It has been a while since my last visit to Orange Lake Resort in Central Florida, just minutes from Disney, located on Highway 192 next to the 429 exit. There are four golf courses on the expansive Holiday Inn Club Vacations property for guests and public play. I got to check out the Reserve on a comfortable May day.
The Reserve is an original Joe Lee design that Winter Park ASGCA Architect Mike Dasher tweaked over 10 years ago. The course winds through a diverse landscape of ponds, protected wetlands, tight rolling fairways, and waste areas on a challenging 6,505 yard par 71 layout. Check in gets your mouth watering right off the bat because the Pro Shop is inside a store with novelties, fresh-baked goodies, an assortment of fudges, ice cream, hot and cold beverages and golf apparel. Jayden, the young lady at the bag drop area was as nice as she was pretty, and filled our bucket with ice, situated our golf bags on the carts and got us going in the right direction. We met the friendly starter next to the practice putting surface and the massive driving range which is home to the McCord Golf Academy available for lessons and well-lit for evening practice.
A little further ride and we were at the first tee of a 325 yard, par 4 which plays over a small pond to a fairway protected by bunkers up the right and woodlands to the left. A good drive here will allow for a short iron to a midsize receptive and undulating green. You should be feeling pretty full of yourself after a good score on your way to the second hole. The back tees on #2 are not well marked so you might be driving to the forward ones and have to turn around and find the 356 yard tips which have a short preservation area to drive over. Careful, there is water lurking about 120 yards from the green. If you hit it straight and stay out of trouble you could be looking at another good score. The first par 3 is a modest 131 yards with bunkers left and an undulating green. Do not go long.
You might be asking “where’s the beef,” but don’t be dismayed. The 552 yard, 4th, the only par 5 on the front has all the trouble you want. A massive wetland area is all along the left. Trees and numerous bunkers border the right, so hit it straight and long. Then do it again and you will have an iron to a large but tough green protected on the right by a series of bunkers. My first bogey-Ouch! What, another par 3, but with a 200 yard carry over the wetland. WOW! Mere mortals and smart normal players will ride up to the other tees which allow for a better chance of staying dry and scoring well. I landed safely about 20 feet from the pin and parred the hole.
What I found in the Reserve’s playing conditions thus far was very good grassy fairways with the rough clearly designated, bunkers with plenty of white fluffy sand and well maintained, with smooth and ok speed greens. Since Brown Golf Management took over after the previous company ran the place into the ground, all the courses are really looking so much better. That in itself makes for happy players and a reason to give the Reserve a try. The drink cart lady visited numerous times to help keep us lubricated. Now that the snow-birds are gone, there are some great deals to be had when playing the courses at Orange Lake Resort.
Number 6, a 414 yard straight away par 4 is bordered by a canopy of mature oaks. If you are in the short grass, there should be no problem until you reach the elevated green that has its ups and downs to confound. Another par 4, the 7th has a little pond in front of the tees, but all is good unless you find yourself behind the one tree on the left. Good Luck. The dogleg right 373 yard ninth is best played to the open fairway with a baby fade. My playing partners were feeling their oats and tried to cut the corner over trees that have gotten fuller and taller over the years. Guess who had the par and who lost their balls.
After the ninth, you can sneak back to the clubhouse for one of those delectable treats on your way to the inward nine which is 400 yards longer than the front. Let the big dog hunt on the drive at the par 5, 10th. Be aware of the small creek that crosses the fairway which narrows down with trees right and water left for the second. I typically hit it straight towards the bunker left of the hole to avoid the problems and the green tucked behind the water. A wedge to the green affords one a chance at birdie. Eleven can be a challenge with a large waste area running down the right of the fairway. You have options off the tee and landing in the waste won’t really hurt you. The shot to the green should not go left or long. Par is good. If I had to pick a signature hole, the par 3 12th would be the one. It’s 155 yards over water to a receptive two tier green. A gust of wind was blowing left to right and we all found ourselves chipping on from the safe right side.
The course only has three sets of tees, and although not that long, it does require some smart golf to stay out of the hazards and water. One such hole is #16, the #1 handicap, par four where staying in the fairway and shooting at the 150 marker is key. There is a bunker left, a lake that fronts the green and water on the other side of the cart path left. My play is to hit a short iron to the thread of land between the cart path and the lake inside 100 yards and take on the pin with my third to give me a chance at par. The longest par 4 is 17 at 432 yards from the tips. I got lucky today and smacked the daylights out of my drive, giving me a short iron to the green. Bazinga! My drives were working this day so I got cocky at 18 and took on the trees and traps instead of playing right of the traps in the fairway. As luck would have it, the ball hit the cart path and I got another 30 yards where I had wedge into the large receptive green. What a day at the Reserve. The wager was mine.
The Reserve is a joy to play with your buddies as long as you know where not to try and take too much off. Everyone made us feel welcome and play moved right along with no waits. Brown Golf Management has done a nice job getting the course in great condition and workers were taking tender loving care of the course with respect for the playing golfers. I would definitely recommend the Reserve at Orange Lake. For tee times visit OrangeLakeGolf.com.
Brown Golf Management(BGM) is a creative golf management company focused on where the industry is going and not where it has been. Their business model consists of consulting, third-party management, acquisitions and creative leases.
BGM business focuses on a commitment to service, conditioning and providing a great playing experience. The golfer is always at the forefront of their decision-making. The BGM growing portfolio includes 30 golf courses located in seven states. For further information please visit BrownGolfManagement.com.