Grande Pines Golf Club - Bold and Beautiful

Grande Pines Golf ClubBefore Steve Smyers and his architectural team softened the course, Orlando’s Grande Pines Golf Club developed a reputation as a punishing track. Bunkers were seemingly unavoidable and tufts of wispy native grasses served as final resting places for wayward shots. The club’s slick, sloping greens were as difficult to read as an article on the intricacies of the credit default swap.

The 2003 re-design that would eventually earn Grande Pines the distinction of Marriott Golf property of the year (2008) removed bunkers, widened landing strips, dialed back native areas and installed doglegs. The inherent qualities of the layout remained intact, but the course became much more playable. While Grande Pines is less daunting now, it continues to be a stern test of shot-making ability. And while they roll true, those greens still take some getting used to.

A new maintenance practice will only magnify the improvements at Grande Pines, cementing its status as a “must play” for the coming season. Grande Pines will be doing its first-ever full tee-to-green rye and Poa overseed, and is expected to be in all-time form for the start of 2011.

Grande Pines has more tree-lined fairways than a typical Florida course, and visually imitates a more forested setup you’d find in North Carolina.

As the upscale resort course enters a new decade, this Marriott masterpiece is arguably the most dynamic layout in Central Florida.

Aesthetically pleasing and well-kept green complexes are the hallmark of the design. Many greens are guarded by deep bunkers, water features or both, and narrow, elevated openings leave little or no room for error.

Grande Pines Golf Club, Florida

Placement is also at a premium. A number of the smooth, pristine putting surfaces have multiple tiers. If your approach comes to a stop in the wrong section of a green, two-putting becomes a difficult proposition.

Overall yardage from the back tees is listed at 7,012, but Grande Pines tends to feel shorter if you can take advantage of the angles and shortcuts available to you. Driver is not a must on every hole. In fact, some fairways on short par 4s won’t hold a tee shot struck purely depending on the tee box you’re hitting from.

A unique mixture of short and medium length par 4s keeps the golfer’s mind sharp throughout the round. On the front side there are two par 4s – Nos. 3 and 7 – that measure less than 350 yards from the tee, but present winding doglegs to deal with. By contrast, the front nine features three holes that exceed 400 yards, including the striking 429-yard 6th that features a bend to the left and a sizeable greenside lake.

Like the front, the second nine wastes little time showing off the goods that keep golfers coming back to Grande Pines. Rated as the second toughest hole on the course, the 551-yard par-5 11th is certainly a classic. Water looms on the right side for the duration of this true three-shot par 5, putting more value on accuracy than length. A birdie is possible if you can leave yourself with a short approach and avoid the water and bunker fronting the green.

Grande Pines

The remainder of the back nine is highlighted by a trio of par 4s – the 14th, 16th and 18th – that will test every aspect of your game from driver to flat stick. All three measure over 435 yards from the back tees, and feature severe doglegs and require deft approach shots to challenging greens.

Thankfully, a pair of quality par 3s break up this stretch of impressive par 4s, providing golfers with a brief respite before the next challenge arrives.

The ability to draw the ball from right to left, and cut it back left to right is always a valuable skill. It can be the difference between a routine green hit in regulation and a difficult up-and-down out of a sandy grave at Grande Pines.

At its core, Grande Pines is a thinking man’s golf course where potential problem areas are more likely to be visited by aggressive players. Calculating a proper game plan and deciphering the quick, well-contoured greens necessitates patience and repeat play.

“It’s a course that has to be played and studied and understood,” Smyers told the Lakeland Ledger when Grande Pines reopened in 2003. “You’re not supposed to get it the first time around.”

“The idea was to not make the course too tough off the tee with forced carries and length, but to create a golf course where you really had to place your ball,” said Grande Pines Director of Golf Andy Mitchell. “The course is entirely out in front of you, but there are places on every hole you simply can’t hit the ball and not pay a price.”

Grande Pines Golf Club - Bold and Beautiful

Smyers, who teamed with player consultant Nick Faldo at Grande Pines, has built outstanding layouts from the heartland of the U.S. to Australia, but he’s saved some of his best work for his home state of Florida.

In addition to Grande Pines, which was known as International Golf Club before he got a hold of it, Smyers is the architect of record for the award-winning Southern Dunes Golf & Country Club in Haines City and Old Memorial in Tampa. He also revitalized prestigious Isleworth Golf and Country Club.

Grande Pines has kept its promise to preserve and protect the environmental integrity of the land it was built upon. You’ll notice unaltered marsh and native areas as you move from one hole to the next. This eco-friendly approach was celebrated in 2007 when the course earned Audubon Certification through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for golf courses.

Golfers staying at the doorstep of Disney will discover that Grande Pines is a quick and painless commute. The golf club is located just down the road from Sea World off of International Drive. Four sets of tees give beginners a chance to play Grande Pines, and all golf carts are equipped with GPS systems that give real time yardage readings. You can even order lunch from the comfort of your cart and have it ready, warm and waiting as you make the turn.

Those looking to take their game to the next level should check out the Faldo Golf Institute across the road from Grande Pines. The premier golf instruction outfit has programs to match each player’s skill level and desired goals. Applying expertise matched to your game, the institute caters to elite players, new players and everyone in between.

For more information on Grande Pines Golf Club, the Faldo Golf Institute, current specials and rates or to book a package, special program or tee time, visit http://www.grandepines.com/ or call (407) 239-6909.

 

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