Winter Park Country Club's fairways have expanded from 9 to 27 and shrink back to 9 again throughout its history. Now celebrating its 100th season in the fall of 2014, perhaps the course's greatest claim to fame has been the legendary figures who have graced its narrow, tree-hampered fairways, including players with surnames such as Hogan, Snead, and Sarazen.
Players of all stripes, from greenhorns to green-jacket holders, must deal with difficult design and terrain, as showcased on the course?s signature fourth hole, whose dogleg left and tight out-of-bounds areas lead a troubling path to a green situated behind two large bunkers and a massive oak tree. The biggest challenge, however, may reside on the par 3 seventh hole, whose deceptively simple 165-yard length leads into a hard-to-read green with a shape-shifting flagstick.
Course at a Glance:
Nine-hole, par 35 course
Length of 2,470 yards
Course rating of 31.8
Slope rating of 102 on bermuda grass
See hole details
Limited edition 100th anniversary merchandise available in pro shop
The 18-hole course at Winter Pines Golf Club was first drawn up in 1968, and continues to surround golfers in a Technicolor terrarium marked by brightly flowered landscapes and deep emerald turf as it celebrates its 45th birthday. The front nine presents a traditional, par 36 layout that stretches to 3,026 yards, complete with two par 5s just upwards of 470 yards apiece but still well southwards of the 100,000-yard distance at which holes can apply for statehood. Golfers having trouble with the par 5s will find a respite on a par 31 back nine stocked with five par 3s—including four in a row from holes 14 through 17. Those hoping that these indicate can-of-corn iron shots and no-hands aces will come to a rude awakening, however, when they find themselves staring down tee shots of more than 210 yards on holes 12, 15, and 17.
Ventura Country Club unfurls its par 70, 5,659-yard course around the edge of a meandering body of water, challenging golfers with narrow fairways and sporadic trees engulfing projectile easements. On the seventh hole, an honor guard of water hazards and bunkers allows only the most precise shots to enter its elevated green, followed by the 467-yard 13th hole, an imposing gauntlet encompassing a sharp dogleg left dotted with palm trees that yearn to swat down careless strokes. Three sets of tees ensure that players of every skill level can thoroughly enjoy the course's intricacies. Before circumnavigating the links, golfers can warm up on the driving range with a bag of range balls apiece, practicing long-range shots or revealing their mannequin-leg sand wedge. Two bottles of water replenish sweat lost during intense putts, and a pair of hot dogs either cures postgame hunger or acts as meaty makeshift tees.
During a round of golf in this region, it?s not uncommon for players to see the occasional alligator sunning itself on the banks of a fairway pond. The same, however, cannot be said for miniature-golf courses, unless you?re playing at Congo River Golf, where the civilized sinking of putts coexists with the visceral carnage of live-alligator feedings. More than 25 alligators wait for patrons to feed them morsels of gator food in an exhibit beside the course. Though the course offers no chance for an encounter with the ancient, scaly species, it enchants players with waterfalls, safari-themed artifacts, and towering rock faces. In addition, Congo River Golf encompasses an indoor arcade and a gemstone-mining station, where guests dig through dirt for fossils, arrowheads, and Neanderthal?s kindergarten time capsules.
Designed by prolific course architect William W. Amick, Fairways Golf Club's par 70 course takes golfers careening across 18 holes of pristine Florida landscape. Though it has a relatively short layout, the course compensates for its diminutive length with winding fairways flanked by multiple water hazards, where a tribe of merpeople raises sunken golf balls as their own. Expansive bunkers populate the course's fairways and fringes, their dazzling white sands further shrinking golf balls' safe landing zones and attracting droves of disoriented sunbathers. Along with its fun but challenging course, the club promotes score-shaving practice with an onsite driving range and peddles stylish birdie-hunting apparel and accessories at the pro shop.
Golf instructor Dave Stanley has seen just about every type of golf swing imaginable. His golf academy, GolfEd, is an indoor golf studio where Dave's instincts for swing imbalances work in symphony with launch monitors and video swing technology used to analyze swings without missing a late hip turn or the overpronation of a vestigial tail.
Golf Ed's philosophy hinges on helping golfers build a simple, effective swing that they can commit to muscle memory and reproduce under any conditions. The facility also hosts independent practice sessions, during which guests can overcome the yips on the indoor putting green.