Elevate Your Game at Hawk's Landing Golf Club

By Elaine Gallant, Contributor

ORLANDO, FL - Part of a bird of prey's strategy is to soar high above its hunting ground while searching for opportunities and pitfalls. After surveying the area, it will swoop down to initiate its game plan.

As a golfer, if you've ever wished you could incorporate this "bird of prey" strategy into your game, then consider playing Hawk's Landing Golf Club at Orlando's World Center Marriott Resort and Convention Center. Here, three exterior, glass elevators rise 27 floors affording you an almost complete bird's-eye view of this meticulous, but tricky 18 holes of championship golf.

What you'll notice immediately, whether on the elevator's rise or the descent, is how eye-poppingly beautiful the golf course looks with its contrasting colors of deep, lush-green grass against blooming trees and flowers. Next, you'll probably smile at the course's opportunistic short length of only 6,810 yards from the back tees. Probably, too, you'll feel a sense of serenity as you focus on the gently swaying pine and oak forest or watch waterfowl bob and waddle while birds of flight glide lazily above.

But as you continue surveying the playing field below, the bird of prey in you will start to sense the impending pitfalls. Notice again the water. It comes into play on the entire back nine and six of the front. Notice the bunkers. Some are long and shapely while others are deep-faced -- choking your approach or blocking your view of the green. Notice the fairways - tight, hooked and sliced. Some run parallel while others switch back behind the resort and are out of view. Even the small greens require a long study.

The key, according to Tony Austin, director of golf, is to know where the pins are and to study carefully the ProLink (GPS) electronic caddy system. You need to know your game and to have your wits about you.

"I think our course is fun. You have a lot of variety. And, it's not tremendously long to tax you that way," Austin said. "Recreational golfers really enjoy the course. As for the touring pro, because of his length, only on occasion would he need his driver. It's target golf in a way. It's course management. When you miss the greens here, you'll need a little imagination to score."

So now with the ground surveyed below and a game plan firmly in mind, it's time to make your landing and implement your plan of attack.

After gliding on to the course with holes one through three, your first chase begins on the 535-yard, par 5 number 4. Cut in half by water running up the right off the tee and the approach, then water running up the left to the green, this s-shaped fairway comes with the starter's advice: "Hit a good shot off the tee, then aim your second at the resort's tower of balconies."

Survive this contortion and you'll find hole number 5 with a splendid spine of bunkers splitting a 342-yard, par 4 followed by an eagle opportunity on the 475-yard, par 5 number 6. Next, you'll need to dig in your claws for the 229-yard, par 3 featuring a set of false-front bunkers to the green that's situated 35 yards beyond. Holes eight and nine are no easy tasks either with water carries and negotiable bunkers, but you'll be pleased in knowing they are forgiving par 4's at 353 and 407 yards respectively. All in all, the front nine is sharp, showing a lot of character and a low scoring opportunity.

At the turn, things kick up a notch. With the look of a tranquil country club, the back nine is sure to challenge. Here, the pine forest and water are much more prevalent. There's an island green -- the signature, 390-yard, par 4 number 11 that begins what Austin and his staff call their "Amen corner" - a stretch of holes with greenside mounding, water carries and plenty of birdie chances. There's also a subtlety to the greens forcing you to vary the approach and, on the par 4, 412-yard number 12, a tee box with a grip so tight, you'll be on your knees.

Expect birdie, birdie, birdie from holes 15 through 17 (if you play them smartly). Otherwise, keep expectations low going into 18 -- the finishing, number one handicapped hole. At 565 yards, it's the longest hole on the course and is often played into the wind. The approach shot is particularly nasty.

"It's really not hard until you get to that shot," Austin said. "You know, everything's on the line, bets are riding and you've got a one shot lead. It's like, there's no margin for error. It's fun. I think as much as people may grumble with that being the last hole, they always remember it and talk about it."

Remember it, you will. And should you take a final elevator flight skyward, maybe to reconfigure a shot possibility or to seek reassurance from a previous opinion, know that the bird of prey in you is already planning yet another round.

Hawk's Landing, originally a 1986 Joe Lee design, was re-designed by Robert E. Cupp II in 1999 and offers four sets of tees. The blacks measure 6,810 yards and carry a slope / course rating of 134 / 73.2; the greens - 6,392 yards at 128 / 71.2; the golds -- 5,833 yards at 119 / 68.6; (or 130 / 73.6 for women) and the silvers - 4,890 at 117 / 68.4. Seasonal and local rates range from $45 -- $165.

Elaine GallantElaine Gallant, Contributor

Elaine Gallant is a freelance writer specializing in golf, tennis, and travel. Her many experiences with travel and golf have taken her around the Untied States, Europe, Greece, the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaiian Islands, Australia and points in between.

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