Courtesy of Golficity.com
A two-foot putt is certainly not a big deal for an accomplished world-class player. But with the 1969 Ryder Cup at England’s famed Royal Birkdale in the balance Jack Nicklaus conceded such a putt to England’s Tony Jacklin. It resulted in the first-ever tie in the events storied history. It was a move that drew some controversy, but in essence it was true sportsmanship that helped define the game.
Jack said – “I don’t think you would have missed the putt, but under the circumstances, I’d never give you the opportunity.”
And Tony replied- “I think it was the greatest single sporting gesture in golf. If there was a greater one, I don’t know of it.”
Thus a friendship was born between the two iconic players, and in the mid-2000’s they collaborated on a stellar golf club known as “The Concession.” Built on the outskirts of Bradenton, Florida this track started receiving accolades immediately with Golf Digest naming them best new private course in 2006.
The design is one that challenges the mind and tests your gut. There are reachable par 5’s, fair par 4’s, and par 3’s with a good disparity in yardages. And being in Florida there is naturally water, and the sand abundant, but certainly not over the top. The beautiful sugary white sand helps define each hole. This is high quality stuff which insures that your ball will always be sitting up, and never plugged. Whew!
A couple of holes (from the gold tees) that you will surely remember is the 507-yard par 5 13th and the par 4 18th. If you have two big hits you can get home in two shots, but you will be happy just to be on the putting surface in three. The elevated green can be described in one word, “severe.” In fact Nick Faldo had a little tug of war here going back-and-forth over the green, PICKING UP after his 7th shot! The finishing hole is a classic 436-yard par 4 with numerous bunkers, water coming into play on the right and the relaxed Concession clubhouse as a backdrop.
Superintendent Terry Kennelly is truly a hands-on kind-of-guy, and treats this land like it was one of his own children. The course may be located in a gated community, but you will not find any homes in view from the course. It’s just you and your playing partners, and nature. Truly peaceful surroundings
The greens were always a challenge at The Concession, but last year Kennelly undertook some needed softening of the front nine’s undulating surfaces. This also added more hole positions ensuring that shot values could vary day-to-day.
And he likes The Concession to have a little brownish tint to the grass too- assuring that the grounds will play firm and fast. Numerous courses around the United States are taking to this is welcoming philosophy which is similar to links courses across the pond. Hey, what’s wrong with saving water, getting more roll, and never getting a plugged lie in the fairway?
In April the club will play host to The Concession Cup, a unique new Amateur tournament. There will be two eighteen-player teams- one from the United States, and the other from Great Britain/Ireland. Each team will have three categories: (8) Mid-Ams, that’s age 25 and older, (8) Seniors up to age 65, and (2) Super Seniors that are 65 and older. The big nugget of this match play competition is that Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin will serve as honorary captains. This is truly a wonderful opportunity for the amateurs to meet these two icons, and the architects of The Concession!
Victorious 2008 Ryder Cup Captain Paul Azinger has been a fixture here since the club’s inception and is always sharing plenty of entertaining knowledge, and fodder of the game. Plus, world-renowned instructor David Leadbetter can occasionally be seen around the grounds. While he works with many of the top players around the globe he is more than willing to help us mere mortals with the golf swing.
Ryder Cup influences are sprinkled throughout this warm and welcoming facility. All of the electric carts have Royal Birkdale 1969 on the front, and there are numerous historical plaques on the world-class driving range depicting some of the famous matches. They also have a top-notch friendly caddy staff that will definitely help you shave a few strokes off here and there.
Moreover, the future will continue to shine when in 2015 the club plays host to both the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Championships in 2015. While The Concession may be a private club, it won’t be long before it becomes public knowledge.