Huge greens and wild slopes will mystify the putter at Mystic Dunes Golf Club in Celebration, Florida

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

CELEBRATION, Fla. -- Most people who follow golf know the name Gary Koch mainly as a television commentator, though he did win six tournaments in his career, which started in 1975. But Koch has also been involved in golf course architecture, and he came up with a doozy with Mystic Dunes Golf Club on the western edge of Orlando.

18 Holes | Public | Par: 71 | 7012 yards
Mystic Dunes G.C. in Celebration, FL
Designed by Gary Koch, Mystic Dunes Golf Club is one of the top-tier offerings in Orlando golf.
Mystic Dunes G.C. in Celebration, FLMystic Dunes golf course - pot bunkersMystic Dunes golf course

If you're a fan of old-school, huge greens with serious -- I mean, serious undulations, you will find heaven at Mystic Dunes. They are straight out of the sketch book of renowned architect Alister MacKenzie, who in fact lent his name to these type of greens, "MacKenzie greens." Many of them are modeled after Augusta National, according to golf officials here, and some are so close you may think they're replicas, or at least "inspired-by."

When Koch and the resort developer conferred about what kind of golf course they wanted, Koch was encouraged to "stretch the limits," according to Mystic Dunes Golf Club's Mark Bereza. "His philosophy was to build a challenging golf course and something you don't ordinarily see. Love it or hate it, people are going to be talking about it."

That they do. Almost every green complex has something wild, usually involving multiple layers and separate sections and slopes so steep you could ski on them if central Florida ever got snow in the winter. They slope right to left, left to right -- one does both -- front to back and some fall off on all sides. The rest of the golf course is challenging enough, but the adventure really begins on the dizzying dance floors. These aren't subtle breaks -- though there are some of those, too -- these are back-breakers.

All of Mystic Dunes' greens have at least 50 yards of tiff-dwarf grass surrounds, many featuring deep swales and collection areas that are adventures in themselves; getting up-and-down here requires more than a little imagination.

"I started playing golf in 1996, and I'm finding myself in some really different situations," said Jerry Ramsey, of Richmond, Va., playing Mystic Dunes Golf Club for the first time. "I'm having to learn different shots."

The greens aren't the only feature of this course that's tough; it features some of the longest par 4s in Florida, and a quartet of nasty par 3s. No. 5, for example, is a long par-3 fronted by water and collection areas run along the sides and back. The green is wide, but not deep, and sand runs the length of the green.

No. 7 is 200 yards with a carry over marsh to a green that slopes away to collection areas in all directions. No. 2 is a 508-yard par-4 from the back tees, No. 14 is 496 yards and the closing hole is a 485-yard par-4.

Mystic Dunes Golf Club's par 5s aren't left out either. No. 6 is a 510-yarder with a substantial carry from the back tees and even the blue ones. It's a dogleg left and a long drive to the left can put you in position for an eagle, but beware the water that fronts the green left. There is a big oak in the fairway affecting your second shot and the green features an eight-foot elevation change.

Mystic Dunes Golf Club: The verdict

Mystic Dunes G.C. is a tough, challenging golf course. Bring your long game, your short game and everything in between.

There are two distinctive nines. The front is called "Carolina golf" with long, forced carries over swamps and wetlands and the back nine is supposedly more British in appearance, though that is debatable.

Once you make the turn, condos give way to a more rural feel, with its rolling orange groves and protected wetlands. Still, all the holes are well conditioned and, more important on this course, consistent in their feel.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment