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Sean_A

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ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, The Tennis Town, But... New
« on: July 30, 2016, 09:10:07 AM »
Wimbledon Common has a curious history that could only exist in England!  At the height of Victorian culture a most remarkable occurrence took place.  John Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer, the lord of the manor at Wimbledon due to his ownership of Wimbledon Manor (now a Hotel Du Vin), attempted to enclose the common for a large park, house and gardens and building project.  In what has become one of the most important decisions in common land usage, his private bill was refused.  In 1871, within ten years of the decision, a board of conservators was established to assume ownership of the common with a mandate of protection.   Yes, this is the same Spencer family which gave the world Princess Diana (daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer) and of course Sir Winston Churchill, grandson of the 7th Duke Marlborough, John Winston Spencer-Churchill.  With some understanding of the family tree, it is momentous that a decision was taken to create common land from a Spencer manor!

Against this backdrop, London Scottish GC was officially formed in 1865, the third oldest club in England and the host of the inagural Varsity match between Oxford and Cambridge in 1878.  Led by Horace Hutchison, one of the most under-rated golfers in history, Oxford easily claimed victory.  The membership of the club was made up of London Scottish Rifle Volunteers who were stationed on the common.  The same year an Act of Parliament created Wimbledon Common (1871) as a completely separate entity from adjacent (across the A3) Richmond Park, the 7 hole course was extended to 18 by Tom Dunn.  A few years previously golfers living within 3 miles of the famous windmill were permitted to join the club.  Very quickly it became clear to the disenfranchised town members that a second club would be the only viable solution to the acrimonious relations; thus was born Royal Wimbledon GC.  Yet, sharing the course with LSGC was never going to be satisfactory.  In 1908 Willie Park Jr was called upon to build a new course on the nearby Warren Farm owned by the colourfully named Admiral the Hon Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax!

It was also in 1908 that Wimbledon Common GC (which starts on the original 12th hole) was established and to this day the common is shared with London Scottish.  With their respective houses in very different parts of the common I can only presume the two clubs must work closely together to ensure all runs smoothly. Incidentally, let us not forget that Wimbledon is a tennis town and the All England Lawn Tennis Club is a short walk from the common, as is the centre of Wimbledon.  Coombe Hill GC is sandwiched between the common and the rather large Richmond Park.  One could do much worse than the very attractive area of Wimbledon if living within 10 miles of Hyde Park Corner is a priority. 

Still not satisfied, the members engaged Harry Colt to design a course to be built by Franks Harris Bros and this was opened in 1924.  Colt was extremely busy in the London area during this time; Sunningdale New (1923), Wentworth East (1924) and Tandridge (1924) were all completed about the same time as Royal Wimbledon.  Much as was the case at Sunningdale Old, the essence of Parkís design is gone, however, the Colt redesign relied substantially on Parkís work. As many as eight holes use Parkís routing; the current 7, 9-11 and 14-16.  After WWII the 9th, 17th & 18th holes were altered and in recent years the 1st and 18th were altered by Hawtree.

Colt Routing




Driving around the common to the club one very much gets a sense that a special course is on hand. This excitement is intensified once covering the passage between the house and pro-shop.  The house and rather large grounds near the putting green were once owned by Roger Wethered, a long time member of the club. In recent years part of the grounds were converted for a small housing development down the first fairway, making the dreaded and all too common first tee slice rather problematic. Enter Mr Hawtree; he pushed the fairway left and created a new green.  While a good hole, it is rather too tight for an opener.  Given the mandate to stay away from the unseen houses on the right, it is curious that a large tree positioned to the left not far off the tee should remain.  It is just the sort of tree one wouldn't want to chop,  but the golf must come first.  While not completely satisfactory, the first does hint at good things to come.




#2.




The one feature of the course presentation which leaps out is the ample short grass around the greens, yet tempered with some areas of rough which leaves the result of leaked approaches somewhat in the hands of luck. Some may feel this philosophy is not in keeping with the exacting nature of the game at the highest level, but I am firmly on board with this approach.  Missing the target should not, in most cases, spell instant death. The off-line areas should offer hope and often deliver forgiveness and that is exactly what we get at Royal Wimbledon.


We now plunge to the parkland section of the course.  #s 3, 4 and 14-16 are on distinctly different terrain (the lower part of the property) and the bunkering strongly reflects this dichotomy.  As a set, I am not sure these holes work well aesthetically.  Not poor holes by any means, however, perhaps more should be done to reduce the stark contrast between the high and low holes. 




Another limiting aspect of the parkland holes is they all start and finish on high ground after playing through a valley; the uphill approach to #4. 


More to follow.

Ciao   
« Last Edit: February 11, 2022, 09:10:40 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Thomas Dai

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Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, a Tennis Town, but...(1-4)
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2016, 04:16:52 PM »
Appears pretty nice. Looking forward to the rest of the tour. How would you rate it in comparison with say Edgbaston?
Atb

Paul Gray

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Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, a Tennis Town, but...(1-4)
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2016, 06:12:25 PM »
The dogleg on the first just didnít quite sit right with me so it's interesting to now hear that it was altered in recent years due to development on the leg. That would certainly add up. It would actually be a very good opener in my opinion but for the fact that the leg would render the second shot for the short hitter a bit of a non event.

The second is a good hole, with just enough subtle right to left slope on the approach to lead the player to conclude that a left of centre tee shot is ideal.

The third is perfectly ok but not one of the better holes. A decent enough drive should render the centreline bunkers meaningless. They would however add interest for the shortest of hitters or the novice. I like the fact that these exist then.

The fourth actually offers a pretty interesting approach. Certainly the severe rise to the front right of the putting surface makes an approach from the left preferable. If you're a club short coming in from the left, you should still be on the same level as the pin. The same scenario from the right however will see you chipping up a steep bank with minimal sight of your target.
In the places where golf cuts through pretension and elitism, it thrives and will continue to thrive because the simple virtues of the game and its attendant culture are allowed to be most apparent. - Tim Gavrich

Scott Warren

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Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, a Tennis Town, but...(1-4)
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2016, 06:13:52 PM »
Sean,

Good to see this course again. Must be six years since I played it.

You've already hit on its main flaw -- a lack of variety. My memory is of three or four of the par fours playing extremely similarly and likewise two or three of the one shotters.

Nonetheless, a really fun course in a beautiful spot and with an extremely friendly welcome.

And that outdoor dining and putting green area is fantastic.

Can't wait to read your thoughts on the sixth.

Sean_A

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Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, a Tennis Town, but...(1-4) New
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2016, 06:28:58 PM »
atb

I will have to ponder your question, but there is no question I prefer Edgbaston.

ROYAL WIMBLEDON TOUR CONT

The 5th fully transitions the course back to the high section of the course with a patented Colt short hole.  This area of the course must be a wonder for members because so many greens and tees converge, offering several boozers loop opportunties....check the course map.


Colt's vision when the course was redesigned.


More evidence of pushing back short grass areas around greens.  I wonder if there is any thought to expanding some greens?




The map below outlines the Park Jr routing over the Colt design and highlights Caesar's Camp.  A distinctive circular ditch and ridge runs through the 6th, 7th, 10th and 11th.  Driving over the ridge is a key element to playing these holes well. The iron age fortification is about 12 acres in size with a diameter of ~300 yards. It is highly doubtful Julius ever used the camp because it isn't thought the Romans ever settled in Wimbledon.  These days, the earth rampart does not evoke a formidable fortification.  This is partly due to the then owner, John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge-Erle-Drax MP, partially leveling the ramparts and filling in the ditch in preparation for a housing development.  Our good friends, the Wimbledon Common Conservators, squashed the plan by ruling that this area could only be used for agricultural purposes.   

 
The very short and blind two-shotter 6th plays into the famed Caesar's Camp.  It is a pity the hole isn't more memorable.  I suspect its merits were greatly reduced when the hole had to be moved further left to safeguard a neighbouring garden.  We now cross a public right of way to play the 7th, an attractive if straight-forward hole.       


I hesitate to call attention to the green surrounds yet again, but they are a sight to behold and quite unusual.


I am normally not a fan of the long par 3 mainly because it is usually the case that these holes rely too much on brute strength and rarely possess any lasting interest.  The 8th is emphatically not of this type.  Interestingly, at first glance it does, however, seem exactly that.  A second look should leave the golfer puzzled by the location of the left bunker...seemingly well out of sorts with the green.  In truth, if the course is at all keen this bunker is a defensive outpost against the often necessary ground approach.  Just as the land moves right so does the green.  This is a most engenious hole worthy of study!  Once again we have a lovely tree (blocking a good view of the left bunker) which many would be hesitant to cut down, but the aesthetic and feel of the hole is somewhat compromised.


The design intent becomes more evident upon approaching the green.


The bunker is actually part of a slight ridge on the following hole.  Notice the hollow left of the green which will pinch an over-played shot up the left. Quite simply, this is one of the best long par 3s I have played. 


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: February 11, 2022, 09:11:39 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, a Tennis Town, but...(1-8)
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2016, 03:29:56 AM »
Did Hawtree do the bunker work as well?

Quite attractive - not overly fussy. I like them.

Sean_A

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Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, a Tennis Town, but...(1-8) New
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2016, 02:08:47 PM »
Ally

I don't know if Hawtree did the new bunkers.  Though I think Mackenzie is now advising the club on a plan to move forward, but I don't know the details.

Royal Wimbledon Tour Cont

Dead straight and a bit uphill, the short par four 9th shouldn't trouble most players.


A good drive on the 10th will finish beyond the ridge and back in the Camp.  This fairway is extremely narrow with much of the effects of the ridge curiously lost in the left rough.  Visually, the tee shot doesn't work because the scale of the fairway isn't close to matching the scale of the corridor.  These holes in the Camp are a great opportunity to create an expansive common-like feel in helping to differentiate them from the remainder of the high holes.  Sadly, trees which add nothing to the design eliminate any such possibility....indeed, a great many trees could be removed to great effect.  However, the hole is good as is.


It is rare for a course to possess one hole which is praiseworthy as something both excellent and unusual; Royal Wimbledon is fortunate to have two such holes.  We have already seen the 8th, now it is time for the 11th.  A good drive will bid a final fairwell to the Camp even if the tee shot is blind.  A testing second to an exacting target remains.  The course in the far background is Coombe Hill.


A closer look at the raised landing strip type green with it's fallaways on three sides.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: February 11, 2022, 09:16:48 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Paul Gray

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, a Tennis Town, but...(1-11)
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2016, 06:33:15 PM »
#5 is a fair typical Colt par 3. There is a tree issue here though which needs to be addressed. A perfectly good fade could be unreasonably caught up in branches; a particular shortcoming as a fade is the natural shot here for the low marker.

I actually thought more highly of #6 than Sean did. My only real criticism would be gorse front left of the green which all but renders a crack at driving the putting surface too risky.

#7 is a good par 5 with bunkering to consider for most on the 2nd shot.

#8, very much as Sean said, is a cracker.

#9 is reasonable enough short par 4.

#10 is a fine par 5 which is sadly missing about 50% of its fairway (there are a few holes at RWGC where young trees and/or longer grass occupy prime ground for fairway cut).

#11 I was busy duffing my way to a flattering six (yes) so I'll defer to Sean's observations! 😆
« Last Edit: August 02, 2016, 06:51:42 PM by Paul Gray »
In the places where golf cuts through pretension and elitism, it thrives and will continue to thrive because the simple virtues of the game and its attendant culture are allowed to be most apparent. - Tim Gavrich

Thomas Dai

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Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, a Tennis Town, but...(1-11)
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2016, 08:26:54 PM »
Although not present on every bunker at this course, hairy long grass topped bunkers on inland courses seem to be 'in' currently. Something for the longterm or a shorter term trend that will be replaced by something else in time?


Welcome back Paul.



Atb

Sean_A

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Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, a Tennis Town, but...(1-11) New
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2016, 08:34:37 AM »
Atb

I don't see why hairy top bunkers should disappear so long as when employed they are appropriate.  Royal Wimbledon gets this about right.  Most of the time (parkland holes the big exception), it is fairway bunkers which are hairy and greenside bunkers shaved.  To me this looks right because the club is trying to push out the short grass around greens...even in low, fallaway areas.  I suspect the greens used to be this big originally and over time shrunk. It could well be that the sprinkler heads are now positioned on the perimeters of the shrunken greens, which makes it difficult to expand the greens, so short grass is the next best thing.

ROYAL WIMBLEDON TOUR CONT

The 12th is another fine two-shotter.  Bending right over a bunker, the fairway is a bit narrow given the punishment for a sightly errant shot.  I notice that the fairway has been dragged in on the left as an old bunker is buried in rough.  There is some talk of pushing the tee back 30-40 yards to create a short par 5, which would mean most players would have to work around the centerline bunker rather than fly it.  Extending the hole would also likely result in the third tee being moved further right, thus creating a dogleg right; which incidentally would be very similar to the original Park Jr. hole.  A tree disguises the dangerous rough lurking just right of the green. 


Somewhat similar to the 5th, #13 is another Colt par 3 of the sort he loved to design; plateau green with covering bunkers.  In this instance the false front has far more impact than it appears when on the tee.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: February 11, 2022, 09:17:38 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, a Tennis Town, but...(1-13) New
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2016, 05:14:27 AM »
ROYAL WIMBLEDON TOUR CONT

I think it is fair to say the final five holes aren't as interesting as the previous thirteen.  It must be a great temptation to walk up the hill and play 18 after putting out on 13.  That said, each of 14 through 18 is a good hole.  Just as on #3, we dive downhill for #14.  The drive is rather non-descript with a bunker on the right corner.  #15 plays down and up, but also a bit along the edge of a hill.  I am not convinced by the placement of the bunkers or how they are all angled in the same direction.
   

The 16th is similar to the 4th where approaching up the left of the green is the safe bet.




The wee 17th transitions the course back to the upper level and a more heathland feel.  The green is particularly harsh and leaving the approach below the hole is essential.


We finish on a short par 4 which is easier to hit from the tee and much less dangerous than the 6th.  Legging left, two bunkers protect the inside line to a green angled from front right to rear left.  When the hole is up front laying-up behind the bunkers works well. Should the hole be near the back of the green then one must be further right for the optimal angle. 






I must say the quality of Royal Wimbledon came as a great surprise to me.  I rarely hear or read mention of the course and this is an oversight.  The course is stocked with many good holes, a very good set of short holes and two holes which are outstanding (8 &11).  The routing is extremely clever in moving the holes around the course in all manner of directions.  This set-up also allows for a plethora of choices to play boozers loops after finishing the first hole.  Being so close to London it is a wonder how secluded Royal Wimbledon is in terms of traffic noise and very few rooftops in view.  I think there is room for improvement with tree removal and a plan to make a better fit between the parkland holes and the remainder of the course, but the recent short grass expansion around the greens is a very good start. The club is currently working with Tom Mackenzie to improve the course and I expect these efforts will be successful.  Royal Wimbledon should be in the conversation for top 100 GB&I.  2016.

Ciao 
« Last Edit: February 11, 2022, 09:18:15 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Matt Dawson

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Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, a Tennis Town, but...
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2016, 06:12:44 AM »
Sean

I agree, a lovely spot. it's been a long time since I played RWGC but I remember a very pleasant course. We used to play it back to back over a weekend with Royal Mid Surrey (its near neighbour) and I found it to be superior in all respects to RMS. Both get quite soft underfoot in the winter (in fact downright boggy for RMS) and somewhat baked out in summer though - such is life.

Your pictures look really good...in fact even better than I recall it. Also given its location it's an excellent place to be a member if you live SW London...quite a few friends of mine play there. Years ago I did speculatively look around one of the houses backing onto the course that was for sale - but at the time as a young single guy I wanted to live in the centre of town and play golf outside!

PS you are correct, the course you can see in the background is Coombe Hill.

Thomas Dai

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Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, a Tennis Town, but...
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2016, 01:06:45 PM »
A very nice tour Sean. Looks to be very fine course with some first class holes, especially some of the par-3's although a couple of the holes at the end of the round look to be over-bunkered. Thank you and well done.


Just goes to show how many fine courses there are there in the UK that not many folk outwith their immediate vacinity know are there or are worth playing. That's one of the great things about this website....someone visits and reports and the education and enlightenment spreads. I'm sure RWGC will get some additional visitors over the coming years due to this tour.


Atb

Jon Wiggett

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Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, a Tennis Town, but...
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2016, 04:42:31 PM »
Another great course tour Sean. Thanks, they are very much appreciated. From the photos to me the course looks very good but would certainly not suffer from a reduction in the number of bunkers as well as many being brought closer into the line of play.


Jon.

Paul Gray

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Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, The Tennis Town, But...
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2016, 07:09:15 PM »
Cracking stuff. Just two comments to add really:

I'm not personally of the view that the course is overly bunkered. The parkland holes towards the end do contain arguably too many but I'm not sure they are actually out of place. Each one of them has a valid reason to be considered.

I actually think Sean is a tiny bit harsh when he says the closing five holes are not quite worthy of the previous thirteen. True to say that the parkland holes are not the best the course has to offer but, in my opinion, #17 and #18 make for a lovely finish. I like a wee par 3 late on in a round and #18 is a quintessential short 4 to finish with. It may not contain anything so note worthy as the Valley of Sin but it does bring proceedings to a pleasant finale. I have very little time for the trend to build a 450+ yard par 4 to close on.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2016, 07:12:19 PM by Paul Gray »
In the places where golf cuts through pretension and elitism, it thrives and will continue to thrive because the simple virtues of the game and its attendant culture are allowed to be most apparent. - Tim Gavrich

Jon Wiggett

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Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, The Tennis Town, But...
« Reply #15 on: August 02, 2016, 08:00:35 PM »
Paul,

I am not saying it is over bunkered and it is of course always an assumption when judging from photos but I do not think that some of the bunkers really add anything to the course. On 16 for instance, I think you could lose the 1st and 4th bunkers without any lessening of the holes interest. Also, by bringing in to the center by 10 yards either the second or the third bunker  (having removed the other two) I think you would add considerably to the decision making and interest of the hole. And there are several other holes with the same thing. I am very much of the opinion that if a bunker does not have a function then it should not be there.

Jon

Sean_A

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Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, The Tennis Town, But...
« Reply #16 on: August 03, 2016, 05:11:51 AM »
Paul

Generally speaking the course isn't over-bunkered, but I could easily suggest 10 be removed, some combined to make larger bunkers and others be moved into more aggressive positions.  That said, the scheme is actually pretty good and I especially like the several bunkers placed well forward of greens.

The one hole which is very suspect is 15...too many bunkers, all the same basic shape and not very well placed. Because of the green site and fairway, this should probably be the most distinguished of the parkland holes.  Generally speaking, more needs to be done to distinguish the parkland holes from each other.  The basic down and up terrain makes this difficult, so it must be done with bunkers and cut lines.  Its unfortunate that three run in succession near the end of the round. 

Other than the parkland holes issue its only #6 which I don't think works in the least.  It needs more space and more interest.  Unfortuately, being squeezed between an unseen garden on the right and the 11th to the left doesn't leave much leeway.  I guess thats why archies exist!

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Paul Gray

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, The Tennis Town, But...
« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2016, 06:30:22 AM »
OK, take #15 and consider a back pin. Flirting with the right hand bunkers becomes a necessity. And consider the cross bunker for the short hitter. I like it where it is. Arguably the right greenside trap could come out to enable better running golf on the slope. Aesthetically, it's all just too parkland as well.

#6: you just don't like #6 because you drove through the fairway and lost a ball! 😆
In the places where golf cuts through pretension and elitism, it thrives and will continue to thrive because the simple virtues of the game and its attendant culture are allowed to be most apparent. - Tim Gavrich

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: ROYAL WIMBLEDON GC: Yes, The Tennis Town, But... New
« Reply #18 on: August 05, 2016, 04:47:47 AM »
Paul

I don't think either the left or right greenside bunkers add anything. Having three bunkers down the right in the fairway isn't necessary.  And it is strange that the left of the fairway is left unprotected.  The hole certainly needs a rethink..the bunkering is too regimented.

I am a strong believer in offering plenty of space for blind shots unless the hole is so compelling it can be forgiven....the 6th isn't compelling. There isn't enough space for a hole in that location in the current routing. The hole is simply a lay-up/wedge to an okay green....rather dull in my estimation and the only hole on the course I think is sub par.

Ciao 
« Last Edit: December 14, 2017, 08:34:14 PM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

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