It's Hard Pars and Easy Bogeys At Celebration Golf Club

By Elaine Gallant, Contributor

ORLANDO, FL - If you accept the notion that nothing good ever comes easy, then you'll appreciate what the father and son team of Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Robert Trent Jones Jr. did for Celebration Golf Club.

Their belief from the start was that "every hole should be a hard par and an easy bogey," and by combining the area's natural resources of Florida wetlands and pine forest along with their collective design strategies, are certain they've created a golfing experience that is second to none. As a result, Celebration is a championship venue with the park-like feel of a modern, Florida course.

Since 1999, the Oldsmobile Scramble Finals have been played here, and since 2000, both the Central Florida Amateur Championships and the Florida State Junior Boys and Girls State Championships have called Celebration home. Even the U.S.G.A. Senior Amateur Qualifiers and the Spalding LPGA T and CP Southeast Section Championships have visited this relative newcomer.

As continued proof of its worthiness, in 2000, Golf Digest's Guide of Places to Play awarded Celebration with four stars, while Florida Golf News listed it as 13th amongst "Florida's Top 100 Courses" and 10th amongst Florida's public courses.

Previous listings include AGPA Magazine's "Most Family Friendly Golf Course," PGA Magazine's "Junior Friendly Courses," and Where Orlando Magazine's "Fabulous Par 4's." All in all, not bad for a course that only opened in 1996.

Much of its allure comes from having five sets of tees - enough to accommodate any level of player. This includes a set specifically for players who only want to play 18 holes of par 3's. As for its fairways, they're fairly straight throughout and run almost parallel up and back, but you won't really notice. The Trent Jones team was successful in hiding one hole from another.

They were also successful in creating separate personalities between the nines. On the front, many holes border wide boulevards lined on the other side by pre- 1940 replicate homes from America's southern region and that of Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. But with the back, the homes fade into the brush letting Mother Nature take center stage.

"The back is more difficult because of a combination of factors," says Andy Walls, Director of Sales and Marketing. "On the front, there's more room to err. It has more open space and less vegetation."

What they have in common, however, is water and it appears on 16 of its 18 holes. There are also plenty of elevation changes, carefully placed bunkers and added plants and grasses meant to unravel even the safest of plans. While birdie is possible on the shorter holes, don't expect it. Here, strategy is equally important to accuracy and ability.

Take, for instance, the 533-yard hole number 6 and the 442-yard hole 7. Each offers an alternative bailout. On number six, it's on the approach and on number 7, it's off the tee. In either case, the wrong shot can prove incredibly punishing.

"On six, a good drive gives you the possibility to go for the green in two, but there's a little pond on the right and a bunker on the left that's driveable," says Walls. "For my second, I like to take a fairway wood and go for the huge lay-up area to the right of the green that's beyond the large fairway bunker.

"On seven, the best place to bailout is to the right. It leaves you a long way to the hole, but if you're going to miss it, that's what you need to do. Only the brave and daring go left of the big bunkers in the middle of the fairway."

The challenge continues on the back nine with the added ingredients of a few select doglegs right and left and a thicker grove of pines. Heavier grassy swales, but no fewer water hazards and elevation changes, create an incredibly more difficult half.

Fifteen is fabulous. While only 335 yards, it's impossible to see the heavily guarded, elevated green to the right. The forest, left and right, channels energy forward where a large bunker and live oak passively wait your arrival. Land in it and it will feel like the longest 70- to 95-yard shot you'll ever make.

Another long shot comes at the 211-yard number 16. With nearly all of it a water carry, this par 3 is nothing but trouble. A false back to the undulating green and several bunkers hidden behind clusters of tall cord grass lie beyond its bank. If the design philosophy of "a hard par and an easy bogey" still hasn't troubled you, this hole should do it.

It's the same for the 566-yard, number 18. Here, Walls suggests being conservative by hitting a long iron off the tee to get in play, then using a fairway wood to approach the green from the left. With water carries off the tee and on the approach from the right of the green, this hole is truly a challenge.

"It's the longest hole on the course," says Walls. "But a lot of fun."

From the black tees, Celebration measures 6,772 yards and carries a course/slope rating of 73.0/135. The golds play 6,257 yards at 70.6/129, the silvers play 5,724 yards at 68.1/122, and the whites 4,949 yards at 68.5/121. The green tees (that also play as an 18-hole par 3 course) measure 2,247 yards.

Celebration's other amenities include: a two-sided aqua driving range, a 3-hole junior course and a 10,500 square-foot clubhouse featuring the Windmill Tavern, the Jones Room for banquets, and full-service locker rooms with showers. There's also a fully stocked pro-shop with Callaway equipment and Etonic shoe rentals. Private and group lessons are available, and in association with American Golf, new players are offered an assortment of options through the Nike Golf Learning Center.

You can find Celebration Golf Club just off Interstate 4 at Exit 25A by taking Hwy. 192 East to Celebration Ave. Turn right on Celebration Ave. (at the gray water tower) and continue under the 417 overpass. Turn right on Golf Park Drive. Celebration's clubhouse is on the right.

Celebration Golf Club
701 Golf Park Dr.
Celebration, FL 34747

Elaine GallantElaine Gallant, Contributor

Elaine Gallant is a freelance writer specializing in golf, tennis, and travel. Her many experiences with travel and golf have taken her around the Untied States, Europe, Greece, the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaiian Islands, Australia and points in between.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Fun Course

    Tony wrote on: Jul 26, 2010

    I started on a typical hot humid Florida mid-morning. I hit the driving range to warm up and found to my surprise the driving range was a lake with target islands; lots of fun. The greens were slow but I understand at the end of July all the courses have aerated greens. The water and bunkers were numerous but there faiways were wide enough to keep the ball in play. There was a marshall on site to keep the pace of play within reason. Water and cold wet towels were provided to keep everyone cool. It is a beautiful course around with some fun holes. The staff was friendly and helpful. I'd play here again anytime.


  • Great Experience at Celebration Golf Club

    John Stewart wrote on: Jan 24, 2009

    I just played this course after a Orlando Golf Vacation. My friends and I had the best experience ever. The course conditions and staff services was second to none.
    You have to play this course.


  • Celebration

    Jeff wrote on: Mar 28, 2007

    Awesome course and service is outstanding.


  • Celebrations Overrated

    Donald jones wrote on: Jan 31, 2007

    4 1/2 Stars for conditioning? Our foursome was very disapointed in the quality of Celebration's greens especially in light of their advertised rating. Plus it took 3 hours to play 9 holes! The pro shop staff were very nice


  • Total never return

    Robert J . Fennewlad wrote on: May 4, 2005


  • Do not play this Celebrations

    Brian Roberts wrote on: Feb 20, 2005

    Just a quick story about the people at Celebrations. My friend and I arrived at 10 am for a 1:30 tee time. We checked in and asked the pro shop if we could get out early. They replied "We are booked solid all day". We went and got a bite to eat. And headed for the range. (8 Spots to hit from). After hitting a few ball we headed to the putting green which is between the 9th green and 10th tee. A twosome came off of nine and proceeded to the 10th tee. We asked to join them and were told we could not. It was 40 MINUTES before the next group came through, which was a FIVESOME!!!! I asked the marshall why they were allowing FIVESOMES on the course and he told me it was a group of 15 and the pro shop sent them off as 3 FIVESOMES!!!!! He then told me the group behind the first FIVESOME was even slower. Anothe 40 plus minutes went by and here comes the 2nd FIVESOME, meanwhile groups were stacking up on the first tee like cordwood. We asked the starter if they were still on time which he replied "we are about 30 minutes behind" My friend and I went back to the pro shop to complain and also gety our money back and not one of the people behind the counter gave a rats #@%^ . This was midday on a Saturday. I am not a club pro but I do know that you do not send FIVESOMES off in the middle of the day. All this place want's is your money and it appears to me they do not care about the golfers at all.


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