Marriott's Grande Pines Golf Club: A welcome new stamp on Orlando resort golf
ORLANDO, Fla. -- It takes a lot to stand out among Orlando's crowded golf scene.
If the dramatic, championship layout at Grande Pines Golf Club isn't incentive enough, Marriott Golf's many promotions might get you to the golf course, after all.
Grande Pines opened in 2003 at the former site of the International Golf Club -- a Joe Lee design from 1986. Back then, before the Marriott Grande Vista Resort arrived, this section of I-Drive, just a few exits north of Disney World, included almost no commercial development.
Marriott purchased the golf course in 1997 with the intention to upgrade. Architect Steve Smyers and player consultant Nick Faldo set out devise an entirely different course than Lee's creation.
Now, heavily shaped land and sweeping fairways that tumble far more than most around central Floridaand cover the formerly flat, water-heavy, resort-style golf course.
"The most challenging part of the course is around the green complexes," Head Professional Charles Sheppard said. "There are huge undulations around the chipping areas and very deep, dramatic bunkers."
No hole illustrates this more than the short, par-3 17th. It can cause havoc with your club selection. Use a wedge or short iron to account for a severe false front.
Water doesn't play as much of a factor here as on your typical Florida golf course, though wetlands and hazards impact play. Grande Pines Golf Club's standout, par-4 sixth hole plays to a peninsula green in a lagoon with a resort pool area on the opposite side. The most water-heavy hole, the par-5 11th, features water almost entirely down the right side. Those spots aside, the bunkers require more focus to avoid.
No coincidence, the only green visible from I-Drive is the 10th, which features a dramatic bunker complex between the road and green -- sure turn a few heads.
New golf promotions and values at Grande Pines
The new layout at Grande Pines Golf Club stands out in Orlando, but the many incentives and promotions chip away even more at any excuse to bypass this golf course for one of the many nearby.
Kids play free after 3 p.m. with a paid adult at this family-friendly resort. For visitors who arrived unprepared, the club launched a new rental campaign: For $39 (formerly $59), guests can tee it up with a rental set from TaylorMade and receive two sleeves of TaylorMade balls.
Even better than the $20 price reduction, golfers may use the set for the duration of their stay -- no matter the number of rounds -- without paying a dime more.
If you plan to play a lot of golf, look into Marriott's weekly membership package that includes access to the Faldo Academy and the Hawk's Landing golf course.
Grande Pines Golf Club: The verdict
With the recent redesign and upgrade by Smyers and Faldo, Grande Pines Golf Club sits comfortably among the top tier of championship golf courses in Orlando.
And it's all the challenge you need. Our group noticed two LPGA players on the back nine. It's far tougher than Marriott's Hawk's Landing, which stretches to a maximum yardage of just 6,600 yards. Grande Pines reaches 7,012 yards -- and it plays every inch, with some sharp doglegs and elevated greens.
Despite winding through the resort, the golf course remains walker friendly. And as with all Marriott properties that are Certified Audubon Sanctuary golf courses, Grande Pines partners in the Walk for Health campaign. The resort also offers Bay Boy's new, lightweight Express Auto carts, a more fit alternative to the club's golf carts, which feature ProLink GPS.
While the more extensive practice facility sits at Grande Vista across the street, you'll find a driving range and practice green near the first tee at Grande Pines. Additionally, the clubhouse features a bar and grill, as well as full locker-room facilities for men and women.
Stay and play in Orlando: Marriott Grande Vista
The Marriott Grande Vista, right across the street from Grande Pines, features timeshare and rental units as part of the Marriott Vacation Club.
Grande Vista boasts its own golf offerings. While Grande Pines ranks as the bona fide championship test amongst the Marriott golf courses in Orlando, Grande Vista features a shorter nine-hole facility and the Faldo Golf Academy.
"Every level of golf is covered between Grande Pines and Grande Vista," Sheppard said. "The (par-32) nine-hole course receives a lot of families, and the Faldo Institute offers golf schools and private instruction."
Beyond golf, Grande Vista provides a smattering of family activities, most of which are free and available daily. They range from arts and crafts for the kids to fitness walks, Tai Chi and fishing derbies in the resort's stocked lake.
Or take a mixology lesson and discover a new favorite 19th-hole cocktail. Check your resort guide upon arrival for schedules.
July 16, 2010