Cute and cuddly is for Disney World: Take on Orlando's monster golf courses

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Orlando golf courses include some monsters, ranked either by sheer length or slope rating.

Osprey Ridge Golf Course at Disney
Disney's muscular Osprey Ridge golf course has a slope rating of 135.
Osprey Ridge Golf Course at DisneyMagnolia Golf Course at DisneyDisney World's Palm Golf Course

You might have seen the offensive commercial about a certain golf ball: a couple of over-muscled golfers making sport of thin-shouldered wimps and their 220-yard drives.

Well, this story is for the over-muscled golfers traveling to Central Florida to play Orlando golf courses who love their drivers more than their wives or muscle cars.

You have to be a brute to make this story, either 7,000 yards-plus from the back tees, or a slope rating that tends toward the stratosphere. Orlando is a tourist town geared for the tourist golfer, who is more often than not like the baby-cakes in the commercials.

But, there are some whoppers in Orlando, golf courses where you have to have biceps like Popeye and the touch of a heart surgeon.

Here then, are some of our favorite monsters of Orlando ...

Disney World's Osprey Ridge golf course

There are some challenging layouts among the Disney World golf courses - like the Palm course and its 6,957 yards and the Magnolia course, which slides well past the 7,000-yard mark.

But, our favorite muscle course at Disney is Osprey Ridge at 7,101 yards and a slope rating of 135. It's a Tom Fazio design with elevated tees and greens. It sits on the most secluded area of the Disney property with multi-tiered greens much more undulating than the other Disney courses.

Hunters Creek Golf Course

Hunters Creek Golf Course is 7,268 yards with a slope rating of 137, and even the middle tees are 6,905 yards, with multi-tiered tees, rolling fairways through towering oaks and 13 lakes.

Shingle Creek Golf Club

Shingle Creek, at 7,213 yards and a slope of 139, is built on a wide, tree-less basin. Greens are elevated and cut into tiers. There are numerous water hazards and the protected green complexes are set at angles to the line of play.

Other challenging golf courses in the Orlando area

• The Crooked Cat course at Orange County National is 7,278 yards with an "oh dear" slope rating of 140. Crooked Cat has a links-like feel to it, with large, sloping greens and steep grass and sand bunkers. The course has 50-foot elevation changes, and the routing twists and turns so the wind is almost always coming at you from different directions.

Panther Lake at Orange County National is another golf course that requires your attention. It's 7,275 yards with a slope of 137, with rolling terrain around and over wetlands and lakes.

It also has good elevation - up to 60 feet - and requires thought and precision. Hazards include fairway bunkers, trees and water hazards. Approach shots are difficult into elevated, well guarded greens.

El Campeon at Mission Inn Golf & Tennis Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills has elevation changes up to 85 feet and plays longer than its 6,923 yards. Lakes and ponds dot the golf course and there is little margin for error here. Holes 3-7 are long and difficult with tough carries and harshly sloping greens. The slope rating is 135.

Eagle Creek Golf Club is 7,097 yards, a combination of American and British architecture that turned out very well. It has the wide fairways of many U.S. golf courses combined with the strategic bunkering of many European courses, among other characteristics. Eagle Creek has five par 5s, the only par-73 course in central Florida.

• The East/North course at Grand Cypress is 6,955 yards with a high slope rating of 139. Jack Nicklaus put in tall, shaggy mounds and elevated, turtleback greens that often overlook sand and water. You have wide fairways, but rarely an even lie. It is also an extremely well conditioned layout.

Lake Nona Golf and Country Club is 7,011 yards with a slope rating of 133. It's a Tom Fazio design through natural pine forests and oak groves. Three lakes come into play.

Mystic Dunes Golf Club is 7,012 yards with a slope of 137. The greens are huge and wildly sloped and undulating. Approach shots are hazardous and tricky and standing on the tee boxes can be disorienting.

The golf course slashes through a former orange grove and natural, protected wetlands, and the fairways bend, twist and shake. Railroad ties, some in the middle of the fairway, are nice to look at but hard on your golf ball.

Southern Dunes is a Steve Smyers work of art, 7,227 yards with a slope of 135. The best and worst feature here are the 180 bunkers, filed with red sand and of every imaginable size and shape.

There is no water - Smyers is a big fan of the recovery shot - but there is more than 100 feet of elevation change since this part of the state sits on a high, sandy ridge line.

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.

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