Harmony Golf Preserve: The peaceful, amiable side of Johnny Miller
HARMONY, Fla. -- You may not love Johnny Miller the TV commentator (we all have strong feelings about his sometimes demeaning, belittling, egotistical comments on NBC's weekend golf coverage), but at Harmony Golf Preserve, you're going to love Miller the golf course architect. He has delivered a peaceful golf course that's loads of fun to play.
On the design side, Miller's firm keeps a portfolio of 40-plus courses, which include such standouts as Entrada at Snow Canyon Country Club in Utah and Badlands Golf Club in Las Vegas. Harmony Golf Preserve is up there with the best of his daily-fee efforts.
The golf course opened in 2002 and is the centerpiece of the 11,000-acre Harmony residential development about 30 miles southwest of downtown Orlando -- or about 30 miles from Walt Disney World.
So is the golf course worth the drive if you're bunked up with Mickey?
The most obvious advantage here is that Harmony Golf Preserve has the kind of acreage most metro Orlando golf courses could only dream of. It sits on a 260-acre wildlife preserve full of bird life and other little critters and is a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
Orlando has Audubon courses, too, and even some courses like Disney's Osprey Ridge Golf Course or Waldorf Astoria Golf Club are quite pretty and secluded despite being minutes from theme parks.
But Harmony Golf Preserve takes it a step further. While there are a few houses on the horizon (though well off the fairways), you're surrounded by quiet, pleasant nature full of ponds and more than 4,000 trees planted throughout. Miller has stepped aside, allowing nature to be the star here, and your stroke saver offers up some little nature tidbits on each hole.
Harmony Golf Preserve: The course
From a playability/design standpoint, the acreage enabled Miller to build some really big holes. Harmony Golf Preserve stretches to more than 7,400 yards, and the holes often feature wide fairways, loads of bunkers and contours. In many cases, holes are doglegged, offering a safe, longer way to the hole and a more risky shortcut over hazards.
You can let 'er rip at Harmony like you can't at some of Orlando's older, more compact resort courses that have you hitting more hybrids and irons off the tee. Off the tee, Harmony Golf Preserve is as exciting of a golf course as there is in the Orlando area.
The second hole at Harmony is the first that allows a shortcut that cuts off the 399 yards to the point the green is practically reachable off the tee, assuming you challenge the water and right side of the fairway. The seventh hole is another chance to leave yourself with a wedge on a 432-yard hole if you hit it right enough.
The ninth hole's tee shot is a tight squeeze. Two beastly looking bunkers guard the right side of the fairway and a large waste bunker guards left, but there's a little sliver of fairway that, if you hit it, will leave you with a real birdie chance.
But the drive has to be perfect.
Built within a preserve, it was natural for the shaping of Harmony to appear more rugged and blended in with the landscape. Mounding was created (like most Florida golf courses) to add some character to the grounds, though sand bunkers have rough edges (and can be very deep), and there are some waste bunkers, like between the 10th and 18th holes.
Green complexes have gentle movement rather than sharp tiers and shelves -- but just enough to make greens puzzling and make you consider some creative shots playing off slopes into the green on your short approach shots.
Harmony Golf Preserve: The verdict
Put me in the camp that finds Miller's comments when calling golf tournaments to be more often than not disparaging and a little cocky. But I can't say the same about his design at Harmony Golf Preserve. This is the side of Johnny every golfer should be able to enjoy.
The championship set of tees at Harmony is beast enough to host the Hooters Tour Michelob Ultra Classic. But the middle-back blue set at 6,900 yards is bundles of fun if you have a little power. Three closer sets of tees down to 5,410 yards make the course playable for everyone, especially because most greens allow shots to be run up.
Harmony Golf Preserve is a Troon Golf-managed facility and features GPS, bottles of water and coolers in golf carts. Course conditions are kept firm so as to enhance Miller's design, which allows creativity on approach shots and around the green.
The clubhouse is also home to the Harmony Town Tavern, which attracts residents and non-golfers for its full menu and bar. There is a driving range and practice area, so be sure to get your driver ready to go before teeing off here -- you'll need it.
June 11, 2010