Category Archives: Course Spotlight

Bay Point Golf Club – Panama City Golf at Its Best

Over the past several years, the Panama City Beach area has really cleaned up its act. No longer is it college’s spring destination for uninhibited college kids. The real estate market is booming, area businesses are rebounding nicely, and the hotel industry is once again beginning to flourish. All is good in Florida’s panhandle.

And all is good at the Sheraton Bay Point Resort – Panama City Beach’s premier golf destination.  The resort is situated on historic St. Andrews Bay and is a perfect getaway destination for couples, families and golfers. Yes, golfers. The property, which is home to 36 holes of bay front golf including the panhandle’s only Nicklaus design, recently underwent a complete remodel of the lodging, restaurants and golf clubhouse and the final results are nothing short of amazing. Sheraton Bay Point is the only AAA 4-Diamond franchise hotel along the Emerald Coast, with 320 sharply appointed guest rooms, 65 of which are one-bedroom suites.  Located about a 7-iron away from the main hotel and on the fairway of the Nicklaus Course’s 3rd and 6th holes is a collection of golf villas that feature both hotel style rooms as well as one-bedroom suites that can sleep up to four golfers comfortably.

Sheraton Bay Point also features several dining options, including the ultra-casual Flip-Flops Pool Bar, where you can enjoy custom crafted cocktails and craft beers while dining on Mahi Mahi Tacos and Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches. If you’re looking for something more upscale, Tides Restaurant offers spectacular views of St. Andrews Bay, which are only outdone by the culinary staff’s creativity. They’ve recently added a Chop House menu, which includes cuts of high-end beef such as the Wagyu Filet and a 26-oz. porterhouse steak. Another great choice for breakfast or lunch is Bar 72, located at the golf course clubhouse. Bar 72 is a little more than your typical burgers and dogs clubhouse fare. Try the shepherd’s pie or the meatloaf stack and you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

On property and a short cart ride away from the hotel are two of northwest Florida’s finest golf courses: The Willard Byrd designed Meadows Course and the Nicklaus Course. The Nicklaus Course is the crown jewel at Bay Point and plays 7,152 yards from the back tees with a rating of 74.3 and a slope of 143. Most golfers will be challenged from Tee 2 (6,430/70.7/132) and still leave with a little dignity intact. Ladies will be tested from a distance of 4,974 yards, yet still enjoy themselves.

The first five holes of the Nicklaus Course set the tone for your round. The first hole showcases the water that can become your nemesis on 17 of the next 18 holes. It’s a dogleg right around a lake that requires an accurate shot off the tee up around the 150-yard marker. From there, you’ll have a slightly uphill approach to a green protected in the front by two deep bunkers. Number 2 is a tough par 3 that plays 171 yards (Tee 2) over water to a green protected on the left by water and front right by a large deep bunker. The water on Number 3 shouldn’t come into play; if it does, check with the pro shop about getting a lesson. It’s a modest par 4, dogleg left with the most dramatic false-fronted green I have ever seen; it has to be at least a 6-foot drop.              The green features a lot of undulation and a two-putt or better is a good thing.

Number 4 is a par 4, that plays 384 yards (Tee 2) and features a green abutted by water on the left. All of this leads up to Number 5, the most scenic and demanding hole on the course and by far the most interesting. Play your tee shot about 225 yards over wetlands to an “island” fairway. From there’ you’ll have a long iron shot over more wetlands to a long narrow green with not much room behind it. Par is a good score here.

Two of the three remaining par 3s require you to choose the right club and trust your distance; knowing the pin position is also critical. Numbers 7 and 17 are both fairly long with blind shots into the green. Choose the right club, hit your best shot and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

The back nine also features several intriguing holes including the drivable Number 13 which plays 281 yards from Tee 2. Beware of the small grove of pine trees if you push your drive right; the green is protected by water to the left and a deep bunker to the right. Number 14 is the course’s #1 handicapped hole; a long dogleg right that plays over water and sand off the tee. Your approach shot plays over a lake which also guards the right side of the green. There’s a bunker back left that catches anything long. This hole takes four solid shots to make par.

Number 18 is a great finishing hole and is almost the mirror image of the opening hole. It requires a forced carry over water that plays all the way down the left side, with more of the wet stuff short and right of the green. A tee shot over the water and slightly left of the fairway bunker will leave a short pitch shot into an elevated triangular green protected on all three sides by sand.  A great end to a great round.

The Meadows Course dates back to 1965 and uses the original 328 Bermuda pushup greens. They’re still in great shape, a lasting testament to a good grounds crew. The Meadows plays 6,913 yards from the back tees. Tee 2 plays about 550 yards shorter and is still a challenge for most. This course has stood the test of time and can play tough – especially if you tend to spray the ball. Case in point is Number 4, a narrow par 4 (372 yards from Tee 2), slight dogleg right that is the course’s #1 handicap. Center or just left of center off the tee is the preferred shot, just be sure to avoid the fairway bunker on the left. From there, trust your club selection into a small, elevated, triangular green protected on all sides by sand.

Number 5 is the course’s first par 5 (480 yards from Tee 2) and is also a narrow driving hole, however, with a good tee shot, it is reachable on two. Water comes into play on the left side about 250 yards off the tee, so favor the right. For most players, it’s a three-shot hole and an approach from the left side takes a few of the infringing pines on the right side out of play. The green is small and well protected. Number 9 (509 yards from Tee 2) is the second par 5 on the outward 9 and this double dogleg is a good test of your shotmaking ability. Water short and left of the green sees a lot of action and the elevated green is large and may require an extra club, depending on pin position.

Number 10 is a long par 4 (409 yards from Tee 2) with water on the right off the tee that creeps into the fairway and catches unsuspecting players. Most players will need to hit a long approach shot into a shallow green. Par is a good score here. Number 13 is the most picturesque hole on the course, a short par 3 (132 yards from Tee 2) over water into a well-protected green. Choose the right club off the tee and a low score is possible.

The Meadows also finishes with one of the layout’s most memorable holes, a 384-yard (Tee 2) dogleg right par 4 with bunkers on either side off the tee right at the bend. A good drive will leave a mid to long iron into a small green protected on the right with water and sand on either side. Another strong finishing hole.

The winter months are a great time to visit the resort and take advantage of everything Bay Point has to offer. And, since Northwest Florida’s seasonality peaks in the summer, a great value can be had between January and March.

If you’re coming down from the northern states during the winter to play golf, here’s something to consider. Yes, you can get about 5 degrees warmer in February if you go down to the Orlando area, but is 6 hours of drive time each way worth it? Go to Panama City and you can use that 12 hours of windshield time and get in two or three extra rounds of golf. Couple that with the money you’ll be saving on a round of golf and the decision is easy.

For more information on either Sheraton Bay Point Resort or Bay Point Golf Club and to see their current offers, visit their websites: http://www.sheratonbaypoint.com/; http://www.baypointgolf.com/

The Reserve Course – Orange Lake’s Oldest and Newest Course

A lot of families that visit the Orlando area are familiar with Orange Lake Resort and their upscale condominium style accommodations, villas and time share units. The resort also features a full array of amenities including swimming pools, tennis courts, mini golf, a workout facility, meeting/conference areas and multiple dining options.

But what they may not be aware of is that Orange Lake Resort also boasts two of the area’s best conditioned and challenging championship golf courses: The Legends Course and The Reserve Course. Best of all, you don’t have to be a resort guest to play here, these courses are open to the public.

The Reserve Course could be considered both the oldest and the newest course at the resort. It was originally designed by Joe Lee in 1982, 16 years before Arnold Palmer and company designed the Legends Course. In 2005, golf course architect Mike Dasher completely redesigned the layout, adding new water features and more sand, as well as rerouting and redesigning seven holes. The result is one of the more challenging courses in the Orlando area.

There are only three sets of tees on the Reserve Course, but not to worry, they’re suitable for just about everyone. From the tips (Blue Tees), Orange Lake measures 6,505 yards with a course rating of 71.8 and a slope of 137. Most players will find the White Tees (6,031 yards/69.4/118) quite challenging, while Ladies and Seniors will find the Yellow Tees (5,119 yards/68.3/1) an enjoyable distance to play from.

The Reserve Course plays to a par of 71. As you make your way around the course, you’ll see pristine wetlands around many of the green complexes. You’ll also see a wide variety of Florida plants and wildlife. As mentioned earlier, Dasher added several water hazards and a lot more sand, in the form of both bunkers and waste areas. There’s a fair amount of roll and undulation in the fairways as well as on the new MiniVerde putting surfaces.

Most Memorable Hole: Number 10. Par 5, 504 yards (White Tees). Number 10 is undoubtedly the most interesting hole on the course. This long dogleg left starts out with a tee shot over a lake to a fairway that features a trio of bunkers straight away. Short of the bunkers is good, left, not so much. The right side of the fairway should be avoided too; there’s a stream that runs down the right side and then cuts across the fairway to another lake on the left that needs to be navigated on your approach shot. Plan on favoring the right side of the fairway with your layup shot, just be warned, it’s a narrow landing area. Then. play your approach shot over the second lake to a well-elevated green protected on the right by a large deep bunker. Make a par – or better – and consider the round a success!

Favorite Par 3: Number 5. Par 3, 171 yards. A long par 3 with a bailout area – if you need it. From the tee, it’s all carry over the marsh. Even if you bail out to the right, you’re still going to have to get over the marsh area off the tee. Bailing out is no sure thing either; there’s a large bunker over there that makes up and down extremely difficult. Once you get on the green, pay close attention, there are a lot of subtle little breaks.

Favorite Par 4: Number 18, 36 yards (White Tees). A fitting end to a great round. This dogleg left features a cluster of bunkers in the landing area and a wall of trees to the left. The good news is that the tree line can be carried off the tee, the bad news is you’ll have to land the ball between a large pond and the cluster of bunkers. A good drive will leave a mid to short-iron approach shot to a large green with some subtle undulations.

Favorite Par 5: Number 4, 531 yards. Should you succeed, this long, demanding par 4 is a well-earned par. The tee shot requires a forced carry over a marshland to a fairly large landing area with bunkers and condos on the right side. Because of the length and shape of the hole, most players play this as a three-shot hole. The landing area for your layup shot is narrow with a large bunker on the right side. The large green is fronted by a large bunker and features a lot of undulation. This is another hole where par is a well-earned score.

Last Word: This Mike Dasher design has a lot to offer golfers of all abilities. It’s definitely not the longest course in the area and is certainly not going to overpower anyone. What it will require is that you think your way around the course, especially on holes like the par 5, 10th, which takes accuracy, length and brains. Another interesting hole is the par-3 12th hole, which requires an accurate shot off the tee in order to have a shot at par. It may be the course’s shortest hole, but it is also one of the most difficult too, with two deep bunkers surrounding the green to the left and water hazards on the right. Miss the green and par is a tough score to make.

The Reserve Course shares a clubhouse with the newly renovated Cranes Bend, an executive style nine-hole course. The clubhouse features a well-stocked pro shop plus a restaurant/lounge. Also on property is Legends Walk, a lit par three nine-hole course that takes tee times until 9 PM. There’s plenty of room to tune up your game and includes a spacious driving range nearby that is open late. The practice facilities also include a large practice putting green. Although a fair amount of The Reserve Course winds through the resort community, many of the holes have nothing but nature around them and are very secluded. If your goal is to find a golf course in the Disney area that will challenge your golf game and don’t want to break the bank to do it, pay a visit to the Reserve Course at Orange Lake Resort. For more information or to book your next round, visit their website at www.orangelakegolf.com.

The Legends Course at Orange Lake Resort – A Great Value in the Orlando Area

Odds are that Kemmons Wilson is not a household name or even a name that comes up every now and then in golf locker rooms around the country, but believe it or not, the man had a lot to do with the proliferation of professional golf in the US. Wilson is the founder of Holiday Inn and if you were to ask any professional golfer from the 50’s and 60’s, you’ll probably hear stories of how Holiday took them in and gave them a place to stay while they competed.

On the other hand, the name Arnold Palmer is a household name; it’s probably safe to say that, because he dabbled in so many other things beside golf, his name is well-known outside of golf too. Arnold Palmer has arguably done as much for golf as anyone else.

Put these two together and what do you get? The Legends Course at Orange Lake Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Orange Lake Resort is known for upscale condo-style accommodations, villas and timeshares as well as a complete array of amenities that include swimming pools, tennis, miniature golf, a fitness center, lots of dining and meeting room options, 2 championship 18-hole golf courses and two executive courses; one that is lit for night play.

Arnold Palmer Design Group built the Legends Course. There are five sets of tees to challenge men and women of all abilities. The Back Tees measure 7,072 yards with a slope rating of 132 and a course rating of 72.2. I found the Blue Tees at 6,263 yards (71.1/124) was the perfect length for my game and allowed me to leave with a little dignity still intact. Seniors will be challenged at 5,780 yards (68.7/120) while ladies will enjoy the Yellow Tees (5,188/92.3/120). Pick the tees that best match your game and you’re sure to have a good time.

The Legends Course is a tale of two nines. The front side – sometimes referred to as the Links Nine – features wide fairways with significant landing areas and lots of rolling terrain. The Links Nine is much longer than the back (Pines) nine and has a real resort feel as it winds through the various lodging options of the resort. Water comes into play on about 4 holes on the outward nine as opposed to 7 of nine holes on the inward side. Many of these water hazards are pressed up against the greens and create precarious approach shots. The Pines Nine also features several fairways lined with Florida pines and majestic live oak trees that create narrow corridors off the tee. Several holes feature rock retaining walls that front the greens – a Palmer Design trademark.

Most Memorable Hole: Number 18: Par 5, 400 yards (Blue Tees). This long, dogleg left features water on the left side that starts into play about 250 yards off the tee. There is also fairway bunker in play on the left side off the tee and a waste bunker on the right. A good tee shot will still leave a long to mid-iron into and elevated green protected by sand and water on the left and a lot of mounding on the right.

Favorite Par 3: Number 3, 200 yards (Blue Tees). This long par 3 plays slightly downhill, but not quite a club less. It’s well protected on either side by deep-lipped bunkers that can make for a tough sandy. This can be a tough hole on a windy day, so choose your club wisely off the tee.

Favorite Par 4: Number 13, 375 yards (Blue Tees). Aesthetically, this signature hole is probably the nicest hole on the course. Your tee shot is blind and uphill; just aim for the middle of the fairway. From there, you should have a mid-iron downhill over water into a large multi-tiered green that features a lot of undulation. It’s a fun hole to look at; it’s even better to play!

Favorite Par 5: Number 4, 565 yards. Number 4 doglegs to the right and then back to the left, with all kinds of trouble along the way. It’s a double dogleg that features water on the right off the tee that comes into play if you try to get greedy. Steer clear of the water off the tee and you’ll have plenty of room for your layup shot. As the hole makes the second dogleg, you’ll be faced with a large waste bunker on the left side. If your approach shot is in the 150+ yards range, you’re facing a blind approach shot into a very small green protected front right and left by bunkers and water if you go long.

Last Word: The Legends Course at Orange Lake Resort is anything but your typical resort course. There are a lot of doglegs – both right and left – that require both length and accuracy to set up a second shot. There are a lot of elevation changes – 10 feet is a lot in this part of Florida – that create blind tee shots and layups. Large lips on many of the bunkers add a bit of difficulty getting it close out of the sand. And the greens – although a little on the slow side – feature a lot of undulation. Several have ridges in the middle that create multiple tiers. Another atypical feature about the Legends Course is the small greens; they really test your accuracy.

After your round, be sure to stop by the Legacy Grill, located in the Legend’s clubhouse. Guests can relax either indoors or out in the comfortable sports-themed setting. Enjoy food and drink with friends and family, all served by a friendly, knowledgeable staff. The restaurant is open from 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM, so breakfast, lunch and dinner are all in play. The menu is vast and has something for even the most discriminating of pallets. They also serve all your favorite post-golf libations.

The next time you find yourself in the Disney area with your golf clubs and several hours to kill, give the Legends Course at Orange Lake Resort a call at (407) 239-1050 or visit the website, www.orangelakegolf.com.