Little-known Timacuan Golf Club in Lake Mary is a big time Orlando-area play


One of the Orlando area's best-kept secrets is Timacuan Golf Club, which is home to a scenic and challenging design that hosts a 2012 U.S. Open Qualifier on May 17.

LAKE MARY, Fla. -- Everyone may not know its name, but you'll certainly be glad you came. If you're looking for a fair golf course with unique holes that offers the perfect balance of challenge and charm, head 15 minutes north to Timacuan Golf Club in Lake Mary.

A Florida secret kept in the state's central chamber, Timacuan's blueprint is modeled to a tee after original architect Ron Garl's design philosophy (the course was renovated by Bobby Weed in 1996 to deal with some initial drainage issues). Originally opened in 1987, Timacuan is one of Garl's earlier projects and reflects his architecture firm's mission statement: 'To design and build memorable courses that challenge players to excel and that everyone can enjoy.'

Garl is known for his innovative routings and the belief that a course should, 'sit softly on the land.'

Timacuan Golf Club: The course

Head Professional Sam Srour has only been at Timacuan a few months but can already sum up the beauty and madness the course provides in one simple phrase: 'What you see is what you get,' he said. 'With one exception.'

That one exception is the par-4 second. Playing 421 yards from the championship tees, it was named the toughest hole in the region by Orlando Magazine, and it will become evident why the first time you play it. It's a devil's advocate kind of hole -- it can be extremely devilish, and you'll probably leave the round advocating it be blown up. A big number at the second can turn an otherwise solid round into another 'woulda, coulda, shoulda' kind of day.

No. 2 presents two challenges: forced carry over water off the tee and on your approach. Srour said the second hole plays a full club longer than others on the course, but unfortunately, that tidbit came after my round.

I, along with the others in my foursome, safely found the fairway but came up short on our approaches and carded double-bogey sixes. My experience with No. 2 probably isn't much different than your first go-round or anyone else's would be. In fact, legend has it that a member -- the course is semi-private -- once carded a 42 on the hole during tournament play. If one of Timacaun's own can't conquer the hole, there may be little hope for the rest of us.

Aside from the second, the front nine is a dunes-style layout with rolling fairways and big greens. There's very little water on the front, and unless you hit it five miles sideways, even mishits should be recoverable.

The back nine is more of a traditional Florida layout where water comes into play on eight of the nine holes. The entire back side can be likened to No. 15 and 16 at TPC Sawgrass or any of the holes at Doral -- risk-reward shots with water in play.

The two nines are distinct in style but equal in appeal. Which nine you'll fancy will depend on what you consider your cup of tea.

'Depends where you're from,' Director of Golf Nate Stevenson said. 'Those from England tend to relate more to the front nine, and those looking for a more traditional Florida layout tend to favor the back.'

Timacuan Golf Club: The verdict

A quick trip from Orlando, Timacuan is both the smart and convenient play. And if you can't decide what type of golf you're in the mood for, choose Timacuan and receive the perfect dosage of dunes and doozy.

The club's location and facilities have also made it a popular pick to host top area tournaments. In 2012, it's already hosted the NGA Tour, Ladies Suncoast Tour, Hurricane Junior Tour, Golf Channel Am Tour, Moolight Mini Tour and the U.S. Kids Tour. And in May, it will host a local U.S. Open Qualifier, where 84 entrants will compete for five-to-six spots in the sectional qualifier in hopes of teeing it up in the U.S. Open at Olympic Club.