Purr-fection: Orange County National's Crooked Cat is a "golfer's" golf course

By Dave Lair, Contributor

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. - Literally right down the street from the gates of Walt Disney World, Orange County National's Crooked Cat golf course is a unique and fulfilling golf experience.

18 Holes | Public | Par: 72 | 7493 yards
Crooked Cat Golf Course - Hole 2
The second hole at Orange County National's Crooked Cat golf course is littered with white sand bunkers.
Crooked Cat Golf Course - Hole 2Crooked Cat Golf Course - Hole 4Crooked Cat Golf Course - Hole 6Crooked Cat Golf CourseCrooked Cat Golf CourseCrooked Cat Golf Course - Hole 13

Orange County National has a laundry list of accolades that far exceed any other golf course in the Orlando area. It has been home to the PGA Tour Q-school Finals for 2003, 2005, 2007 and, upcoming, 2010.

The facilities are pretty much the stuff of legends. There's the 42-acre circular driving range that was voted "Best Range in America," the 20,000-square-foot practice green, a short-game area where you can experiment with chips, pitches, lobs and bunker shots, and it is the home of the Phil Ritson Golf Institute.

Did I forget to mention 36 holes of award-winning golf? There's also a 50-room golfer's lodge and full-service restaurant and bar.

With all the prestige that surrounds the golf center, you tend to go there with very high expectations. In my experience at Orange County National, my expectations were met and exceeded. The staff was professional, courteous and very much service oriented. The golf carts come equipped with a fully functional golf GPS and a cooler filled with ice and bottled water.

We were playing on a busy Sunday morning, and we were paired up with two gentlemen from Canada. After two holes, the GPS on their cart stopped working. A call was made, and within five minutes, there was an apologetic employee there to replace the cart and swap over the equipment. A couple of holes later, another employee came by and handed out mango-scented, ice-cold towels and replacement water bottles.

Orange County National's Crooked Cat: A deserving name

The golf course, as one might expect, is in superb condition. Orange County National has no housing anywhere on the property, it's all about "no houses, no noise, just a pure golf experience in peace and tranquility."

Crooked Cat is a very good name for the course. During play, you'll experience many twists and turns, and only on a select few holes will you be able to see the pin from the tee box. The course offers more of a links-style look and feel reminiscent of the golf courses in Ireland and Scotland.

Because the Crooked Cat course is so open and curvy, the wind is ever changing and is a real factor to consider. There is a considerably high number of bunkers on this course, and because of the course's feline persuasion, the term "litter box" kept drifting through my mind.

This golf course gives you multiple options for playing a hole, and typically the most appealing option is the one that will cause you the most trouble. This is a great course for those of you who enjoy the challenge of working the ball.

Water isn't a huge factor on Crooked Cat, it only comes into play on three holes, but the excessive sand on the course will compensate for the lack of water hazards. The par 3s on the course are difficult and pretty intimidating. Three out of the four par 3s on the course feature bunkers guarding against a straight-on approach shot. On the fourth hole, you have a tough 210-yard shot over water.

Orange County National's Crooked Cat course: The verdict

Orange County National's Crooked Cat course was not particularly picturesque, which was surprising. There were a couple of nice holes, No. 2 being the favorite, but overall, I wasn't terribly impressed.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Consider Crooked Cat a "golfers" course; meaning, it's not a course that has to compensate for a poor or unoriginal design by being exceptionally scenic.

It has a solid, well-thought-out course design that is tough, demanding and everything a true golfer is looking for.

I know it's not a good practice to be overly generous with the praise when reviewing a course, but Orange County National's Crooked Cat course deserves every bit of it. The course really kicked my butt during the review, but I loved every minute of it.

It's a tough course, and I wouldn't recommend it for beginners. To stand a chance at mastering Crooked Cat, you're going to need to polish up your ball shaping and leave the "grip it and rip it" mindset in the clubhouse. Smart golf is going to be your best bet at beating the cat.

Dave Lair, Contributor

Dave Lair, writer of OrlandoGolfBlogger.com, is one of those rare Orlando natives. He has spent many years passionately pursuing that mistress we all call golf. In this pursuit, he has played many of Central Florida's finest golf courses and has gained valuable insight into what makes a course worth playing.

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