Big Cypress Golf & Country Club is located within the 55+ gated community of Cypress Lakes on Route 98 in Lakeland, Florida, and is one of the most active adult communities in Florida. As you drive from the guard shack at the front gate to the clubhouse, you’ll pass crowded pickleball, tennis, and bocce ball courts. And there is always something going on at the clubhouse; both pools are very active, as you’ll discover as you make your way to the range.
The two golf courses are the centerpiece of the community. The clubhouse is well-decorated, and the pro shop is well-stocked. The staff are friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable.
Both golf courses at Cypress Lakes are built on a swamp so the surrounding terrain is perfectly flat. Florida golf is characterized by water, sand, and palm trees and Big Cypress is no different. Water comes into play on at least 11 holes on the South Course and 16 on the North Course so you may want to take a few extra golf balls.
The South Course was designed by renowned golf course architect and Lakeland, Florida native, Ron Garl. The South Course has been recognized by Golf Digest, Florida Golfer, and Senior Golfer magazines for its par-72 championship-caliber layout. It is also ranked the #3 Best Golf Course in Florida by Golfers’ Choice in 2023.
From the Black Tees, the South Course plays 6,588 yards with a course rating of 72.1 and a slope of 134. Move up to the Green Tees (5,998/69.4/125) and you’ll save considerable yardage on a couple of holes and still have a great time. The South Course features Bermuda tee boxes and fairways, and Diamond Zoysia greens. Diamond Zoysia has excellent tolerance to low light conditions and does well in salty soils and high traffic. It also holds shots very well!
To create a little character for the South Course, Garl trucked in a lot of dirt and created mounding on a few of the fairways and along the peripheries. Not only does this add to the aesthetics of the course, but it also creates the odd uneven lie! And it helps to shield a few holes from the outside traffic on Route 98.
Several holes on the South course are tight and require a certain amount of driving accuracy off the tee. It may not be the longest course in the area, but if you don’t keep the ball in play, the length doesn’t matter.
Two very memorable holes on the South Course are par 5s. Number 3 plays 507 yards from the back tees, and from back here it’s a legitimate par 5. Move up to the Green Tees (438 yards) and it’s a chance to pick up a shot or two. From up here, the trees on the left are reachable off the tee. With that in mind, play down the right side of the fairway; another good aiming point is the billboard in the distance. A good drive will leave the option to go for the green in two; if that’s not a possibility, play your layup shot toward the right side. This will take the water on the left out of play. Hit your approach shot over the green and you’ll most likely find that water. This hole is a good test of both control and accuracy.
Number 12 is a 590-yard, par 5. It plays every bit of its length because most players won’t be able to hit driver off the tee. If you have great control of your driver, it’s possible to play down the right side around the lake but beware of the woods to the right. Even with a good tee shot and a layup shot, you will still be faced with a fairly long approach shot into an elevated green which slopes back to front and is guarded front right by a large bunker.
Although the South Course gets the majority of play at Cypress Lake, the North Course should not be taken lightly. The North Course was designed by noted course architect Chip Powell and offers golfers two sets of tees. The Cypress Tees play 3,463 yards to a par of 60 with a rating of 58.2 and a slope of 93 for men. The Teal Tees play 3,013 yards (56.0/85). Pick the tees that match up with your game and you’re sure to have a great time!
Don’t let the yardage fool you, it’s definitely not a walk in the park. With six par 4s and three par 3s that measure over 170 yards, it can be a major challenge. For the most part, it’s a gentler version of the South Course and for that reason, more enjoyable for beginners with several risk/reward opportunities for seasoned players. The layout is fairly narrow with several tree-lined fairways and strategically placed bunkers. You’ll also encounter water hazards on at least 12 holes.
This “executive” course starts with a par 4 that plays nearly 300 yards with trees on the right side in the landing area. Anything that lands on the right side will require an approach shot over trees into a green with a bunker on the right. Favoring the left side off the tee leaves an unobstructed shot into the green.
Things don’t get much easier on the 2nd hole, a 184-yard, par 3 with a lake and sand on the right side. There’s a bit of reprieve on the 3rd and 4th holes which are almost identical with water left of the green.
Number 7 is a 276-yard par 4 that is a slicer’s nightmare with water all down the right side and a devilish pot bunker right of the green. The 8th hole is another challenging par 4 with water guarding the entire left side of the green and coming into play only about 200 yards off the tee. Play your tee shot about 170 yards and then play your approach shot over water and sand.
The back nine starts with one of the shortest holes on the golf course followed by the longest, a 302-yard par 4 that is one big dogleg left. That’s followed by the risk/reward 12th hole, a 260-yard par 4 with little danger (the pond on the right side is easy to carry). Hit a solid tee shot and you’re in business. The next three holes are par 3s. Thirteen and fourteen are straightforward par 3’s but the 15th is a challenging 179-yarder with a small green and a large bunker on the left. The round ends with another challenging 170-yard par 3 that’s very similar to Number 15.
Big Cypress has some good practice facilities, too. There’s a full-length driving range where you can hit every club in your bag. There’s also a massive practice green that can accommodate any size outing. And, if your game’s not up to par, Big Cypress has on-staff resident golf professionals who can help with individual lessons or group clinics. They can also help arrange tournaments and leagues. Inside the pro shop, you’ll find all of the necessary golf accessories from golf clubs to logoed clothing.
Regardless of which course you play, you’ll encounter superb conditions. Golf Course Superintendent Gary Newcomb says “At Big Cypress, maintenance is a top priority. We try to provide well-manicured fairways and greens that are consistently in good shape.” His biggest challenge is finding staff that is willing to work. “Any superintendent that tells you staffing is not their #1 challenge probably isn’t telling you the truth.”
Big Cypress Golf Course General Manager Allan Tener wants golfers to know that both Big Cypress courses are open to the public. “ A lot of people in the area think that just because we are in a gated community, we are not open to the public,” says Tener. “Once golfers realize that they can play here and give us a try, we’re sure they’ll come back. And with rates that are lower than most courses in the area, you can save a few dollars at the same time.”
Cypress Lakes and the Big Cypress Golf Club are less than an hour’s drive from both Orlando and Tampa.
If you’re in the Lakeland area, Big Cypress is worth checking out. Visit their website at www.cypresslakesfla.com or give them a call at (863) 859-6871.