Nature is the star at Disney World's Osprey Ridge Golf Course
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Typically, multi-course resorts hosting a PGA Tour event utilize their most scenic track -- the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, the TPC Blue Monster at Doral and the Champion at PGA National Resort & Spa come to mind.
Such is not the case at Disney World, however, where Osprey Ridge Golf Course plays second fiddle to the Palm Golf Course and Magnolia Golf Course, despite being regarded as the most scenic of the four Disney golf courses.
Tucked in a secluded corner of Disney's 47-square-mile resort -- fittingly, along a road called Wilderness Trail -- this Tom Fazio design opened in 1992, 20 years after Disney's original three Joe Lee-designed golf courses opened.
Osprey Ridge Golf Course: Wild kingdom
Though barely a mile from the thundering roller coasters at Disney's Magic Kingdom, you'd never know it. More animal species call Osprey Ridge Golf Course home than any of the other Disney golf courses, and it's known for being one of the most tranquil locales in all of the Walt Disney World® Resort.
But don't forget you're playing a Fazio-designed course, so if you become too enamored by your peaceful surroundings, your score will add up quickly.
The third hole is your first test of the day. This downhill par 3 is lined by a massive, tee-to-green waste bunker that wraps around the front, right and back portions of the putting surface. If the wind's in your face or you're not feeling confident in your ball striking, aim left and rely on a long two putt or solid up-and-down.
The most difficult hole on Osprey Ridge Golf Course's front nine is no doubt the par-5 seventh. At 558 yards from the second-longest set of tees, it's the longest hole at Osprey Ridge by 40 yards. Adding insult to injury, the fairway is lined by a lake along most of the left side. It's a three-shot par 5 even for the long hitters, and bunkers add intrigue to the layup area.
No. 9, a dogleg-right par 5, is shorter than 7, but a large lake lining the entire right side protects the tee shot as well as the green on three sides. A narrow opening into the green means a hero shot is possible, but anything right spells a watery end to your outward nine.
The scenery begins to take hold on the back nine beginning with No. 11, the first in a fantastic three-hole stretch where you really feel like you're away from it all. Driver isn't required at this short par 4, but a good approach shot certainly is, for if you leave it on the wrong side of the slope, a three-putt is a good possibility.
The next hole is an excellent dogleg-left par 5 that's home to an osprey nest adjacent the tee. Though it sits atop an artificial perch -– it's Disney, remember –- real osprey actually nest there during the spring.
No. 13 is a scenic, downhill par 3 with a green that's surrounded by dense forest.
The signature hole at Osprey Ridge Golf Course is No. 16, the shortest par 5 on the course. A good tee shot allows longer hitters to go for the green in two, but a lake along the left gives way to a large, elevated green that's surrounded on all sides by bunkers. Whether you choose the gutsy route or the strategic one, it’s a great hole that rewards good shots.
Osprey Ridge Golf Course: The future
Though the golf -– particularly the back nine -– is excellent, the most talked-about aspect of Osprey Ridge G.C. might be its future, which is yet to be determined.
Disney is developing a luxury residential resort community at Walt Disney World Resort, anchored by a Four Seasons Resort (on the former site of Eagle Pines Golf Course). Four Seasons will assume ownership of the Osprey Ridge course by 2013, and Disney says the course will not change, save for several holes to accommodate the hotel.
In the high stakes game of hotel and real-estate development few things are certain, but those who think Osprey Ridge G.C. might one day cease to exist should take solace in the fact that Bill Gates is building a home along the seventh hole.
Disney's Osprey Ridge Golf Course: The verdict
True to Fazio form, Osprey Ridge Golf Course features generous fairways and plenty of mounding around the greens. As is the case with all Disney golf courses, the conditions here are usually very good, though the greens -- in contrast to its roller coasters -- aren't terribly fast.
If your desire is a literal walk in the park, then Osprey Ridge G.C. is a sure bet. And if you want to challenge yourself, play the back tees and she'll give you all you can handle. Either way, just make sure you keep it in play on those treacherous par 5s.