Signature Course - Black Bear Golf Club

Black Bear Golf Club OrlandoYes, there is a bear story behind Black Bear Golf Club northeast of Eustis in Lake County. Folks there vividly remember a decent sized black bear wandering by the clubhouse around Thanksgiving some years back, leaving a few paw prints, and a few mouths gaping as he “played through” down the ninth hole and back toward the Ocala National Forest just north of the course.

Of course, the legend of the bear grows every season, a fitting analogy for the stature of this golf course that at one time might have been considered far removed from the other great Orlando-area courses, but is getting impressively closer, both in location and quality-of-play, with each passing season. The host of seven straight USGA Public Links Qualifiers, Black Bear’s great design, fabulous finish, and a location that’s just 15 minutes off Route 429 are making it a destination course for hundreds of players every week.

Black Bear Golf Club, OrlandoAnd when they reach that destination, they’re finding a friendly atmosphere from the casual dining in the Bear’s Den (what else would they name it?) and on their great covered patio that, when its not hosting one of numerous outings Black Bear entertains every week, plays host to live entertainment on Friday nights.

There’s another story to be told here, a love story between the Carson family and their ranchland. They sold the land to home builders in the mid-90’s, then watched the course take shape, carved out of an orange grove and pasture by Pete Dye’s son P.B. A couple of course operators later, the Carson’s decided they literally wanted to get back to their roots, so they bought Black Bear back in the fall of 2004 and as a family are committed to making the most of this diamond-in-thenot-so-rough.

There’s not really THAT much rough at Black Bear Golf Club, though some had to be put on the steep slopes that lead up to some of the elevated greens, just to keep shots from rolling too far “off the table” of the TifDwarf greens and slowing play. Dye’s design raises many of the tees and greens, with fairways playing through the lower-lying areas that give this course its character. Add those dramatic elevation changes to enormous greens that are very undulating and combine all of that with the prevailing breezes across this range of Central Florida and you’ve got a course that can play very differently every time.

Black Bear Golf Club, OrlandoDye’s layout of Black Bear invites you to bring your big sticks out early and often. With those elevated tees, no forced carries and generous landing areas, you’ll be encouraged to “grip it and rip it” off the tee. It’s the dynamic differences in elevation between the fairways and the severely undulated, extremely asymmetrical greens that can measure up to 60-yards from front to back that truly test golfers of all skill levels. A perfect example is the par-3 15th that’s 138-yards from the tips to the center of the green, but with strategic pin placements front and back and a hump in the middle of a green that’s 61-yards deep, you can see where club choices can change dramatically. Same thing for the par-3 11th, with a tri-level green that’s also 61-yards deep, a prime reason the hole is rated the fourth toughest on the course, a rarity for a par-3. Another favorite might be another par-3, the 147-197 yard fifth where both tee and green are elevated, and you do not want to miss the green in any direction because of its severe slope off the sides. If the pro says that because of the breezes he’s never sure what to hit at the fifth, how will any of the rest of us know for sure?

Another signature of Black Bear is the size and number of the bunkers around the course. Dye took advantage of the course’s location near an old sand quarry and put 120 natural-sand bunkers around the course, many of them enormous. One particularly large bunker greenside at #17 is actually two-stories below the green. Talk about elevating a sand wedge!

Recently, Black Bear added a tee to the 12th that extends the hole by 30 yards and is 30-feet higher than the other tees. And a new tee has been added at the 18th to lengthen the hole to 420 yards, just over 300 to the water at the home hole, a lake that’s also been extended around the front of a green that’s three clubs deep. What a finish!

And yet you might not be done yet. The signature of Black Bear might not come in any of the first 18 holes, but in having a fully-functional, 75-yard overthe-water-carry 19th hole to settle any wagers that need extra play. Interesting for a Florida course, the 19th is one of only two holes with water truly in play, sharing the lake with the 18th. Because of the lack of water, some players brag they can play Black Bear with one golf ball. How many times they hit, and especially putted, that ball should be your next question.

A much-appreciated feature of Black Bear is its exceptional practice facility featuring a double-ended driving range, the far end of it being the new home of PGA professional Randy Brown’s Mobile Golf Instruction Unit. Randy’s nearly two decades of experience and all the latest video instruction equipment can help compare your “new” swing with your old one, or with any number of touring pros. His individualized instruction can also be converted to CD-ROMs and he can even do check-ups on the internet. Randy firmly believes that “seeing is believing”, and wants his students to be able to check that they’re working on the right things.

Black Bear’s certainly doing the right things. The growth of the area around Black Bear testifies that this is where Florida golf is going. Homes are still going up around Black Bear, located within 20 minutes of Route 429 or I-4. Signage is plentiful, and trip will be worth it, to a course you’re going to want to play more than once.

For more information on playing Black Bear as a single, with your favorite group, or to “Dare the Bear” with your next outing, visit www.blackbeargolfclub.com or call locally at (352) 357-4732 or toll free (800) 4-BEAR-18.

 

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