Timacuan Golf Club and Highlands Reserve

Timacuan Golf Club, OrlandoWhat happens when a young, assertive company dedicated to service and quality purchases two of the more popular golf courses on either side of Orlando?

If history is a true indicator, great things await those two courses and the golfers who frequent them. And we are about to find out. The company is Kitson & Partners, known locally for its management of Dubsdread, the popular municipal course in College Park, and known internationally as a provider of great golf experiences at a wide variety of facilities.

The recently purchased courses? On the north side of Orlando in Lake Mary is Timacuan Golf Club, ranked as high as No. 14 in Florida. And on the south end in Davenport is Highlands Reserve, a Mike Dasher design that attracts both local and visiting golfers. And there are more purchases to come. 

“We’re proud of these acquisitions,” said Michael Rippey, president of Kitson & Partners Clubs. “Timacuan is a premier facility in every respect, and Highlands Reserve has been a popular golf course since the day it opened. We are making improvements at both facilities, but we’re not making dramatic changes. The goal is to deliver a consistently outstanding golf experience to our members and guests.”

The K&P executive team draws on decades of golf and country club operations experience at more than 100 public, semi-private and private facilities around the world. These courses include Princeville Golf Resort in Hawaii, the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club of Korea, and Ibis Golf & Country Club in West Palm Beach.

Timacuan, a semi-private facility, was designed in 1987 by Ron Garl and refurbished by Bobby Weed in 1996. The par-71 track features two distinctly different nines, and is traditionally ranked among the top 20 courses in Florida.

Highlands Reserve Golf Club, OrlandoTimacuan’s front nine features sprawling bunkers, generous landing areas, oversized, undulating greens, and framing mounds which combine to create a challenging and memorable nine holes.

The most notable of those is the 421-yard par-4 second. Golf Life OrlandoMagazine included Timacuan’s secondhole among “The Best 18 Holes In Orlando.” And an Orlando Business Journal article once named No. 2 the second most difficult hole in Central Florida.

Players must drive over one lake to what is in essence an island fairway, and then carry a second body of water to reach a putting surface that slopes from back to front. The shot can be anywhere 220 and 115 yards, depending upon how bold the player is off the tee. There is a bailout area to the right, but Garl suggests that players should take an extra club and aim for the green, as there is plenty of room to miss it long. Says Garl: “No. 2 has it all – beauty, challenge and options. And there is no letup in the hole until the ball hits the bottom of the cup.”

The 15th is a reachable par-5, at under 500 yards. But stray left or right and you’re reaching into your bag for a new ball. No. 16, playing 165 yards from the regular tees, requires an all-carry tee shot to a bunkerless green that is guarded by mounds. No. 17 is a great risk/reward hole, where longer hitters can bite off a big chunk of the lake, leaving a pitch shot to a sloping green.

The back nine has more of a Carolinas Lowcountry feel, with beautiful moss-draped oak trees and tall pines providing the framing. And it features the Timacuan “Oh Wow Corner.” One large body of water comes into play on 15, 16 and 17, demanding accuracy off each tee.

Nearly every green complex at Timacuan has closely-mown fringe areas, allowing for a variety of shot selections when players miss the green. And speaking of the greens, they are consistently among the best conditioned putting surfaces in Central Florida.

“Timacuan is a semi-private golf club with a private-club feel,” said General Manager Tony Johnson. “Our visiting guests receive the same firstclass treatment as our members. That’s one of the reasons we see the same players return year after year during the season. They seem to love the service, and the uniqueness of the layout at Timacuan.”

Timacuan is home to the Mike Bender Golf Academy. Bender is ranked among the top instructors in the world. His list of students includes Masters Champion Zach Johnson, two-time U.S. Open Champion Lee Janzen, recent Nationwide Tour winner Skip Kendall, and LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year Seon Hwa Lee.

Timacuan offers value-filled membership packages as well as being open to non-members. For more information, or to make a tee time, call 407-321-0010. The club’s web site is www.golftimacuan.com.

While playing the Highlands Reserve Golf Club in Davenport off Highway 27, it may be difficult to get your bearings on just where you are playing.

Highlands Reserve Golf Club, OrlandoFirst, there’s the terrain. In Central Florida, going over a set of railroad tracks can qualify as a change in elevation. At Highlands Reserve the elevation changes as much as 120 feet. Some of the locals consider this to be mountainous.

“It certainly is different from other central Florida courses,” says Highlands Reserve Golf Club General Manager David Evangelista. “This is one of the very few courses in the area where a golfer can have uphill, side hill and downhill lies. You can have every shot imaginable at the Highlands Reserve Golf Club.”

Unless you’re playing the PGA TOUR, a talented golf course architect can provide a fitting challenge if able to have 6,300 yards of golf course to design. Dasher had more than that and took advantage of every inch of the property he was given to design.

Not only are the elevation changes reminiscent of the western Carolinas, there is an ample supply of holes that are framed by pines and a like number of holes that have the feel of a treeless British Isles links course. Of course, there are enough holes lined by citrus trees to bring the golfer back to the aroma and appearance of Central Florida.

The course itself stretches to 6,649 yards, which by today’s standard ranks Highlands Reserve Golf Club as a relatively short course, but because of the elevation changes, the course definitely plays longer. The integrity of the par-72 design is upheld by the fact that the USGA gives the course a rating of 72, despite the fact that the only water on the course is a small retention pond in front of the 10th tee.

The other two sets of tees provide a course of 6,010 yards from the middle markers and 4,973 yards from the front markers.

In addition to providing a golf course that is always well maintained, Highlands Reserve Golf Club provides a full golf facility.

“We are a true golf facility,” says Evangelista. “We have a very large practice area that is all grass and has many target greens. In addition, we have a large practice bunker as well as a sizeable practice green. We also have lessons and clinics available. We’re a public facility that offers frequency rewards.”

For more information on Highlands Reserve, visit www.Highlandsreserve-golf.com, or call (877) 508-4653.


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