is a dogleg right that plays 348 yards from the white tees and requires you to at least make it to the corner. Favoring the left side takes many of the trees out of play and gives you a good look into the green. Be careful of the water and sand that guard the green. Number 17 is the toughest hole on the inward nine and with good reason. From the White tees it plays 389 yards with a pond in the middle of the fairway. Most golfers can hit driver off the tee and should favor the left side off the tee or risk being blocked out by trees. A good drive is still going to leave a long to medium iron into an elevated green protected on either side by sand.
Number 18 is truly a unique hole to end your round; after all, how many courses end with a par 3? From the white tees, the hole plays 145 yards to an island green. Choose your club wisely, hit a good shot and success can be yours. Or else, you’re just another statistic!
Last Word: The Deer Run Course at Sun ‘N Lake in Sebring FL will challenge golfers of all abilities. For the weekend, casual golfer, there is a lot of room off the tees on many holes. For the skilled golfer, it takes accuracy and precision to hit and hold the elevated greens. Many of them are small and have a good deal of undulation. Finishing the round with an island par 3 is truly a memorable event.
Sun n Lake Golf Club is a proud member of the Citrus Golf Trail, who have done a wonderful job of making the Sebring area a golf vacation destination. The Citrus Golf Trail offers stay and play golf packages that include rounds at a number of local courses and accommodations at The Inn on the Lakes. For more information on any of the members of the Citrus Golf Trail or to book your next stay and play package, visit their website at www.visitsebring.com/citrus-golf-trail/.
THE GOLFIN’ GUY