The Grand Cypress Resort has been a mainstay of the Orlando resort scene since the mid 1980s. Recognized for its AAA four diamond accommodations and world class golf courses, the resort has hosted numerous tournaments, such as Greg Norman’s Shark Shootout (1986-1990), the World Cup (1990), the LPGA’s HealthSouth Inaugural (1998, 1999) and many others. The resort features much more than 45 holes of Jack Nicklaus designed golf – It also offers a full service racket club, health club, in-room spa services, two pools, rock climbing wall, fishing, 9 hole pitch n’ putt course and more.
The accommodations at Grand Cypress are top notch, with a 750 room hotel and 146 villas. The four diamond rated villas feature private terraces, high speed internet and LCD TVs. Most enjoy golf course views and plenty of room to spread out. In my opinion, the Villas at Grand Cypress are the best place to stay in Orlando. You are minutes from Disney or downtown, with so many dining options in the area it will make your head spin. It also helps that the beds are very comfortable, with thick heavy comforters and plenty of fluffy pillows.
If you want to work on your game, the Grand Cypress Academy of Golf ranks as one of the best in the nation. Top 50 instructor Fred Griffin and his highly accomplished staff have a state of the art facility to work with, and there is even a Taylor Made Performance Lab on site for the total fitting experience. The Academy has 21 acres of practice areas, putting and chipping greens, 3 practice holes and several covered hitting bays with computer analysis. If you are lucky, you might run into one of the PGA or LPGA pros that call Grand Cypress home.
As mentioned before, there are 45 holes of championship golf designed by Jack Nicklaus. In 2007 and 2008, Jack returned to rework the original North & South course. Along with the East course, the three nines combine with the 18 hole New course to offer a truly diverse and challenging golf facility. I visited The Grand Cypress Resort last weekend to play the New Course with a few buddies, and the experience was fantastic.
Set in an open meadow, Nicklaus fashioned the New course as an homage and tribute to the Old Course at St Andrews. The course is an original design, with the exception of the first and last holes, which are replicas of the first and eighteenth at the Old Course complete with the Swilcan Burn and Valley of Sin. The course is complete with massive double greens, stone bridges and walls, gorse mounds, burns, and pot bunkers as deep as 12 feet. If it weren’t for the 90 degree temperatures and bright sunshine, you would think you were in Scotland. There are few trees and little water in play. If you can manage to stay out of all the bunkers and what little water there is, you will probably have a good day. The course measures 6773 from the tips, with a rating and slope of 71.5 and 122, respectively. The white tees measure 6181, which will be fine for most golfers.
Although intimidating to look at, with the semi blind shots and deep bunkers, the New course is surprisingly friendly. Most holes don’t have any rough, and several holes run parallel to each other, creating 100 yard wide fairways. Even though the fairways are very generous, they are littered with bunkers that must be avoided. Stray from the wide fairways and you will find mounds of gorse, which makes hitting back to safety a crap shoot. Nicklaus wanted to make the course look like the routing occured naturally and has been there for hundreds of years. As such, you will have some uneven lies in the fairway and very undulating greens. The stone paths and bridges also were made to look like they are very old, and although they look great, they aren’t very friendly on the ‘ol tailbone when riding a cart!
Putting at the New Course is unlike anything in the state of Florida. There are seven double greens, and a wayward shot to one of these massive putting surfaces can leave you with a putt of over 100 feet! This is exactly what happened to me a few months ago on the 6th hole, a 496 yard par 5 that shares its green with the 12th hole. After a decent drive, I was left with a 235 yard shot, which I pull hooked way left. It rolled up into the group that was putting on number 12, and I was left to ponder my 150 foot putt that descended 4 feet into a huge valley and back up a slope, then to the right along a ridge to the hole. The greens on the New Course are large and undulating, with some false fronts and even false backs sprinkled in to make things more interesting. With the speed of the greens usually in the 9.5 to 11 range on the stimp, you had better be sharp with the flat stick if you want to score well here. After laughing with my playing partners about the huge putt on 6, we all took a shot at the 150 foot putt once we arrived on the 12th green. After missing an 18 inch putt for par, I rolled in the 150 footer! I wish he had caught it on video, as I don’t think I could ever duplicate that lucky shot!
Like the other 27 holes, the New course at Grand Cypress resort is always in pristine condition. With the sheer volume of grass that has to be mowed, it must take quite an impressive array of maintenance equipment and a sizable crew to maintain it. The gorse and rough areas around the course are meant to look wild and unmaintained, but ironically it takes a great amount of time and effort to achieve this appearance. Being a former greeskeeper, I tend to notice the small details in course maintenance that often go overlooked by most. My hats off to the superintendent and his crew for keeping this huge track in tip top shape year round.
Our day on the New course started with the first tee time of the day at 8 am. We had the whole course to ourselves and the weather was perfect. I brought two friends that had not played the course before, and both left the course raving about the design and how much fun it was to play. I managed to make 6 birdies and shoot a tidy little 68, my friend Lindsay shot 73 and my other friend Dave from orlandogolfblogger.com shot his career low of 89. The staff as always was very friendly and accommodating, and we enjoyed our day thoroughly. After the round, Lindsay and I proceeded over to the Taylor Made Performance Lab to meet Travis, who would put us through the complete fitting experience, the Taylor Made way.
If there is one small negative about this course, it is that the grasses used in Florida and the climate in the Southeast don’t allow the course to play as a true links course. Being a resort course, it is kept well watered and green, which is the polar opposite of a true Scottish links. As such, the use of the bump and run shot that is so useful in Scotland is virtually useless here. However this is only a small annoyance, and most American golfers never employ such a shot anyway.
The Grand Cypress Resort has been wowing guests for 25 years, and there is no end in sight. With the world class golf, four diamond accommodations, plenty of excellent dining and leisure activities and the proximity to Orlando’s attractions, Grand Cypress should be at the top of anyone’s list of must plays in the Orlando area!
Enjoy the slide show of all my photos of the Grand Cypress New Course below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS feed and email updates for the latest news and reviews!
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