In addition to all the work that we do at the PGA Merchandise Show, we also manage to find some time to play a course or two while in town for the show. This allows us to test out a few of the items we received at the show and to also let you know about new courses to try when you are in the Kissimmee/Orlando area.
Walt Disney World is probably best known for its theme parks. Of its golf courses, the two most people recognize are the Palm and Magnolia, which was home to, until this year, an annual PGA Tour stop.
While those two courses are nice and the most popular of Disney's tracks, my favorite is Osprey Ridge Golf Course.
Located just east of Fort Wilderness in the most tranquil of locales on Disney property, Osprey Ridge is carved out of dramatic strands of live oak, pine, palmetto, cypress and bay tress. Designed by Tom Fazio, the course is rated at 4.5 stars by Golf Digest and is a Certified Audubon Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuary.
The course is operated by Arnold Palmer Golf Management and features water on only nine holes with 70 bunkers protecting and framing the fairways and greens. From the back tees the course plays to a modest 6,968 yards, with a par of 72. Do not let the modest yardage fool you. Fazio knows just how to challenge the better player, while making a layout fun for the recreational golfers as well.
Throughout the course there are nesting ospreys who love hunting the glistening lakes for food. You know you've had a great day when you've played well on a beautiful course and yet one of your best memories is seeing an osprey snatch a fish from a lake and fly off to its nest.
The course starts off in a rather odd way. Due to construction of a rather large hotel where the original 18th hole was, the course has been slightly re-routed. There is a new first hole and from there the holes all run in the same order as before, but with the difficult par-3 17th hole now serving as the finishing hole.
On the new first hole, you start with a simple 380-yard par 4 with water guarding the green on the left. Sadly, it doesn't seem to fit with the other 17 holes, and the 650-yard trek from the green to the second tee is not something fun for those walking and carrying their clubs. However, from this tee on, the fun just gets better and better.
The par-3 fourth is a fantastic hole. Playing anywhere from 111 to 193 yards, this hole features an elevated tee that looks down a small valley to a green that sits above a large bunker, framed by mounds and trees.
Your only par-5 on the front side comes at the eighth, and it's a monster, measuring 582 yards from the tips. Even from the forward tees, the hole plays to a stout 480 yards.
The back-nine starts with the first and shortest of three par-5s on that side. After a solid drive, you will need a little moxie to get to the green in two as the second shot requires you to carry the ball a little over 200 yards over water and over a bunker.
The par-4 15th may be one the best I've played. At 453 yards from the back and a tee shot that must go over water, it's a true beast. The green is elevated and closely guarded by a deep bunker. Proudly, I hit a 4-hybrid to about six feet and made birdie.
Your entire round winds around beautiful terrain. With all the nature and complete lack of buildings on the course, it's easy to forget you're at Walt Disney World. That is until it comes to the fine, personable service.
If you plan to play golf more than once at Walt Disney World or plan to play more than one course, the resort will store your clubs and transfer them from one Disney course to another at the beginning of each day, free of charge.
The free service that I like the mostsa is use of the Clubhouse lockers. Keys are available in the Pro Shop. From there you get your own locker for the day. Store your street shoes, a change of clothes and your toiletry bag and you may enjoy a shower after your round and change into fresh clothes before getting on with the rest of your day.
Greens fees at Osprey Ridge Golf Course run from $39 to $165. To find out more about all this and all of the Walt Disney World Resort's courses call the resort at (407) WDW-GOLF or drop by the website at www.disneygolf.com.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday Night Golf Show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.