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Virginia golf company buys landmark Manatee County country club

The new owner plans improvements to all three courses at Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club and intends to retain many of the club's staff members.

  • By Jay Heater
  • | 10:45 a.m. March 11, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Heritage Golf Group now owns the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club and its three courses.
Heritage Golf Group now owns the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club and its three courses.
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  • Manatee-Sarasota
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In announcing its purchase Friday of the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, its three 18-hole golf courses and its Tennis Center, Heritage Golf Group CEO and President Mark Burnett succinctly wrapped up the transaction.

"This is a big day for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch and us," Burnett says. "This is a monumental day. This will be our flagship club.

"This is one of the best residential communities in the U.S. and this is what we do. We focus on high-end clubs."

Lakewood Ranch Country Club will be club No. 37 for Herndon, Virginia-based Heritage Golf Group's in the Eastern and Central U.S. to go along with three clubs in Denver. The Lakewood Ranch Country Club will be No. 8 in Florida. Financial terms of the transaction weren't disclosed. 

Burnett says the Country Club's 54 holes of golf and multiple amenities, including The Lodge, put it among the very top clubs it owns. 

That is an impressive statement considering Heritage Group Group owns, among others, TPC Prestancia in Sarasota, TPC Tampa Bay, and Venetian Golf in Venice. 

SMR President and CEO Rex Jensen alerted Country Club members in December that SMR was seeing a strategic partner to "take ownership, operate, and elevate" the existing club.

A note sent to Country Club members on Friday noted "The objective was not only to enhance the current offerings but also to collaborate on expanding opportunities, particularly in the realm of future golf capacity, for existing and future members. I am pleased to share the news that as of today, Heritage Golf Group is the new owner of the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club. This marks a significant development in our ongoing commitment to providing an exceptional experience for our members and further advancing the golfing landscape in Lakewood Ranch."

Jensen says after 24 years of running the Country Club and the courses, SMR had "done everything we could" in advancing the club and amenities.

The Cypress Links golf course, which already is closed for renovations, will undergo even more extensive improvements under Heritage Golf Group, improvements that are planned to be finished this year. "Our thoughts are about improving the courses," Burnett says. 

Jumping into immediate improvement plans was a major factor in gaining SMR's approval.

"We had an extensive improvement program in place," Jensen says. "Mark wanted to expand the program from the first day. We wanted to find someone who would own and care for this in the long term. We needed someone like Mark. He has an investment to protect. He is putting his own capital into it and he is putting his money where his mouth is. Heritage Golf Group's track record is well-regarded.

Wayne Piazza, the general manager of the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, will continue in his role under new owner Heritage Golf Group.

"We started with 24 firms," Jensen says of the sale process. "Heritage had all the things we were looking for, and Heritage consistently ranked No. 1 in the things we felt were important.

"Our selection of Heritage Golf Group was the result of meticulous consideration, focusing on their extensive experience and dedication to our standards," Jensen said in his Friday letter to Country Club members. "Their respect for our community and the club’s identity, culture and traditions, along with a strong emphasis on staff retention and operational efficiencies, positions them as the ideal partner. These unique attributes, combined with Heritage's leadership team, instill confidence that The Club will continue to evolve favorably across all facets of its operations and lifestyle offerings, always with the members in mind."

Heritage will retain Wayne Piazza as the Country Club's general manager. Other members of the Country Club's leadership will be retained as well.

"Over the coming weeks, club operations will be business as usual," Burnett says. "There are no immediate changes planned in the short run from an operational standpoint."

Heritage Golf Group will begin holding member focus groups to gain insight on the members' views of course conditions, club amenities, and member programming. Burnett says those meetings will indicate what capital improvements will be considered in the future. "We have a lot of listening and learning to do," Burnett says.

Burnett says Heritage Golf Group is very community focused calling the County Club a centerpiece of the community. "This club is a jewel," he says. "We have the opportunity to look at enhancements."

He says golf course improvements will include new greens, work on fairways, roughs and bunkers, and cart path improvements. This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity."

This article originally appeared on sister site



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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