On the Monday I had arranged to play Ridgewood Lakes and on the Thursday preceding Celebration Golf Club. Also, during the week I received an invitation to play the prestigious Ginn Bella Collina Faldo-designed private club on the Friday. Truly a fine build up to this major weekend challenge.
The Lakes is only ten minutes from the villa and a firm favourite of mine. 18 quality holes, a fine test, great quick greens always excellently manicured all for just 35 bucks including buggy, what value! I played solo so used it very much as a training exercise, played two balls and scored 85 better ball, indeed I struck the ball as well as I had in a long time...still no birdies and in truth not many chances but steady bogey golf.
(2nd hole par 5 at Ridgewood Lakes)
On the Thursday at Celebration – possibly the best municipal or public course in Florida – I was paired in a foursome with three great lads down from Colorado, and they were fantastic company all the way round.
(14th hole at Celebration)
Again the course was impeccable, greens a touch slower than Ridgewood but the round every bit as enjoyable for 60 bucks...this is a must-play course if you are in Orlando. I started well but after a bogey par start I had he misfortune of losing a ball in the bunker at the super par 5 third. I hit a great drive and 5 wood and left myself a sand wedge in which according to my playing partners unfortunately hit the front bunker about 2 inches from the lip, just 8ft from the hole.
All four of us then searched said bunker but the sand was so soft it must have simply enveloped the ball. After that I really struggled but it could not detract from the enjoyment of the guys’ company. One of them had more trouble in the bunkers than me on the 18th, a par 5 where the green is surrounded by four bunkers and a pond. Rommell (as I had nicknamed him) put his approach into the front left bunker, after 6 shots and visiting every bunker he hit his 9th into the water and was relieved to take a drop, but then over-hit his chip into the first bunker he visited. He picked up at this stage or I am sure would still be there.
Friday saw Karen and me visit Bella Collina as invited, she had a spa treatment and I virtually had the full course to myself and what a truly wonderful place it is.
The Tuscany-Style Clubhouse which at the top of the hill is visible from all aspects of the course, forms a spectacular and memorable backdrop and does not disappoint with the quality of facilities. The course is enchanting. It really is as good as it gets. The Greens were as good as Mystic Dunes another impressive Orlando Golfing Experience.
Rarely have I enjoyed a round more. I nearly had an eagle, had a couple of birdies and broke 90...I was on a high all afternoon. It really is a pity because it is a private club most visitors will not get chance to play this wonderful course.
On Saturday I was back on the tour and in a confident mood. I birdied the first and really failed to take advantage of this. Stoneybrook is a golf community course whereby the course meanders through the residences. This can make the course drives seem daunting as any pull or slice would leave you in someone’s garden!
(Stoneybrook West, 1st hole, 420 yards straight. I drive 260 then 4 iron to just 6ft hole putt. A birdie and I'm on my way!)
The dry spring here (they have had no rain for months) had seriously affected the condition of the fairways and greens and approaches and chips were a lottery. Everyone seemed to be struggling but I managed to put a decent run together from the tenth to 14 5 holes with 3 pars and 2 bogeys but followed by an 87….. 6 over burst where I did not really believe it not hit a bad shot. A bogey at the last saw me fail to break 100 so it was not with much hope I handed my card in but it soon became clear that in every flight the scoring was horrendous and my score was good enough for second place and my first pay check of $75.
(Dano, Alberto and James at Stoneybrook)
Third at Duran, Second at Stoneybrook puts me in second place in the flight behind run-away leader Wayne Weaver but on-track for promotion and the finals. The next competition is a two day event in Southern Dunes in a fortnight and I am looking to continue my improvement in the placings.
(Edwin Watts Tour, a proud seciond place - I'm in the money!)
On the Sunday I attended a gala dinner at Bay Hill for the Formet Foundation. Arnies Place really is something special. Our room in the lodge overlooked the 9th Green and I really began to feel as I suppose an invited player would at the Bay Hill Invitational.
(The Formet Foundation lovely volunteers)
On the Monday, I partnered two great players as well as gentlemen, the Cunningham cousins, Rob from Orlando and Jim from London.
(The Social Golfer team - your host and the cousins Cunningham on the 17th tee, out first of which I rolled in for a 20 footer for a Birdie 2)
We started on the par 3, 200 yard 17th one of Mr Palmer’s favourites, Jim hit the green and left a twenty footer which I nailed. On the 18th around the lake, the scene of Tiger’s fist pumping in 08 and 09 as he nailed winning puts, I hit a 5 iron approach to 5 foot which Rob gets for a birdie, birdie star. We are on fire and by the 8th our tenth we are 8 under, but after that we slip several opportunities to finish 10 under.
(The majestic 13th at Bay Hill, we Birdie this to go 10 under after 15 holes but sadly enough it wasn't enough)
We meet Arnolds caddie and have a great day but I certainly felt the weakest link although at no stage did the guys who played superbly, made me feel that. The course is a test, a quality place befitting of Arnolds association. It had several memorable par 5s around the lakes, although apart from 17, I thought the par 3s disappointing. Greens were testing but consistent and its always great to walk in the footsteps of heroes…The course is open to all but of course at a price. If money is no object or concern and you have £600 to spare, then you can book a room with a view and play the course. Quality and the experience does unfortunately come at a cost here.
A memorable week...a rest now...more shopping and I will recharge my batteries next week.