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.
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
After receiving a certification from the Golf Academy of the South, Ron Dampf has spent the past 11 years imparting his knowledge to golfers of all ages and abilities. While helping pupils master a more effective swing, Ron takes the time to explain the conceptual thinking that makes one approach favorable to another. In addition to private lessons, Ron offers club-fitting services to match golfers' swings and body types with their ideal clubset and specifications.
The golfing gurus at Edwin Watts Golf Academy diagnose and correct their students' poor swing and putting habits in an effort to help them improve their shots and lower their scores. In one-on-one swing-analysis sessions, students learn a repeatable swing that eliminates tendencies they may have to slice, hook, push, or pull the ball. A special laser attaches to the end of the player's club and tracks the swing path while JC Video swing-analysis software records the session from two separate angles, lest analysis be thrown off by only looking at the golfer's good side. Putting analysis employs Tomi technology to measure eight separate parameters of the putting stroke, from clubhead orientation at address to swing path and tempo. After swing and putting lessons, students may access the recordings on a password-protected website, so they can forward videos to friends or sports-documentary filmmakers.
Certified golf instructor Chris Bonner draws on more than 14 years as a professional teacher to tailor lessons for each player's unique tendencies. Thanks to his flexible teaching style—perfected while teaching for three different Golf Digest Top 50 instructors—Chris feels right at home with golfers of all stripes. Lessons begin with proper fundamentals and move into swing mechanics, always taking into account the player's personal goals and abilities.
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.