As the weather turns, I’m dreaming of getting back to the Old Course. Would be glorious to feel a chill in the air of an early-morning tee time, try to size up the wind off the tee, play a run-up shot around a pot bunker to a green.
Oh, to play that Old Course would take a trans-Atlantic plane flight, help from the tee-time gods and several days off work. No can do. I’m talking about the New Course, Jack Nicklaus’ version of the Old Course at St. Andrews, right in the middle of Florida.
Orlando's Grand Cypress Resort is home to the New Course, 25 years "old" this year. That puts it a few hundred years behind Scotland’s classic, but for a Central Florida version of the classic, the New Course does just fine. And the best time to play it is approaching, with the summer humidity dissipating and the mornings bringing cooler air.
I’ve played plenty of Florida golf but the New Course was a completely new experience for me, having not yet played true links golf overseas. Nicklaus’ creation of wide-open fairways dotted by pot bunkers leading up to undulating and shared greens was a delightful change of pace.
The first “wow” moment came on the par-5 second hole when I skulled a chip (oops). Instead of rolling off the green the ball kept rolling on the green toward the 16th hole, where four women were playing. This was a double green, one of seven on the course. Fourteen holes share the same putting surface in an ingenious piece of routing, like some of the great links courses. The second hole shares a green with No. 16, No. 3 with No. 15, and so on for much of the course. The double-green holes always add up to 18.
As for the bunkers, there are more than 150 of them just waiting to gobble up shots. Some have their own staircases, they’re so deep. (Rule of thumb: bunkers requiring a commute are very bad news for your score.) You have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to land in some of them; if you have to pitch out sideways, so be it.
Adding to the Old Course vibe are stone walls in play down the right side of the par-5 15th hole and behind the par-5 17th. If your ball is near the wall, it’s time to get creative instead of settling for a penalty shot.
I could go on about the quirky fun of the New Course, but check it out yourself. It’s a Florida twist on a golf classic.
If you go
Grand Cypress Resort, New Course
1 North Jacaranda