Steve LeBrun’s thoughts on Seminole Golf Club
LeBrun details the course’s challenges, uniqueness, and what viewers should expect on Sunday
May 14, 2020
By Mackenzie Perez, PGATOUR.COM
- May 14, 2020
TaylorMade Driving Relief trailer
Golf fans around the world have been deprived from watching their favorite players for exactly 61 days. This Sunday, however, golf will make one of the first sporting-event comebacks since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing core golf fans and general sports enthusiasts alike an opportunity to watch some of this generation’s greatest athletes compete.
Seminole Golf Club will host the TaylorMade Driving Relief event, featuring current No. 1 Rory Mcllroy and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson in a team match against PGA TOUR superstar Rickie Fowler and 2019 first-time TOUR winner Matthew Wolff.
There are more than 1,250 Floridian golf courses, more than any other U.S. state, and almost all of them have one thing in common, they are surrounded by houses. Even some of the most iconic courses such as Bay Hill, TPC Sawgrass, Innisbrook and PGA National require one to drive or walk through a neighborhood to get to the next hole. Only a handful of courses in Florida are built on open land, with one of those being the highly exclusive Seminole Golf Club.
Korn Ferry Tour veteran and Juno Beach, Florida native Steve LeBrun has been lucky enough to play in what many professionals consider the golf event of the year, the Seminole Golf Club Pro-Member. LeBrun spent some time with Korn Ferry Tour Digital to provide insight on the course’s challenges, uniqueness, the Pro-Member event, and what viewers should expect when watching this weekend’s matchup.An aerial shot of the 16th hole at Seminole Golf Club.
So how exclusive is Seminole?
Well, I mean, you kind of have to know somebody. It’s one of those types of places where, you know, I probably could have worked a little harder and got out there sooner. I kind of wish I would have because it’s a gem … for Florida golf, everybody talks about how great it is. For a guy who played in Florida, ever since I’ve been a golfer, and seeing the types of courses that are here in Florida, which is houses, cart paths, homes that are built around the golf course. You can’t see a hole until you go through a community of houses to get to the next hole. The difference with this place is it’s just golf. It’s a special place.
What’s the biggest challenge on this golf course?
Oh, the greens are lightning fast. I mean, it was treacherous; there’s just enough slope on them or if you’re in the wrong spot, you’re going to have a hard time stopping your putt. The greens are not super undulated, but just undulated enough, and the speed of them is very difficult.
Then you see some elevation changes and if you’re a Florida golfer, you don’t get that anywhere; there are just no ups and downs here in Florida. It’s just as flat as can be, whereas out there, there’s a couple second shots uphill.
There are also all these little creeks or streams that just meander their way through the golf course, and everything is shaved off so if you roll up next to it, it’s probably going to roll into the water. It’s not the longest course in the world.
Most of the par-5s are reachable, which, you know, nowadays that’s frowned upon. So for that side of it, you know the shots that you’re hitting if you were to play on a calm day, which probably never really happens because it’s right on the water, but if it were to be fairly calm, the yardage wouldn’t look daunting if you looked at it on a scorecard. It’s not crazy long or anything; it’s just classic the way the holes are designed. You have to hit a good shot into the greens and if you don’t, you’re not getting it up and down, it’s just hard to. I didn’t think that it could be as good as it was when I played it two years ago, but it’s everything that everybody’s always ever said about it to me.
Are there any holes that are going to be a challenge this weekend?
Eight is a par-3 and in the Pro-Member we played it 230 to 240 yards. The tees were all the way in the back. I mean, I wonder if they’ll play from there. I’m sure they’ll give them a break on some of the holes because you know, nobody really wants to see them hit a 2-iron on the par-3. If you’re going to watch this thing, you’re going to want to see good shots. It’s not the easiest shot in the world, so that one is going to be very difficult.
No. 17 is a par-3 as well, right along the water. Depending on the wind … I remember two years ago, I hit a 7-iron, and then this past year I hit a 3-iron. That’s just the difference in the wind and I think the tee markers were in the same spot.
And then, No. 18 is just downhill off the tee right along the water, which you don’t see here very often. It’s a dogleg left, but you kind of hit away from the ocean and then your second shot is back up the hill, pretty good uphill to the green.
Those three holes stick out the most. That eighth hole though, it’s just a beast. There’s not really much to it other than the length, but the green is kind of tricky. Those last two holes are going to be fun to watch them play.Seminole's 17th hole will present a challenge depending on how the wind is blowing.
What makes this course so special?
So, the fourth hole is a par-4 and it leads you out away from the ocean. It’s not as far away as you can get from the ocean on the course because Nos. 5 and 6 are back there just west of the hole, but when you stand on that green (No. 4), you can look down and see the ocean as well as every single hole on the golf course. You can literally see every single shot on that golf course from that green, and the ocean is in the background.
It’s just the first time I saw that, it kind of took my breath away. I was like, ‘Oh my, like wait a minute, I can’t think of a golf course where I can stand on a hole, and basically see the whole golf course, especially in Florida.’
It’s the little things and then the locker room, it’s one of those old-school locker rooms where you walk in, and it’s just the smell of wood and it’s like it’s been there forever, which it has. You then begin to think about who’s been there; I mean, everybody’s been there. You got guys like Ben Hogan, I mean, that was his favorite golf course. To be able to walk into that clubhouse where he walked and many of the other greats did, it’s just special.A scenic view of the green on the 4th hole at Seminole Golf Club.
What is it like to play in a Pro-Member at that course?
It’s a great day! You get there, you just pull your car around and they know who you are. It’s like a TOUR event with guys that don’t even play on TOUR anymore. (Ian) Baker-Finch was there this past time and (Jack) Nicklaus is there and guys like that. It’s almost better than a PGA TOUR event because you’ve got people that you used to look up to and watch.
There are certain guys that don’t even play in The Honda (Classic) the week before, and they still fly out to play in this event. It’s a fun day, everybody’s super laid-back and good golfers. All the members I’ve played with so far are solid golfers … I mean, to play that golf course every day, you’d better be, because it could eat you up when the wind starts blowing.
I think it makes it a little more special for a guy like me who’s been here forever and heard all the stories about it and then I play it once a year now. I just didn’t expect it to be as special as it was. I mean, everybody’s always talked about it, but it’s something I’ll always hold close to my heart and hopefully I’ll be able to do it again.
What can viewers expect when they watch the match this weekend?
You know, viewers are just going to be excited to watch golf. Obviously, everyone wants to see the top guys that are, No. 1 in the world or former No. 1. Rickie Fowler, everyone likes him and the young guy (Matt Wolff) coming out with kind of an interesting swing …
People are going to be excited to watch golf; they’re going to be excited to get a glimpse of a golf course that I don’t think many people have ever seen, especially on TV. I’m sure you’re going to see a lot of good shots, and hopefully the wind’s not up and they’re not getting beat up. I mean, if the wind’s blowing, it might not be that fun to watch because there are going to be some crazy difficult shots. If it’s a fairly calm day, they’ll be making a bunch of birdies and because it’s not super long, it’ll be a fun start back for people to watch.
People will be able to see a place that they will never see in their life. Like I said, people are going to be excited to watch golf or any kind of sport. I don’t care what it is as long as it’s something other than, you know, hitting ping-pong balls with your head on ESPN Ocho.