The last course that’s been built in Orlando –the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club – is one of Central Florida’s best. But you would expect nothing less from a property that carries the fabled Waldorf name. In fact, the Rees Jones-designed layout, which opened in 2009, is the only golf course that carries the Waldorf name.
However that’s just one of the things that makes the Waldorf Astoria Gold Club unique. Jones created a course that’s not your average resort design. That is, it has narrow (but fair) fairways, small Bermuda greens and is loaded with bunkers. It’s also got five sets of tee boxes, which help offset the narrow driving lanes and bunkers.
The club runs with the efficiency of everything Waldorf-related – from the staging area to the on-course rangers. The golf club is located just a few steps away from the Waldorf Astoria Orlando’s pool complex, meaning there is no need for shuttles, etc., to get from the hotel to the golf course.
In addition, the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club (7,108 yards, par 72) is located on private property deep inside Walt Disney World property. There are no houses or condos on the property, although the course offers some good views of sister hotels Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.
“We’ve got Disney on three sides and I-4 on the other side,’’ said Rob Turner, director of golf at the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club. “That makes it somewhat unique because we control our own destiny. Disney is a good friend and obviously the reason why many people come here. But the golf component is big, too, because of the two hotels.’’
The Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Bonnet Creek – connected by a long corridor- combine to offer nearly 1,500 guest rooms (498 In the Waldorf Astoria and 1,001 at the Hilton) and some of the best amenities in Orlando, including the spa at the Waldorf, separate pool decks with private cabanas, lazy river, waterslide and the outstanding Bull & Bear restaurant at the Waldorf.
Although its reputation is justly earned as a great steakhouse, the fried chicken is a “must have’’ on the Bull & Bear menu, either as an appetizer or entrée. At the Hilton, the Myth lobby bar is a popular gathering spot. For those who like Italian food (who doesn’t?) La Luce is a great choice for homemade pasta and pizza. And make sure to check out the artwork at La Luce. You might be surprised how it’s created.
The Bull & Bear overlooks the first tee of the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club and although it’s only open for dinner, an early morning peak through its large glass windows gives you a good idea of the narrow fairways that await.
The par-four, 427-yard third hole is a good example of Jones’ design. Called “Terrapin Station,’’ the hole has water hard on its right side and trees and bushes on the left side. A three-fingered fairway bunker on the right side – about 265 yards from the tips – creates a narrow driving corridor.
“Rees designed the course based on the site itself and how much land he had to work with,’’ Turner said. “The Tour guys love to come to come here and play it demands accuracy off the tee, which get them ready to play. There is a lot of movement in the greens, too, so that’s a challenge.’’
But again, select the correct tees (the course plays as short as 5,089 yards) and the course won’t beat you up. The Waldorf Astoria Golf Club is a very playable resort course – one that makes you want to play again and again. After all, it’s a Waldorf.