Location: Tavares, Fla.
Course architect: Joe Lee
From the tips: 7,029 yards
Saturday morning green fee: $ (under $50)
Caddie service: No
Walker friendly: No
Fairways: Bermudagrass (overseeded with winter ryegrass)
Greens: Bermudagrass (overseeded with winter ryegrass)
Starter: You’ll use not only every club in your bag but, quite possibly, every ball, too. With water in play on all 18 holes and numerous forced carries off tees and on approach shots, Deer Island poses a stern test. So, how does that qualify a course for inclusion on the “Fun Meter”? Well, for high-handicappers who aren’t into self-flagellation, it probably doesn’t. For low-to-mid-handicappers who play the tees matched to their ability, Deer Island unfolds as a fun, scenic, strategic round on the northern fringes of the busy Orlando golf market.
Play because … : In Florida’s winter high season, a course such as Deer Island would cost at least twice as much if it were located near Orlando’s tourist district. For $32 on a peak-season Saturday, you’ll find that the drive to Tavares – about an hour northwest of the theme parks – will be worth it. Just remember to pack an extra sleeve or two.
Takeaway: This is pure target golf in a market chocked full of forgiving, resort-style courses. Move up a tee box and enjoy the scenery of Lake Dora and the eclectic town of Mount Dora to the north and Lake Beauclair to the south. From the white markers (6,284 yards), my tee shots on the par 3s varied from 9-iron to 5-hybrid. Par 4s from the middle boxes range from a perilous 304 yards to a brawny 403 closing hole into a prevailing northerly winter breeze. Only the best players should consider the black markers – not so much because of the 7,029-yard heft but more for the increased presence of hazards. Be careful about reaching into the numerous waterways for that inevitable stray shot. In addition to the abundant turtles, egrets and herons, snakes and gators pose a penalty much worse than a stroke for a lost ball.
RATINGS [1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest]
Food | Beverage: 6.0
Pro shop: 6.0
Course difficulty: 9.0
Pace of play: 8.0
THE COURSE | Scorecard
Best par 3: No. 13 (203 yards). After 12 holes, you no doubt will have had second thoughts about which tees were being played before stepping onto this hole. Any doubt would be reinforced here. The only place to hit the ball is onto the putting surface. Water forms a U shape around the front, left and right of the green, with bunkers guarding the rear. From the white markers, the hole plays 163. From the black, 203. It’s a tight target regardless.
Best par 4: No. 9 (411 yards). Slight dogleg right with trouble left and a water hazard right demand a solid tee shot to set up a mid-iron approach to a well-bunkered, slightly elevated green. It’s a solid closing hole to the outward nine.
Best par 5: No. 16 (496 yards). After a rare welcoming tee shot, the hole narrows into a bulkhead green complex guarded by water front and left, requiring a solid approach. It’s a classic risk-reward for long hitters grinding for a birdie or potential eagle late in the round; for everybody else, the hole demands a precision wedge for the third shot.
Rated by: Steve Harmon