Newcomer’s Guide: The best places to play your favorite sports

Published March 17, 2010

DISC GOLF
Lakeview Park: 7150 Lago St., Sarasota, 316-1172 or scgov.net; North Water Tower Park: 4700 Rilma Ave., Sarasota
There are two disc golf courses in the area with distinctly different levels of difficulty. Beginners should definitely stick to North Water Tower Park till they get good at long distance drives. Many a disc lay at the bottom of Lakeview’s, uh, lakes.

PUTT-PUTT
Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf: 3815 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 351-6620 and 2000 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, 756-0043, smugglersgolf.com; Evie’s Miniature Golf: 4715 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, 377-2399 or eviesonline.com/range
Both Smuggler’s Cove locations feature a seafaring theme with caves, shipwrecks and rushing waterfalls to play through. You can even feed live alligators! Evie’s offers more of an old western feel to complement their, you guessed it, waterfall.

BIKING
The Legacy Trail, 303 E. Venice Ave., Venice, 861-5000 or scgov.net
Legacy Trail was the product of Sarasota County’s “Rails-to-Trails” project, which converted the old Seaboard Airline Railway into a straight 12-mile paved multi-use trail. Have a rest at the picnic shelters, benches and portable restrooms scattered among the seven trailheads from Palmer Ranch to the Venice Train Depot.

HIKING
Crowley Museum & Nature Center, 16405 Myakka Road, Sarasota, 322-1000 or crowleymuseumnaturectr.org
Crowley is a nice spot to learn some history and take in the views. The center features a half-mile-long boardwalk with an observation tower overlooking the Myakka River. The pioneer area includes the Tatum House — a Florida Cracker history museum, cabin, blacksmith shop and working sugar cane mill restored to its 1892 appearance.

HOCKEY/ICE SKATING
Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex, 5309 29th St. E., Ellenton, 723-3663 or ellentonice.com
Those snowbird hockey fans from up north can go kick some ice at this 15,000-square-foot site featuring hockey leagues on two NHL-sized rinks. The rest of us can bust our ass all on our own when they open up the ice for public skating.

BASEBALL
Ed Smith Stadium, 2700 12th St., Sarasota, 954-4101; Youth Athletic Complex, 2810 17th St., Sarasota, 473-2911
Baseball is kind of a big deal in Sarasota. You can takes notes from the pros at Ed Smith Stadium during the Orioles spring training season, which started this month. Or head across the street and play ball yourself on one of the eight baseball fields at the Youth Athletic Complex.

BASKETBALL
Arlington Park: 2650 Waldemere St., Sarasota, 316-1346; Fruitville Park: 5151 Richardson Road, Sarasota, 316-1268
There are a number of courts around town to hoop it up, but some personal CL favorites are Arlington and Fruitville Parks. These are nice central locations so nobody has to drive too far for a pick-up game. Arlington is usually busier during after-work hours, but Fruitville has the lights at night.

SOCCER (AKA FÚTBOL)
Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota, 316-1172 or scgov.net
This park features all sorts of sports facilities, but it’s highly regarded as one of the best soccer spots in town. With two full-size and two youth-size fields, there’s usually enough space for the whole family to get their kicks. Warning: The competition here can be fierce.

GOLF
Bobby Jones Golf Complex, 1000 Circus Blvd., Sarasota, 365-4653 or bobbyjonesgolfclub.com
Sarasota has been called Florida’s “Cradle of Golf.” It was home to the first course in the state and one of the first courses in America, built by Sir John Hamilton Gillespie in 1905. These early ties are found today at Bobby Jones, which opened in 1927. In 1930, Bobby Jones became the only golfer ever to accomplish the “Grand Slam of Golf,” sweeping the British Amateur, British Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open in the same season.

POLO
Sarasota Polo Club, 8201 Polo Club Lane, Sarasota, 907-0000 or sarasotapolo.com
Every Sunday afternoon from December to April the public is invited to pack a picnic lunch and head to the polo grounds to see the “fastest game on four feet.” The Sarasota Polo Club features nine world-class polo fields and a regulation size arena on 130 acres. New players are always welcome to join the various leagues and classes available.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/ferry.exile

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