Eagle Creek Golf Club has distinctive feel

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

ORLANDO, Fla. - Ron Garl says he's a big fan of "concept" golf courses. The Lakeland-based golf course architect believes much of the Sunshine State's topography is just too bland to take "as is."

His latest Florida endeavor, Eagle Creek Golf Club, should strengthen his concept course case while giving the golf-rich Orlando area yet another dazzling dose of high-end pay-for-play golf.

"Eagle Creek's concept is that of a British style course, from the bunkers to the chipping areas," Garl says. "It is unlike anything you'll find around Orlando or really, the entire state."

When building a British style course, it doesn't hurt to have a British architect on the roster. Garl teamed with Howard Swan, a native of Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, on Eagle Creek's design work. Swan's credits include Quinta da Boavista in Lagos, Portugal, Ashburnham Golf Club, in Llanelli, Wales, and Middlesbrough Golf Club in England.

"He really brought a unique eye to the project," Garl says. "Howard is up-and-coming and a name more people will know soon. And we have Steven McFarlane who grew up in Troon and graduated from Glasgow and has remodeled British Open courses. If the course feels British, you'll know why."

The Old World feel begins with Eagle Creek's squared tee boxes and ends with its large, gently undulating greens. In between is a unique collection of British style bunkering that includes a handful of stacked, sod wall or "riveted" bunkers that make for difficult recovery shots.

"The bunkers appear to be random but they've actually been strategically placed," Garl says. "All 90 of them have a method to their madness. That is what St. Andrews is all about and we wanted to deliver that concept at Eagle Creek."

Garl also delivers a cutting-edge turf prescription, as has become the norm for the University of Florida educated agronomist. Eagle Creek's greens are the only putting surfaces in the state turfed with the new Mini Verde strand of ultra dwarf Bermuda. Garl says the Mini Verde will provide a durable, fast-rolling surface that should appeal to fans of bentgrass.

"It is the perfect grass for that course," Garl says. "British courses are firm and fast and Mini Verde fits the bill. It is also a consistent shade of dark green which provides a unique visual element."

Eagle Creek is slated for a soft opening in late March with a grand opening scheduled for later in the spring. When the gates open, golfers will find a 7,193-yard track spread over a par-73 layout that includes five par-5 holes.

That's right - five par 5s.

The 535-yard par-5 18th originally was designed as a par 4, but Eagle Creek's owners wanted to position the green behind a small pond and in front of the clubhouse to create a true risk/reward finish.

"Now that is one fun hole to finish on," says Tony Crawford, Eagle Creek's golf operations manager. "For average golfers it plays around 480 yards (from the middle tees) so getting on in two is an option for players of all skill levels."

Eagle Creek is the centerpiece of a masterplanned community and Crawford says it will carry a "semiprivate" classification. However, the course will be open to the paying public for the foreseeable future.

High season rates will be $110, with summer rates dipping to $60. Twilight rates will be available year-round. The course is located about 10 minutes from the Orlando International Airport on Narcoosssee Rd. southwest of Lake Nona.

Fast facts

Eagle Creek is an Audubon International Silver Signature course, and is the first course in Florida with Mini Verde greens.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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