Twin Rivers Golf Club
OVIEDO, FL - You can almost always count on a Joe Lee golf course to be solid.
Around Orlando, you can take your pick of them. With no less than 14 designs to his credit throughout the greater metro area, no single architect is as well represented. From his resort courses at Disney World, to local favorites such as International, to lesser-known venues like Palisades, Lee seems to be everywhere.
In his fifth decade of work, Lee has designed as many courses worldwide as virtually any other architect, living or dead. When you've done as many as he has, through as many eras, there is bound to be quite a variety of styles and approaches. It's also just as likely that if you're that prolific, you will have developed a patent look to help streamline production. This is largely true of Lee.
Joe Lee began his career in the 1960's working for Dick Wilson, one of the premier names in the field from the 1930's until he died in 1965. Some of Wilson's best work was in Florida, seen in his 1947 renovation of Seminole and the original designs for Bay Hill and the Blue Course at Doral. His distinctly individual style, typified by a mode of previously unseen curvaceous, modern bunkering and large, elevated greens, impacted his protégées. These trademarks live on today in a vast number of Joe Lee courses.
When students of golf architecture think of Joe Lee, they likely think of clean, balanced golf courses blotted with large, amoeba bunkers and big, softly rolled greens. Occasionally, there are exceptions-Palisades has some of the smallest greens anywhere-but if this is his style, then Twin Rivers in Oviedo (in the northeast quadrant of Orlando) is quintessentially Lee.
The course was built in 1989 as Ekana Country Club (of which Lee himself was a member and resident), amidst some 200 acres of state wildlife preserve. Of the many reasons to consider Twin Rivers, foremost must be the setting; with the exception of just four or five holes, there are no homes on the course. Most of the round is spent traipsing through palmettos, oak, and the thick underbrush that engulfs the course.
The layout, as with most Lee courses, is very American, meaning that everything is laid out in front of the golfer. There are no tricks here and little to contemplate: every hole has basically one route. Twin Rivers is designed for prescriptive golf, a succession of fairways and greens and otherwise straight shots. The fairways are well defined, and the greens, surrounded by mounds and pairs or trios of large bloomy bunkers, provide ample targets. With the exception of a par five or two, it is execution, rather than strategy or intellectual consideration, that is needed foremost.
Most holes encourage the player to favor one side of the fairway or green over the other, steering away from large and obvious hazards such as lakes, trees, or the large, flat bunkers.
All of this adds up to a very nice and playable course that tips out at only 6,636 yards and thus, due particularly to the price, is a first page recommendation for those seeking public golf in Orlando. Perhaps because there are so few courses in this part of the city, Twin Rivers has an active local membership, and it serves its constituents better than most.
There is nothing fiendish or misleading about the design other than false first impressions. In a manner opposite Lee's Diamondback Golf Club to the southwest of Orlando in Haines City, Twin Rivers opens with spacious fairways on four of the first five holes. Early indications make it seem like the course can simply be overpowered by long hitters. That is until the drive at the sixth. The tee ball at this difficult 382-yard par four must find the slender fairway to the right of an unseen lake without venturing too far through the fairway or fading into the hazards on the right. The approach is then an angled shot over a segment of the same lake into a shallow green pinched between two bunkers at a difficult angle. The hole is more awkward than brilliant, but after the first five holes, it certainly makes you take notice.
From here Twin Rivers fluctuates between free and severely tight driving holes, so the player rarely feels comfortable making that large swing again. When the par fours are open, they seem sanitized and predictable and occasionally tedious (see the mundane 425-yard 10th, a generic beginning to the second nine). At other times they are interesting, if not quite engaging, as evidenced by the nifty 346-yard 11th with its green partially blocked on the left by vegetation, and the graceful 375-yard 14th.
When the course squeezes the landing area it does so with conviction. The 522-yard ninth is a difficult drive, especially coming off the heels of the wide-open eighth. The drive must stay between the trees and favor the right-hand side so that it is placed far enough past the break in this dogleg left to open up the second. The landing area on the second shot is even narrower, at one point dropping to little more than 15 yards wide. The green is sized generously but ringed in true "3-bunker Joe" style.
The seventeenth redefines precision, particularly with the second shot. This par five lets you have most of what you want off the tee, as long as it's between the lake right and the hazard long and left. From that point in it gives up absolutely nothing. At 515 yards, some gutsy players will take a swipe at the green and this approach must be made accurately and primarily through the air for there is scant room to miss. The hazard on the left runs all the way to the green, which itself is bracketed by Lee's Cingular Wireless-shaped bunkers. The lay-up area between the hazard and the dense vegetation and bunker on the right is perhaps 15 yards wide. A better play may be to lay back to 150 yards+ and take a shot at the narrow green from there.
Twin Rivers is a wonderful recreational golf course and quite favored by its members. It is the type of highly produced design (the par three third looks like it was designed on a sound-set) that wins fans because it is well presented and wonderfully maintained.
The only drawback to the course is that it lacks imagination. Too many of the shots are stereotypical and the targets quickly become repetitive-in photographs it's difficult to tell one green from another. This probably won't bother most, but for players looking for something unique or thrilling, there are better options. Once again, the competitive green fee is a decided plus.
Twin Rivers Golf Club
2100 Ekana Drive
Oviedo, FL 32765
Twin Rivers is located off of Mitchell Hammock Road and Lockwood in Oviedo. Call for further directions.
Summer and early fall rates are $29 Monday through Thursday and $34 on weekends. Winter rates have yet to be set but should be in the $35 to $50 range. Twilight and afternoon rates are available. Call the pro shop for exact fees.
Twin Rivers currently has a "no-walking" policy, which may be a blessing because the distance between the first and second and the fifth and sixth holes is extreme. Otherwise this flat course would be a pleasure to hoof.