The Grand Cypress Resort Golf Club: Fantasyland Comes Alive for Golfers in Orlando
ORLANDO, Fla. – There’s certainly no shortage of golf in the land of Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney World.
With its year-round warm weather, which keeps the grass growing and the clubs from gathering dust in the basement, Orlando lures players from all across the country.
Although there is plenty of competition nearby, like Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Golf Club and Disney’s golf resort, some consider the Grand Cypress Resort as the king of area golf. An award-winning golf academy, lavish accommodations and 45 holes of golf designed by Jack Nicklaus are just a few reasons why Grand Cypress is so well respected. The North-South tournament course, along with the East nine, and the New Course give Grand Cypress a leg up on competition because of the quality and variety of the courses, not to mention their impeccable condition.
While the 6,773-yard New Course is more wide open and player-friendly, the resort’s original North-South-East design, which plays roughly 6,900 yards from any combination of the three nines, is target-style, demanding golf.
Like anything else at Grand Cypress, playing golf here is expensive, but you get what you pay for – a superb round on a championship layout. Green fees are $115 in the off-season from May-October and $165 in-season from Jan. 1 to May 14 and October 2-Dec. 31.
Here’s a deeper look into the incredible golfing experience at the resort:
THE ORIGINAL COURSE: The tournament course is the North-South design, which opened on Feb. 1, 1984. It has hosted the LPGA HealthSouth Inaugural (1998-99), the LPGA Tournament of Champions (1994-96), the Shark Shootout, the World Cup of Golf, the Skills Challenge and the new LPGA.com Classic in January, 2001.
Like another of Nicklaus’ famous designs, the Bear in northern Michigan, the tournament course features ledged fairways, giving players a clear target to shoot for and one to avoid. Even though there are plenty of fairway bunkers and mounds filled with shaggy love grass, finding the fairway might be the easiest part of the day. Almost every approach shot demands a carry over water or bunkers to tiny greens.
“It’s a true, Jack Nicklaus shot-makers’ course,” said Director of Golf Bill Rowden.
Water comes into play on 14 of the 27 holes, including six of the South’s nine holes. The South’s seventh hole, a 432-yard par-4, is ranked as one of the best 500 holes in the world in Golf Magazine’s “Par 2000” list. The East, which opened on Jan. 15, 1986, has more of a wooded, traditional feel.
The first shot on the 153-yard, par-3 fifth hole is a testy one from an elevated tee to an island green, like that of the famous 17th hole at the TPC of Sawgrass, also in Florida. You’re either on the green putting for birdie, in one of the two bunkers or in the drink.
The closing hole, a 511-yard par-5, requires the toughest tee shot at the resort – a carry over water and a bunker along the left side of the fairway. On the approach shot, most players will lay up short of the rough, which runs through the fairway at the 100-yard mark, as the land bottlenecks between water on the left and the trees to the right.
As expected, golfers marvel at how strategic Nicklaus’ designs really are. “The courses are in immaculate condition,” said Nick Packer, who recently visited from England. “Each hole, each shot is a challenge. It’s beautiful.”
THE NEW COURSE: The New Course, which opened in January 1988, is a refreshing change from the tough, target-style golf of the other resort course. The New Course, which is a tribute to St. Andrews in Scotland, is so unique, Golf Magazine rated it the 73rd best public course in the country in its 2000 rankings.
Set in an open meadow, there is little water (except for burns fronting greens No. 1 and 10), no rough and virtually no trees. Where’s the challenge in that, you ask? Tricky greens, tightly trimmed fairways and more than 100 pot bunkers can sending scores soaring. The course has everything St. Andrews does, with pot bunkers as much as 12 feet deep, double greens, burns with stone bridges and even a road hole, with a giant stone wall running along the water’s edge.
Many of the pot bunkers are hidden from view off the tee, but if you follow the advice of the computerized yardage systems in the carts, you’ll be OK.
Rowden says the New Course plays several shots easier than the North-South course, but the challenge is still great fun. “A lot of the time you have to contend with the wind,” he said. “The most important club in your bag is the putter. There are a lot of places off the green that you can put from.” Rowden added there are no plans to build another course in the near future, but that there is plenty of room among the resort’s 1,500 acres of land to do so.
GRAND CYPRESS ACADEMY OF GOLF: The Grand Cypress Academy of Golf is ranked as one of “America’s top 25 Golf Schools” by Golf Magazine for good reason. Two instructors, former touring pro Phil Rodgers and director Fred Griffin, are ranked among the top 100 teachers in the country by Golf Magazine. Rodgers had a successful career on the PGA Tour, winning six times, and the Senior Tour. LPGA hall-of-famer Kathy Whitworth, who won 88 times in her career in the late 1960s and 1970s, adds more firepower to the knowledgeable staff.
The staff uses CompuSport to analyze each student’s swing. This computer then matches any swing with that of a PGA player, like Mark O’Meara or Nicklaus. Showing every movement in slow motion, the computer tells each player how to improve his or her club position along the swing plane.
The 21-acre practice facility also features a par-3, par-4 and par-5 hole to practice any new-found techniques, along with a covered driving range, a 7,500-square foot putting green and nine practice bunkers.