ORLANDO, Fla. – With close to 100 public golf courses and not one but two long-standing PGA Tour events, you could argue that Orlando already has all the golf it can handle.
But despite its high concentration of golf as well as the current state of the economy, Waldorf Astoria plunged into the golf biz last fall with the opening of Waldorf Astoria Golf Club. But with Rees Jones as course designer, it ensured it won't be just another golf resort in an already crowded market.
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This is Jones' first course design in Orlando, but he's confident of its place in the region's golf scene.
'The course is different than any in Orlando, because it has an old, classic look,' Jones said.
The bunkers, in fact, were carved to be reminiscent of hazards designed at courses a century ago.
Jones earned the moniker, 'U.S. Open Doctor' for his reconstruction of such classic venues as Bethpage Black and Congressional Country Club. And while Waldorf Astoria Golf Club doesn't have the history to host a U.S. Open, Jones believes its inviting characteristics could attract the state's biggest amateur events.
'There's no housing,' he said, 'and the tees and greens are near each other. So if you had a state amateur here, you could easily walk it.'
Waldorf Astoria Golf Club: Design overview
Contrary to most resort golf courses in Orlando that feature generous fairways and large greens, Waldorf Astoria GC is more of a shot maker's delight – particularly around the greens, which are small and elevated with run-off areas. Short-game shots require creativity and precision.
True Florida golf characteristics shine through, though, as eight holes include water hazards off the tee, and eight holes feature water into the green. But most of the water is behind the greens.
Five sets of tees ensure the course is suitable for every level of golfer.
Waldorf Astoria Golf Club: Key holes
Since Jones built Waldorf Astoria Golf Club as a tournament-caliber golf course, it's no surprise that the meat of the round begins on the back nine and continues until the end.
The 624-yard 12th is the longest hole by 60 yards. Adding insult to injury, it plays into the prevailing southerly wind.
Taking golfers from one extreme to the other, No. 13 is an enticing 322 yards from the tips, the shortest par 4 of the day. But before you quickly pull driver, notice the imposing lake that hugs the entire left side of this dogleg left. It's a classic risk-reward opportunity.
The 14th and 15th holes take you through the most exposed part of the golf course. With water and bunkers in play off the tee and into the green, just try to hang on if the wind is blowing.
Waldorf Astoria Golf Club's 17th is a whopping 482 yards from the tips, the longest par 4 on the course.
The home hole is a reachable par 5, but the green falls off on three sides into water.
If you can play Nos. 12 through 18 without getting into too much trouble, you'll probably beat your partner, whether it's a friendly game or the Florida Amateur.
Waldorf Astoria Golf Club: The verdict
Because of Orlando's coffee-table-like topography, golf courses can't survive on aesthetics alone. Elements of style and service are imperative. As you'd expect from a luxurious hospitality company, Waldorf Astoria pulls out all the stops in this regard, with such items as valet parking, a modern clubhouse and towels dampened at one end for easy club cleaning during your golf round.
The golf course feels like a modern, private club that's well maintained. Though it's smack dab in the middle of Disney, you wouldn't know.
For the high-end, traveling golfer who's not exactly giddy about a return trip to see Mickey, a stay-and-play at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando will bring that elusive sense of calm to your family vacation. So relax and enjoy the trip. Just remember to keep the wheels greased for that tough stretch on the back nine.