It has been a while since I played the Legends at Orange Lake Resort in Kissimmee, one of four courses at the Holiday inn Vacations Club’s massive playground. This 7,072 yard Arnold Palmer designed Signature Championship layout is a pleasurable golf experience if you play from one of the appropriate five tees. The course weaves through a labyrinth of timeshare condominiums and mother nature with no cookie-cutter holes. All eighteen have their own unique challenge including rolling hills, both narrow and wide open fairways, and testy greens. At every hole, the yardage sign will have a quote from “The King” or Kemmons Wilson, the founder of Holiday Inns.
Legends plays out of its own large clubhouse with a well stocked golf pro shop and the Legacy Sports Bar & Grill. The expansive driving range is complete with a chipping area and a practice bunker. A practice putting surface is between the 1st and 10th tees. Our player assistant Greg was very friendly and helpful, putting ice in our bucket, and reminding us to stay hydrated on this hot summer day. They had a group shotgun going out on the front, so Greg put us out on the back to maintain play.
The back nine only has one par 5, the 11th, which is 532 yards straight-away. If you keep it in the short grass and avoid the trees that guard the fairway, hitting your second shot down the left, your shot to the green has a better chance of making it. Birdie is possible. The par 3,12th, has multiple tee boxes. If you hit from the right side you can go for the pin, however if you have to shoot over the entire pond from the left, I recommend one extra club because long is better than short to a multi level green. The 13th is a great par 4 with a blind shot to the fairway. Hit it straight avoiding the right is my suggestion. I play my second shot at the left side of the green no matter where the pin is. It was tucked right and two of our players found the pond in front. On the par 4, 14th aim between the 150 post and the waste area on the left and you should be hitting to the green with a short iron. No one had worst than par this day. One of the most aesthetically pleasing is the par 3, 15th, with water along the entire left side and a mounded green(the pin was in the back). Short right is the bail-out, but I went flag hunting. Tweet-Tweet! Another par 4 with trouble lurking over the hill, the 16th requires a good drive preferably short of the pond in front of the green, or grip it and rip it down the left, avoiding the woods to enjoy a wedge to the elevated green. Seventeen is a short but tricky par 4. The yardage stick in the fairway is the 100 yard mark not the 150. Aim at the stick or beyond to have a shot at the green which has water long, and the forest lurking to the side. The par 4, 18th has been my nemesis. If I avoid the bunker left and get it in the fairway, I still have 180 yards to the green and water to cross. I usually try to go right to avoid the water putting myself in the vicinity of some under growth. If I have a clean lie I can put the ball on the green, but I have been known to have to take an unplayable and thus score higher.
The inward nine is really a treat and a trek. This is not a nine you would want to walk, with considerable distances between greens and the next tee boxes but a lot of really gorgeous natural vistas from eleven on. The condition of the course was very good and the greens were running a little slow but true. Bunkers were well maintained and the fairways were receptive. You come back to the clubhouse where there is ice and water and fresh divot mix to take to the outward nine. We were visited by the cart lady numerous times throughout out round to stay well lubricated.
The first hole, is a par four with a green hidden over the hill to the right. The large fairway saves most errant drives for a second to the green. This is normally a par hole giving golfers added confidence before they get into the real meat of the front. The par five, second is all uphill with plenty of area for the drives to land safely. It always amazes me how my playing partners can find trouble on such a large palette, but trying too hard is usually the cause of errant shots in the bunkers left or the right rough. A good second shot preferably on the left side of the fairway will leave you a wedge to an open green. Right is not good. There is a deep bunker guarding the smaller side of the green. The downhill par 3 is protected on either side by bunkers with a small opening in the middle. If you fly it to the green, hopefully it will hold and not run off to the back or down the slope on the right, depending on the location of the pin. Par is good but birdie is better. The second par 5, the shorter #4 requires accuracy on all your shots. There is water, waste areas, trees and multiple greenside bunkers and a pond on the back to bedevil you. Another hidden green on a the par 4 #5 awaits you. Aim at the left corner of the fairway bunker and you will have a short iron to the green set in a swale. I nailed my drive to within 100 yards of the green, only to have my approach to the right pin bounce off the green, but who ever said golf is fair. The par 3, 6th is over 200 yards downhill from the back tees with a green that slopes dramatically from left to right. If the pin is on the right birdie is a possibility. Once you finish on the par 4, 7th, there is a ride to the par 5, 8th and par 4, 9th tucked away in another all-natural area. If you would like to challenge the Legends visit OrangeLakeGolf.com.
Brown Golf Management(BGM) took over about two years ago. The 4 courses at Orange Lake Resort were in poor shape and Brown has brought them back to good condition and continues to improve them. BGM is a creative golf management company focused on where the industry is going and not where it has been. Their business model consists of consulting, third-party management, acquisitions and creative leases. Brown focuses on a commitment to service, conditioning and providing a great playing experience. The golfer is always at the forefront of their decision-making. The BGM growing portfolio includes 27 courses located in seven states. For further information please visit BrownGolfManagement.com.