The final round of Deej's Florida Swing brings us to the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club in Orlando. Find a seat in the grandstands for an epic battle between two brothers that both hate one thing more than any other...losing.
Standing on the first tee of the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club, I was certain the deck was stacked in my favor. In a rematch of our round on Reunion's Palmer Legacy course, today would decide the makeshift summer golf championship between me and my brother. That round left me down by two shots, but today I was far more prepared. I had an edge, I had a strategy, and at the end of the day, I was certain I'd have a trophy.
The Waldorf Astoria Golf Club is sandwiched on a narrow sliver of land within the Bonnet Creek resort complex. Although I have visited Bonnet Creek many times, this would be my first experience on the golf course. That is, if Tropical Storm Debby held off long enough for us to play.
|Terrace overlooking the driving range|
A few of the outer bands of the storm were coming through the Orlando area sporadically, dumping an enormous amount of water on the golf course the night before our round. Thankfully, there was a lull in the rainfall when we arrived to the course, but as expected, the wet and soggy conditions would mean a very long day of cart path only golf. For you non-golfers, this means our cart had to stay on the concrete path, forcing us to walk a few extra yards to our ball each time. It's dreadful I tell you...
The Waldorf plays at over 7100 yards from the back tees, which is a little out of my comfort zone, especially on a wet day where the ball doesn't fly as far. We chose a few holes to play from a shorter tee, bringing our total to right at 7000 yards. Still a bit lengthy for us, but we both wanted a difficult test to decide our match.
Although the course is surrounded on all sides by Bonnet Creek, Disney, and Interstate 4, the designer did an excellent job of maintaining the original marshland, making the course a world of its own. We even bumped into a few of these...
|Only Gators get out alive...|
In addition to an over abundance of water and sand, there was one aspect of the course which presented a challenge on almost every hole...elevated greens. Poor approach shots are punished harshly at Waldorf Astoria, making bogey all but a certainty with missed greens.
|Unless you think this is fun, I wouldn't suggest missing greens|
The only thing at Waldorf which didn't suit my game was a lack of yardage markers in the fairway. Each cart has a GPS unit, but they are rendered useless during cart path only play. In addition, the fairways lack the traditional plates at 100, 150, & 200 yards, and finding marked sprinkler heads was worse than a game of "Where's Waldo." Of course, it's digging a little deep when this is the only thing I don't like about a golf course.
When we scheduled our two rounds at Reunion and the Waldorf, my brother and I decided to raise the stakes a little. Best combined score over the two rounds wins, with the loser buying breakfast at the Waldorf. Down two shots after round one, I didn't care about the damage losing would inflict on the wallet, but my pride was a different story...
To give myself a little edge, I set up an interview with Rees Jones, designer of the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club. His advice proved invaluable: Keep the ball in play off the tee, short is better than long into the greens.
|The one time I ignored his advice...|
The advice from Rees also led me to adopt a strategy I had never tried before. The driver remained in my bag all day, and instead I used my more reliable 3 wood off the tee. This made for lengthy second shots into some holes, but it also kept me out of trouble all day.
In the end, the advice and strategy paid off. My 81 to his 87 handed me a four shot victory in the match. Strangely enough, there was a hint of French toast and smoked salmon in the air as we walked off the 18th green.
|Poor guy...lost at golf and took a lousy picture|
The Waldorf Astoria Golf Club has quickly earned a spot among my favorite courses in Central Florida. Its location at one of the best resorts in the state certainly helps, but the golf is truly what won me over.
|Shot of the Day: 5 Iron from 194 yards|
This isn't any ordinary cupcake resort course. If you come to Waldorf Astoria without your "A-game" - or even your "B game" - you might be in for a long day. The fairways are tight, the bunkers are deep, and missing the greens is definitely no fun. If you manage to stick to a "fairways and greens" strategy, however, you too will likely walk away a fan.
Moral of the story: Never ignore advice from the golf course architect.
Enjoy Your Stay
Special thanks to the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club for hosting Deej's Florida Swing. As always, all opinions are my own.