New Course at Grand Cypress Resort evokes St. Andrews' Old Course

By Katharine Dyson, Special Contributor

ORLANDO, Fla. -- If the Old Course in St. Andrews is on your bucket list but not in your travel plans, you might want to tee up at the New Course at Grand Cypress Golf Resort.

18 Holes | Resort | Par: 72 | 6773 yards
Grand Cypress Resort - New Course - hole 18
Fans of the Old Course just might recognize the bridge on 18 at Grand Cypress Resort's New Course.
Grand Cypress Resort - New Course - hole 18Grand Cypress Resort - New Course - hole 10Grand Cypress Resort - New Course - hole 17

Designed by Jack Nicklaus in 1988 and joining the North, South and East nines at Grand Cypress, also designed by Nicklaus, the New Course is crafted as a tribute to the Old Course.

It's received many awards including: Golfweek Magazine's "Americas Best Public-Access Courses for Florida," "America's Top 100 Resort Courses," and Golf for Women Magazine's "Top 50 Courses in America for Women."

"It's unique to find the equivalent of the Swilcan Burn Bridge on the 18th as well as a version of the 'Road Hole,'" said Toby Sutton, a Brit who has played the Old Course several times.

In addition to the re-creation of the Road Hole on No. 17, with the small but treacherous pot bunker in front of the green, also making an appearance on the New Course is "The Valley of Sin," a big depression in front of the left side of the 18th green.

It could muster up a fair amount of temporary insanity should you chip up short only to find your ball reversing back down to stop at your feet. A depressing depression indeed.

Grand Cypress Resort's New Course: Bunkers galore

If you were to look down on the New Course from the Goodyear blimp, you would see a ground well pock-marked by white dots. Those would be pot bunkers, which are not always easy to see from the tee.

Land in one of these, and the top of your head could be barely visible as you tried to hack your way out. You could be there for days. Wise golfers check their GPSs for bunker locations before hitting.

Stone walls like the one on No. 15 -- which defines the curve of the pond edge on the right along with mounded fairways, snarly grasses and roll-up greens with false fronts such as found-approaching greens No. 7 and No. 9 -- further enhance the links-like aspects. There are even dastardly patches of prickly gorse. On occasions you find yourself under such a bush, you might wish this particular species had been left to flourish across the pond.

Holes No. 1 and No. 18 are pretty recognizable replicas of St. Andrews holes, while others are designed to evoke the spirit of this famous links. And like St. Andrews -- except for burns (brooks), which run through the track -- there is little water and few trees on the New Course, especially in the interior.

With all due respect to the similarities, the New Course is quite different from St. Andrews, starting with the clumps of sandy wire grass and balmy, humid, tropical climate and palmettos, which are more conducive to fruit drinks with umbrellas in them rather than slugs of whisky.

Whereas the Old Course is shaped rather like a banana with the sea and beach in the distance -- anyone remember "Chariots of Fire?" -- the New Course is laid on a flat meadow far from the sea and roughly the shape of Sponge Bob Square Pants with a tail. But bring in the rolling mist, the drizzling damp weather and the plaintive sound of bagpipes, and you could almost forget the magic that Disney's Cinderella Castle is just down the road.

Grand Cypress Resort's New Course: The verdict

Those looking for a more traditional track with lots of carries, ponds, elevations and palm-lined fairways, may find the New Course will take some getting used to.

It's simply very unlike most American courses. But Nicklaus has done a remarkably good job in creating a course not just different from his other courses at Grand Cypress Resort, but one that gives golfers a taste of what it might be like to play St. Andrews.

Although not long at 6,773 yards from the tips, big hitters will love that they can drive out to big fairways to big greens. Hit off course on the first hole, and you might just find it on the 18th. These fairways run seamlessly into each other.

"For an American design, this is a pretty good knock-off of the Old Course. Very solid," adds Sutton.

The New Course offers a very different golf experience among the array of courses in the Orlando area. Playing this track definitely lends a sense of the Old Course at St. Andrews -- at least as far as you can go considering the differences in climate, location and culture.

Certainly it's a solid course that can stand on its own merits. How you feel about it after your round may well depend on how well you avoided, or got out of, the more than 160 bunkers.

Katharine DysonKatharine Dyson, Special Contributor

Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers. Follow Katharine on Twitter at @kathiegolf.

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