Long and strong: The best par 5s in Orlando
ORLANDO, Fla. – With three golf courses that host the PGA Tour (the Palm Course and the Magnolia Course at Walt Disney World Resort and Bay Hill Club & Lodge) and another that is home to the LPGA Tour's season finale (Grand Cypress Golf Club), the Orlando area is stocked with daunting par 5s good enough to challenge the best players in the world.
Picking the best of them wasn't easy, but we think you'll agree, a par on any of these par 5s goes a long way. Birdie, well, that's reason to celebrate. Reaching them in two? Now that's a whole new ballgame. Maybe you should either move back a set of tees or sign up to play against the pros.
No. 16 at Bay Hill Club & Lodge
This 511-yard par 5 was almost lost to modern golf -- it played as a par 4 several years at the Arnold Palmer Invitational -- until the 2009 renovation put some teeth back into it. The tee shot must find the fairway between a bunker on either side. From there, players face the choice of laying up or taking on the creek that fronts the green. Three bunkers and some tricky shaved collection areas make getting up and down a challenge.
No. 16 at Osprey Ridge at Walt Disney World Resort
This great risk-reward par 5 at Osprey Ridge offers a chance to go for it in two, if you boldly play up the left side near the pond. Five fairway bunkers pinch either side of the landing area where the fairway narrows. It's tough to hit this tight corridor on a layup. Or if you go for it, the green buttonhooks left into the pond, setting up a dramatic approach. Five more traps enshrine the green.
No. 14 on the Magnolia Course at Walt Disney World Resort
The host of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic still remains one of the longest PGA Tour courses at more than 7,500 yards. No hole exemplifies the Magnolia’s brawny style like the par-5 14th, which can play as long as 594 yards. The hole is a dogleg right and plays tightly through trees. A gentle left-to-right tee shot puts you in the best position for the proper angle of approach. It’s a hole that requires both strength and accuracy.
No. 6 on the South nine at Grand Cypress Resort
Avoiding a hazard left and out-of-bounds on the right is critical to starting off this 600-yard hole on the South nine at Grand Cypress Resort. Water on the left and fairway bunkers on the right guard the second shot. More trouble comes into play at an elevated postage stamp green, protected by a 10-foot deep bunker on the right and more water left.
No. 3 on the International Course at ChampionsGate Golf Club
At 576 yards, most players don't think about reaching the par-5 third on the International Course in two. It's just a good three-shot hole with wetlands, dunes, pot bunkers and water hazards. The key is to play smart and avoid the trouble. This links-like Greg Norman design is a former site of the annual Father/Son Challenge featuring former major champions and their sons.
No. 6 at Bay Hill Club & Lodge
The 555-yard sixth at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill is truly one of the great risk-reward par 5s in golf. The hole wraps completely around a lake on the left, tempting players to bite off as much as they can chew. Unfortunately, if they don't carry the lake to land, they're teeing off again. Hitting through the fairway will find the two fairway bunkers. With a great drive, going for the green is certainly risky. Most right-handers will try to draw the ball into it, but anything overcooked will find the water. John Daly, by the way, made 18 here at the 1998 Bay Hill Invitational when he hit into the water six times.
No. 17 at El Campeon at Mission Inn Resort & Club
In the 90-plus years of history for El Campeon, just west of Orlando in Howey in the Hills, the hole that’s earned its own special sign at the tee box is the par-5 17th, with a nickname "Devil’s Delight." The pure, three-shot hole presents new looks and pitfalls at every shot. The tee shot must be threaded through trees. The layup must be precise enough to take a fairway tree out of play but also not so aggressive it finds O.B. or water. Finally, the approach must carry water to a green that slopes heavily from back to front. Anything above the hole could lead to a three-putt.
No. 12 at Waldorf Astoria Golf Club
Rees Jones has certainly been a magnate for discussion in 2011 with his player-maligned redesigns of Atlanta Athletic Club and Cog Hill. At Waldorf Astoria Golf Club, Jones delivers a traditional layout with artfully sculpted bunkers and challenging greens complexes -- not to mention a little length at more than 7,100 yards. The par-5 12th -- named "Conrad" -- goes on for 626 yards. While the tee shot is forgiving with just one bunker on the left, the layup is defended with large and deep bunkers both left and right. More bunkers and water protect a small, elevated green.
No. 15 on the New Course at Grand Cypress Golf Club
Players must avoid four penalizing pot bunkers on the left and water on the right to start this 590-yard brute. True to the course's links style, a stonewall comes into play along the right side of the fairway. A menacing 10-foot deep bunker dissects the fairway 120 yards from the oversized, sloping green.
Mike Bailey and Brandon Tucker contributed to this report.
October 28, 2011