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Up to Par

A look at what’s new at Greater Orlando’s golf courses and what helps them stand out from the pack

PUBLIC COURSES

Celebration Golf Club

Celebration Golf Club

WHAT’S NEW: This past year, course co-architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. spent almost a week at the course. After thinking about making a few changes to his design, he ultimately decided it was perfect the way it is.

PRO’S TAKE: Nick Lawson, director of instruction and lead Golf Channel Academy coach, says: “One of my favorite holes is No. 14. It is nestled back against our natural Florida setting with Bonnet Creek not far away. … The challenge comes in placing your second shot safely on the elevated and undulating green— too far right could land you in the pond.”

Falcon’s Fire Golf Club

WHAT’S NEW: Falcon’s Fire continues to improve its conditions of play and has new programs. Play Golf Now is a group of instruction clinics for beginners, Fight Club offers member discounts on tee times and pro-shop merchandise, and High School Boot Camp is available to aspiring and current high-school golfers.

PRO’S TAKE: John Hughes, PGA master professional and director of instruction, says the club’s signature hole, No. 13, called Bunker Hill, is the best. “Thirteen bunkers strategically shape the hole to your right from the tee, creating a true risk/reward decision for the golfer based on how much of the lake the golfer wants to carry with the tee shot,” he explains.

ChampionsGate Golf Resort

Mayfair Country Club

WHAT’S NEW: “We have brand-new Club Car golf carts,” says Mayfair pro Dave Allen. “That’s the newest thing.”

PRO’S TAKE: “I’m going to say Hole 12,” says Allen, “because the water is situated that challenges all skill levels. It’s a short par-5 that you have to hit over water on the second or third shot, and the water starts at about 114 yards from the green, and it’s only about 60 yards’ carry, but it seems to catch all skill levels.”

MetroWest Golf Club

WHAT’S NEW: “Hampton Golf is now managing MetroWest and it is on the up and up for sure,” says Tom Creavy, director of instruction. “It looks great, and it’s only going to continue to get better.”

PRO’S TAKE: Creavy loves two of MetroWest’s holes in particular: No. 9 and No. 18. “They’re just great finishing holes on either nine,” he says. “If you have a little match going with your buddies, anything can happen on 9 and 18.”

Disney’s Palm Golf Course

Oaks National Golf Club

WHAT’S NEW: The greens at Oaks National Golf Club are new this year, with G12 Bermuda grass.

PRO’S TAKE: “My favorite hole is No. 7,” says the course’s PGA professional, Paul Kenny. “The beautiful par-4 is unique. The tee shot is over marsh land to a small landing area. From there, the approach shot is also over more marsh land to a long green. I like the hole because of the view you have from the elevated tee box.”

Orange County National Golf Club

WHAT’S NEW: GolfBoards are a new way of getting around the course and cut about 45 minutes off the round. Each player has their own board, which looks like a skateboard with a handle. Time is saved because players can go straight to their own ball instead of all of the players’ balls.

PRO’S TAKE: “Crooked Cat No. 8, a par-3 with the tee box up on a hill and the green surrounded by bunkers and a sloped hill off the back [is our best hole],” says Thom Hord Sr., operations manager. “It plays 218 yards from the tips.”

Grand Cypress Golf Club

Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge

WHAT’S NEW: “We’ve renovated our range with lighting that shoots up from the ground, over the greens and of course on the tee, which lets us use that facility at night more,” says Rick McCord, head of the Orange Lake-associated McCord Golf Academy.

PRO’S TAKE: “Our signature is the Island Hole [No. 8], which was originally on one of the 18-holes but is now incorporated in the short 9—basically an executive course,” says McCord. “It’s completely surrounded by water.”

Stonegate Golf Club at Solivita

WHAT’S NEW: Hampton Golf is now currently managing Stonegate Golf Club, since August 3, 2016. Stonegate has renovated Oaks and Cypress courses with a new look, and the bunkers have been redesigned for more playability with a higher standard of consistent playing conditions.

PRO’S TAKE: “Oaks Course Hole No. 12, at a par-3 and 189 yards, is unique and challenging for all levels of players due to the location on a peninsula,” says Claude Eastwood, director of golf. “The wind coming toward you and a smaller target area makes this hole challenging.”

Reunion Resort Golf

Stoneybrook East Golf Club

PRO’S TAKE: “When the course was designed in 1997, the talk was about the Final Four,” says Mike Regner, director of golf. “Although [Hole Nos.] 15 and 17 are picturesque, the 16th and 18th holes are beastly.”

Stoneybrook West Golf Club

WHAT’S NEW: Stoneybrook West is currently removing some bunkers and reducing others to help the higher handicaps enjoy the course and increase the pace of play. In addition, the course has an aqua range that is big enough to host weddings and other large events.

PRO’S TAKE: Golf operations manager Steve Manning says the best holes are a toss-up between Hole No. 6 and Hole No. 18. “Hole 6 is a long par-4, but the second shot into the green is the tough part,” he explains. “Hole 18 is a par-5 with a risk/reward. With a good drive, you can go for it in two with a long iron or a wood, but if you miss it right, you are wet.”

RESORT COURSES

ChampionsGate Golf Resort

Ritz Carlton Golf Club

WHAT’S NEW: In summer 2016, ChampionsGate renovated the International Course’s greens and opened its Cranes Landing Miniature Golf Course, resulting in the Champs 9 Executive Course getting two new holes and landscaping. Also, the resort added its ChampionsGate Fishing & Outfitters program, and the National Course is slated to undergo greens renovations starting May 22.

PRO’S TAKE: On the International Course, director of golf Patrick Dill says his favorite hole is No. 7. “It’s the No. 1 handicap hole on this course,” he says. “It has a very difficult tee-off with out-of-bounds on the left, water and out-of-bounds on the right, and the fairway runs out into a pond after 319 down to 224 yards, depending on the tees selected.”

Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Golf Course

WHAT’S NEW: The addition of a retention pond to the left of the No. 1 teeing ground has opened an expanded view to the east overlooking Disney Springs.

PRO’S TAKE: “Hole No. 7 at Disney’s Lake Buena Vista golf course features its own island green par-3,” says Walt Disney World Golf’s Alex Forsyth. “A short hole, at only 125-155 yards, it shouldn’t prove too much trouble, but water lurks on all four sides of this green.”

Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course

WHAT’S NEW: Disney’s Magnolia golf course underwent an extensive renovation plan and now offers guests a brand-new challenge, as all of the bunkers were fully renovated, cart paths were repaired and extensive tree work was done.

PRO’S TAKE: Forsyth says the best and most challenging hole is No. 9. “Complete the front nine by finishing up in front of the PGA Tour’s Champions Pavilion commemorating the 40-plus years of PGA Tour history made here when the Walt Disney World Golf Classic visited to play Disney’s Magnolia, Palm and Lake Buena Vista golf courses each fall.”

Disney’s Palm Golf Course

WHAT’S NEW: In summer 2013, Disney’s Palm Golf Course was completely reimagined by the Arnold Palmer Golf Course Design group. This renovation received a national award in 2015.

PRO’S TAKE: “Hole No. 13, a short risk/reward par-4, allows the long-hitter the opportunity to hit the ball across the pond, taking on the water, while also trying to avoid the trees, in an attempt to reach the green across the dog-leg of this hole with your drive,” Forsyth says.

Grand Cypress Golf Club

WHAT’S NEW: Grand Cypress has been focusing on family activities for guests, such as drive-in movies using golf carts, nighttime Glow Golf at night on one of the putting greens, cookouts at the pool, karaoke in the clubhouse and family golf clinics.

PRO’S TAKE: “No. 6 on our South Course is a long par-5 with water down the left side and a narrow, elevated green for a target,” explains Jeremy Craft, director of golf. “The green is very well protected with sand and water to the left and right. There is a lot of risk/reward involved when thinking about going for this green in two. Your best bet is to lay up, try for your par and move on to the next hole.”

Mystic Dunes Golf Club

WHAT’S NEW: Last summer, a home development company started constructing homes between the golf holes which, in about four to five years, will have 576 single-family homes and will be a 55-plus active community.

PRO’S TAKE: “The best hole we have is our signature hole, which is Hole No. 2; a par-3 and 177 yards from the back tees,” says Jason Bednarz, operations manager. “It is an island green that is surrounded three-quarters of the way by a pond with a babbling brook down the right side. Also, we have the waterfall left of the green area.”

Reunion Resort Golf

WHAT’S NEW: One of the newest features we’ve added about 18 months ago is our FootGolf course,” says Kevin Baker, director of golf, explaining that the game’s a combination of golf and soccer using a soccer ball and a 24-inch cup. Other than that, it’s just like golf, is played on the Watson course, and is perfect for families. “We also opened up the Reunion Golf Academy last summer.”

PRO’S TAKE: Baker pegs Hole No. 7 on the Palmer Course as the most notable. “It’s a little shorter than the average par-4,” he says. “It’s one of those risk/reward holes where some of the big hitters can go for it in two. … It’s not a long carry, but it’s really picturesque.”

The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Orlando, Grande Lakes

WHAT’S NEW: This summer, the club will be updating its Fairways Pub. In 2015, Better Billy Bunker renovated all of its bunkers.

PRO’S TAKE: “The 18th hole is a beautiful par-5 with water all the way down the left side of the hole,” says Larry Rinker, director of instruction. “Longer hitters can reach the green in two and have a chance at an eagle. It is a great finishing hole for our annual PNC Father/Son Challenge.”

Shingle Creek Golf Club

WHAT’S NEW: The 18-hole course at Shingle Creek Golf Club was recently redesigned by the Arnold Palmer Design Company and includes three new holes, extra-long par-4s and par-5s, and hazards, twists and bends. The newly imagined course also includes a 2,000-square-foot covered outdoor pavilion for special events.

PRO’S TAKE: A par-5 at 606 yards, Hole No. 8, called Handshake, is director of golf Dave Scott’s favorite. “The ideal line is down the left side as close to the fairway bunker as you dare,” he says. “This will leave the shortest distance and best angle to contend with the lake that guards the most favorable line into the green.”

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s May 2017 issue.

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