One of the newest venues on the Orlando golf horizon is the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club. Given its location, you would think this Rees Jones masterpiece – his first Florida course – is a Disney course. It sits right off of Buena Vista Drive amidst some nice upscale hotels: the Waldorf Astoria, Hilton Bonnet Creek and the Wyndham Bonnet Creek.
This par 72 course opened in 2009 to rave acclaims and plays 7,108 yards from the back tees with a course rating of 74.6 and a slope of 139. Most non-masochistic golfers will opt to play from either the blue tees (6657 yards/132 slope), or the white tees (6301 yards/127 slope). With five sets of tees, the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club is enjoyable for golfers of all skill levels.
The Waldorf Astoria Golf Club features 18 holes with 18 elevated greens and no out of bounds. Don’t get me wrong, you’re still going to lose golf balls, you just don’t get penalized stroke and distance.
The course possesses everything you’ve come to expect in a Florida golf course and takes in a number of natural elements including wetland preserves, ancient cypress trees and perhaps the best use of bunkering of any golf course in the state. Majestic cypress trees line several fairways and water comes into play on 12 holes.
If you’re looking for ultra-high end golf attire, The Pro Shop at the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club is a must. Designers such as Peter Millar and Martin Golf grace the shelves. The Pro Shop also offers Nike club rentals and golf shoe rentals as well as a wide selection of hats, balls and gloves.
Practice Range and Putting Green
Included in your greens fee is a full length driving range where you can hit every club in the bag. There are practice target greens, enabling golfers to hone their accuracy as well as a chipping area to fine-tune your short game, and a putting green that rolls the same as the ones on the course. If you don’t have time to get in a round, you can pay a separate fee just to practice however proper attire is always required.
Number 1: Par 4, 374 yards. A fairly straightforward par 4 starts off your round. Any kind of decent tee shot will leave a manageable distance to the green; just be sure to avoid the two massive bunkers on the left. This is one of the few flat greens so take advantage while you can. Don’t let this fairly simple first hole lull you into a false sense of security.
Number 8: Par 5, 474 yards. For long ball hitters – and the rest of us on occasion – this green is reachable in two from the blue and white tees. A good drive will clear the bunker on the left side and open up your approach to the green. The key here is to hit a long, high approach shot. Actually the closer the pin is to the water, the more room it leaves to clear the sand in front of the green, so a rear pin placement on this hole can work to your advantage. This is probably your best chance at birdie or better.
Number 12: Par 5, 588 yards. A monster par 5 with bunkers in all the right places. A monster bunker on the left side catches any errant tee shots and other bunkers on either side frame the landing area. If you can fly the small bunker on the left on your second shot, you’ll leave a manageable iron into an elevated green that slopes back right to front left. Unless you’re a long ball hitter, par is a great score here.
Number 13: Par 4, 306 yards. A short dogleg left around water or, if your game, a long drive (around 250 carry) over the water. Actually any tee shot that makes it to the dogleg will leave a short pitch shot over a large trap to a small two tiered green. It will take two good shots to score well on this hole.
Number 18: Par 5, 505 yards. A shorter version of number 12, with bunkers in all the wrong places! Hit the ball straight on this hole and you’ve got it made; stray off the fairway and you’re likely to find sand. The last of eighteen elevated greens is guarded on both sides by sand – no surprise! This is a finishing hole that you can actually score well on.
Last Word: The Waldorf Astoria Golf Club is incredibly aesthetically pleasing and playable. Players have five sets of tees to choose from and believe me, choosing the right set of tees on this course goes a long way in deciding how much fun you will have.
One of the nicest things about the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club is that everything is right there. Pull up to the complimentary valet, let him take your clubs and park your car. Walk through the front doors and on the right is the pro shop. Pay your fees, head down the stairs and your clubs will be on a cart, waiting for you. Grab a few clubs and head ever to the range, and hit as may balls as you want. This entire process can be accomplished in about 5 minutes. And, if you’re playing an early morning round, be sure to take advantage of the free coffee and pastries they offer in the restaurant area.
Although there are only about 60 bunkers on the course, you’ll swear there were at least twice that many. If you can navigate this layout without landing in a bunker at some point, you’ll probably score very well. Most of the traps allow skilled players to move the ball forward rather easily. The conditioning and landscaping of this club are second to none; you will see members of the grounds crew hard at work tending to the little things that make a difference in how the course looks to visitors. There is a definite private club feel here; hard to believe it’s open to the public. There are 12 holes where water comes into play in some shape or form, but no forced carries of any great length. And, while there is usually a generous amount of room off the tee, the fairways are either tree-lined, or defined by water hazards making accuracy extremely important, especially on second and layup shots.
I’m not sure how much dirt had to be moved to make this course but they have done a great job of creating rolling fairways which sometimes yield an uneven lie. Even larger mounds can be found on the periphery of some holes; you’ll know what I mean when you land there.
This is definitely a shotmaker’s course; your approach shots need to be spot on in order to hit the small elevated greens. If this part of your game isn’t up to par, than you best have an excellent short game to make up for it. The run-off areas off the greens can leave some tricky pitch shots.
The greens are incredible and are always in great condition, even a week after being aerified. They roll true and fast and there is rarely a straight putt. There is a considerable amount of slope in each green and they can be very trying. Be sure to spend some time on the practice green before your round. The course stays green year-round thanks to over-seeding in the winter.
It’s not cheap to play here with rates as high as $165 a round in prime season for non-resort guests. During the summer the rate drops to $85 so if you can stand the heat, you can save some dough. For more information on the course and the hotel, visit their website at www.waldorfastoriaorlando.com.