Part III of The Magic of Disney Golf: Disney's Osprey Ridge is a secluded beauty
Orlando, Fla. - Architect Tom Fazio must have had a woman in mind when he designed Osprey Ridge, one of Walt Disney World® Resort's five golf courses at Lake Buena Vista.
No, the reference isn't to the ease of play off the forward tees, forgiving fairways, or large greens with only about 70 bunkers. But, it does refer to a certain femme-fatale atmosphere this beauty of an 18-hole championship golf course creates with its dangerous curves and dagger-like hazards.
"You feel like you're in the Sandhills of North Carolina," says Kevin Weickel, Disney's Head Professional and Tournament Director of the National Car Rental Golf Classic. "It has rolls and ridges and elevation changes throughout the course which are unique to flat Florida. When you stand on every tee, it feels like a presentation. It's just laid out so clearly. Plus, we can set the course up very short and easy, or back it up and give it a lot of teeth."
Osprey Ridge opened in 1992 and winds its way through a pine, oak, and cypress tree hammock. Florida swamp and numerous backcountry duck ponds serve as stage settings and as framing for many of the holes. To increase native osprey nesting, Disney stocked the ponds with osprey favorites, added aquatic grasses and built nesting platforms. Also, by erecting raised boardwalks, it protected the area's wetlands. Such devotion to the environment earned Osprey Ridge designation as a "Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary" by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System in June 2000.
As for the course, there's an element of seclusion. Players on one hole do not see players on another. Fazio achieved this through effective mounding and varying thickets of pine forest. As a result, most of the fairways appear as lush, green corridors. Doglegs are long and winding, as are many of the bunkers. And, according to Weickel, every hole is technically designed so you can roll the ball onto the green - "you don't have to fly it."
As a semi-resort course, Osprey Ridge opens with relative ease. Then, almost hole by hole, it becomes increasingly difficult. When faced with holes 3 and 4, expect a bit of the shakes from the back tees, as each is a long par 3.
At 193 yards, number 3 is right-flanked by a sand trap, as large and winding as the fairway and green put together. The elevated tee, recognized as the highest point on Disney golf property, faces an equally elevated, oblong green with false back and side. Relief is to the left - that is if you can handle the greenside mounding or the grain and slope to a far right pin.
Hole number 5 measures 222 yards with a pond running up its entire right side. And, while the green is one of the largest, its slippery slope and tricky pin placement will challenge any long-iron hitter.
Osprey's highest handicapped hole, the 510-yard, par 5 number 9, should carry a warning. From an elevated tee, this downward sloping fairway feels like a free fall. Any shot right, all the way to the green, is wet. Any shot left is knocking on wood. Its small and guarded green is pinched at the approach.
The back nine begins as easily as the front with increasing difficulty as the course unfolds. The difference is you've become a little more immune to its stunning beauty. It's all business now. But don't expect Osprey Ridge to surrender. Come the final stretch, it will give you its best.
"Sixteen, 17 and 18 are as good as any three finishing holes you'll find anywhere," Weickel says. "Sixteen is a fantastic, rolling par 5 where the green sits high on a mound. You can try to go for it. If you hit a good drive, you're probably left with about 230 yards to the green. You can try to fly it straight over the water, or play it out to the right and play it safe. But it gives you that element of risk and reward."
"Seventeen is a par 3. The constant visual intimidation is unreal, especially when you stand back and know it's 200 plus yards and it's all over water. Eighteen is a long, weaving, dogleg par 4 that's just fantastic."
Considered a fan favorite, Osprey Ridge and its sister course, Eagle Pines, are co-hosts to the Bryant Gumbel/Walt Disney World Celebrity Tournament benefiting the United Negro College Fund since 1993. Other current and past events include the national finals of the women's Oldsmobile Scramble, the North Florida PGA Sectional Championship, and the Guess Watches Zinger Stinger Pro-Am benefiting the Leukemia Society of America's Lymphoma Research.
Only twice is Mickey's presence noted at Osprey Ridge. Once near the cart corral as a photo opportunity in Mickey's personal golf cart, and again at the practice green which is shaped in his likeness.
From the back tees, the course plays 7,101 yards with a course/slope rating of 74.4/131. The silvers play 6,680 yards at 72.3/129, the golds play 6,103 yards at 69.5/123 and the reds play 5,402 yards at 70.5/122.
Osprey Ridge is located at Disney's Bonnet Creek location, within a 10-minute drive between Pleasure Island and the Magic Kingdom. Also, as with all Disney courses, resort guests receive complimentary "to and from" taxi vouchers. For non-resort guests, take Interstate 4 to exit 26-B and follow Epcot Center Drive to "Disney's Golf Courses" at the third exit. Then follow the signs to the Osprey Ridge and Eagle Pines golf courses at Bonnet Creek.