This is the second in a series of stories describing the best holes in the Orlando area.
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, a marketing co-op 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.
This second in the series reveals the “Devilishly Delightful Dozen” Par 4’s, listed in alphabetical order.
Let us know your thoughts. Do you have beauties or beasts we are missing?
Bay Hill Club 18 – This mid-length par 4 has proven to be one of the most exciting finishing holes on the PGA Tour for decades. Many titles in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in mid-March have been decided on this treacherous hole on Sunday afternoon, especially if the March winds are whipping. The second shot on the 458-yard hole is the key. Water guards the entire front of the kidney-shaped green, and three bunkers await shots that fly the broad but shallow putting surface.
ChampionsGate International 7 – This is one of those par 4’s that many amateurs would be better off playing as a par 5, and not because of length (447 from the tips). You’ll see why when you step onto the tee box. A narrow landing area is flanked by water on the right and bunkers on the left. Even if you hit the fairway you’ll think twice about going for the green with another water hazard staring you in the face. There is a bailout area short and right of the green if bravado gives way to common sense.
Falcon’s Fire 13 – Judging distance off the tee will determine how well you play this intriguing dogleg right, which plays from 296 to 394 yards. First step is to decide how much of the lake you should bite off. The water runs the entire length of the hole. If you bite off too much, you are re-teeing. If you hit it too far, you may find one of dozen bunkers dotting the mounds on the left. Find the fairway and a relatively short approach to a sloping green awaits.
Grand Cypress New 8 – The New Course at Grand Cypress Resort was designed by Jack Nicklaus with an eye on The Old Course at St. Andrews. There are several replica holes, and while this isn’t one of them, it does resemble the first at The Old Course in that it has a small stream running in front of the green. Playing 440 from the tips, the tee shot must avoid bunkers in the center of the fairway. The approach shot to an undulating green must carry the stream.
Orange County Crooked Cat 12 – Accuracy is the keyword for this hole, which plays 461 yards from the tips. Water runs the length of the hole on the right, and must be carried on the approach shot. While left is the safe play off the tee, you’ll want to come as close to the water as you safely can. The closer to the water, the shorter the approach to a challenging two-tiered green. Par is a great score here.
Orange County Panther Lake 3 – Great par 4’s abound on this track, but maybe the best is the third, the No. 1 handicap hole. From the tips, this 470 yarder plays over two water hazards. The narrow fairway that slopes toward the lake on the left requires a precise tee shot down the middle. Bunkers guard the landing area on the left and right. Take an extra club on your approach shot to avoid the creek in front of the green.
Reunion Palmer 7 – This is the ultimate in risk/reward holes, and a truly magnificent short par 4. Playing 303 yards from the tips down to 180 from the forward tees, the hole all but begs golfers to tee it high and try to drive the green. The shot must carry water and avoid several sprawling bunkers. A green severely sloping from back to front will accept the perfectly struck tee shot. But anything slightly left or right could lead to a big number. Thank you Arnold Palmer for this beauty.
Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes 9 – PGA professional Nathan Stith calls this the best pure championship golf hole on the course. Measuring 453 yards from the championship tee, this slight dogleg left features a native environmental hazard area all along the left side of the hole, ready to gobble up wayward shots from tee to green. The Greg Norman design has one other cool feature. You will typically see several deer enjoying the tranquil environment.
Southern Dunes 5 - This short (378 yards) par 4 has two fairways that are divided by seven bunkers. The safer tee shot is to the right, leaving a demanding second shot across the pond to a narrow, diagonally sloped green. The bolder play off the tee is to the narrow landing area left of the bunkers. Find the fairway and you’ll be looking down the throat of the green. Land in one of those bunkers, this innocent par 4 becomes a nightmare.
Timacuan 2 – This Ron Garl-design was once voted as the toughest hole in Central Florida. Playing 421 from the tips, the tee shot must carry water to what is basically an island fairway. A well-struck left to right tee shot should leave a middle iron to the green. But the work is just half done. The green, which slopes severely from back to front, is completely fronted by water, meaning the approach must be hit perfectly. A par here is golden.
Waldorf Astoria 6 -- Called “Spyglass,” this Rees Jones design plays 478 yards from the tips. What this straightaway par 4 lacks in water it makes up for in length. Approach shots are beautifully framed on all sides with tall stately pines. The green is open to the front, making it receptive to longer iron shots.
Windermere 18 – Picture the 18th hole at TPC Sawgrass and you get a clear vision of one of Orlando’s best-looking finishing holes. There is a lake and bulkhead down the left side which forces you to drive the ball right. Be careful with that route, however, as out of bounds markers guard the right side. The second shot requires a medium iron to a small green over a creek that runs in front and to the right of the green.