Golfers love to argue about which holes are their favorites on particular golf courses. Many elements go into a well-designed golf hole. Strategic value, aesthetics, angles, risk-reward choices, receptive greens, well-placed hazards – the list goes on.
In most cases these elements are subjective. One player’s beauty is another player’s beast.
Within the 75 courses in the Orlando area, there are dozens of great golf holes designed by the best names in the business – Fazio, Nicklaus, Palmer, Garl, Jones, Smyers, Norman.
GolfOrlando, based in Altamonte Springs, polled golf directors and golfers in the region to assist in creating a list of the best par 3’s, 4’s and 5’s in Orlando. Those replies were blended with a few of the GolfOrlando staff’s ideas, and a list of the best holes in Central Florida was born.
This is the first in a three-part series. Today we reveal GolfOrlando’s “Devilishly Delightful Dozen” Par 3’s.
Celebration 3rd hole – Length is not the big challenge on this beautiful hole, though it can play 209 yards from the tips. It’s all about the green, which is considered the most difficult on the layout designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. Finding a level putt anywhere on the green is a challenge. The putting surface is narrow in the middle and slopes toward the back, funneling off shots that come in too hot. From the tee the hole is picturesque with a fountain in the middle of the natural pond that must be carried to reach the green, and a bunker guarding the front of the green.
Disney Magnolia 6 – This may be one of the photographed holes east of the 7th at Pebble Beach – but not by professional photographers. This would be by the players, posing in front of the Mickey Mouse-shaped bunker guarding the front of the green. Magnolia hosted the PGA Tour for decades, and this 202-yard signature hole was always among the toughest pars on the course.
Falcon’s Fire 15 – This beauty is appropriately named “Watery Grave.” Rees Jones designed a terrific short par 3 that requires 100 percent attention. At 163 yards from the back tees, most can play it with a short to middle iron. But the lake that guards the front and right of the putting surface creates a most intimidating look. A big bunker behind the sloping green means that bailout is not an option on 15.
Grand Cypress East 5 – It only takes one glance at this hole from the tee box to know why it is special. The island green provides a simple directive – hit a good shot and you have a great chance at par; hit a poor shot and your ball sinks to its grave at the bottom of the lake. No matter which tees you play from, designer Jack Nicklaus has created a hole that requires the ultimate in focus.
Mission Inn El Campeon 8 – When the wind is blowing, this is one of the toughest par 3’s in central Florida. It is guarded by water on three sides, and a treacherous bunker and trees protect it on the other. The shot can play up to 190 yards, but an undulating putting surface requires accuracy no matter what distance you play from. The historic Mission Inn Resort frames the background.
Mystic Dunes 2 – Get caught up in the beauty of this hole, with the waterfall in the background, and you’re begging for a big number. The hole plays just 177 from the tips, but designer Gary Koch had other defenses in mind for this hole. The first is a required carry over water. The second are three bunkers guarding the front, left and rear of the green. And the third is the island green itself, with lots of slope and three tiers.
Orange County Panther 11 – This is the toughest of four very challenging par 3’s on Panther Lake. Appropriately named Rowdie, it plays 228 yards fro the back tees, but length is only half the battle. Anything short likely will end up in the hazard or bunker. And if you’re long you’ll have a very difficult up and down for par. You’ll need your best swing on this one.
Ritz Carlton 17 –Whether you are working on a career round or trying to close out a match, this hole can make you weak in the knees. The longest par 3 on the Greg Norman design plays between 216 and 125 yards. A prevailing cross wind will pull your shot toward Grande Lake on the left, so the best place to miss the green is a collection area to the right, from which you will have a realistic chance at an up-and-down par.
Shingle Creek 17 – The view’s the thing on this David Harman-designed 17th, which can play from 137 to 220 yards. A view of Shingle Creek Resort is in the background, trying to play with your concentration. Water and bunker are ready to gobble up shots missed to the right, and a sprawling bunker guards the back of the green. The putting surface slopes from back right to front left, so there are no easy pin placements.
Southern Dunes 11 -- From the back tees the hole plays 216yds downhill to an open green, but miss right, left or long and you will not be able to see the surface of the green when hitting your next shot. It will take two great shots to make par, because the fun really begins once you get on the green. When you stand on the green it looks like it slopes from back to front, but it actually slopes front to back. This green creates a lot of head scratching.
Timacuan 16 – One of the more intimidating tee shots at this Lake Mary course, originally designed by Ron Garl and tweaked by Bobby Weed in 1995. The shot plays up to 203 yards to a large, sloping green that is bordered by water on the front, right and left. Even a well-struck tee shot must carry small mounds on the front in order to find the green. A par here is a good score.
Victoria Hills 14 – This demanding par 3 by Ron Garl is all about angles. The hole, which plays from 92 to 225 yards, features a large green that slopes from right to left. It is defended by two bunkers, and a natural area lines the entire left side. Club selection is crucial, because there is not an easy up-and-down anywhere around the green.