Wednesday, February 17, 2010

GOLF COURSE REVIEW: Orange County National – Panther Lake Course

Originally uploaded by chris07920

While visiting Orlando, FL to attend my first PGA Merchandise Show during the last week of January, I took the opportunity to play a couple of golf courses that I had been itching to play. This review will focus on the first of those two courses, the Panther Lake Course at Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge located in Orlando, FL.

Most notable about the Panther Lake Course is that it has recently played host to the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School, known to most simply as Q-School. The PGA of America’s Q-School is one of the handful of methods by which a player can earn their PGA Tour Card, and with it the privileges of competing in some number of PGA Tournaments every year. Q-School is a rigorous 90-hole tournament from which the top 30 finishers will emerge with full PGA Tour exemptions.

The Panther Lake scorecard gives the Q-School tees a rating of 76.0 with a slope of 139 playing Par 72 at 7,350 yards. The Q-School tees weren’t even out as if we were going to take that punishment while on a quick stop in Florida anyway. With the Championship tees still offering a hearty challenge with a rating and slope of 73.2/132, and both myself and Brad rusty from the annual winter layoff in Chicago, we opted for the Back (blue) tees. Playing at a relatively short 6,394 yards, the course still had some bite as evidenced by its 71.2/127 rating and slope. Disappointingly, however, all but a couple of the “lakes” for which this course is known were empty, though not enough to discount the greens fees of $114 apparently.

The clubhouse is quite nice, large enough to comfortably feature loads of logo-ed apparel and gear, though a logo ball was the extent of my extraneous purchases on this day. Though we arrived 20 minutes before our tee time, we were told that we didn’t have time to hit a few range balls, and instead were sent over to the Panther Lake starter shack where we putted for about 20 minutes prior to being sent off. Maybe others need a really long time on the range, but five minutes of swings would have been most welcome for the two of us, having not played any golf for about 9 weeks prior to this round.

Once on the course, all was fine. We were expecting to play through a steady and sometimes heavy rain through most of the round, but fortunately, aside for holes six through eight, we stayed bone dray with the temperature hovering in the high 60s…fantastic weather for us, having lifted off from O’Hare airport on a night hovering around 9 degrees. The beverage carts were attentive and showed up every 3-4 holes, and carried dogs and brats, much appreciated for our mid-day round.

The course itself was better than average, though hardly worth the $114.00 they charged us. The layout is challenging, but the greens were average at best, and when we played, were probably rolling at about half the speed as they do for Q-School. I shot a Net 77 with zero practice after a nine-week layoff. Look, I know it’s Florida, and almost the high season, so they can pull that cash out of visitors, but back here in Chicago, we have four public tracks that charge over $100, three are WAY overpriced (Bolingbrook, Ruffled Feathers, and The Glen Club), and the other one is Dubsdread, the fourth course at Cog Hill. In fact, there are at least five courses in Chicagoland that charge less than half the price of Panther Lake, which I would argue are “better” than the star of Orange County National.

In short, if you are in Orlando, and want to play some golf without taking out a second mortgage, Orange County National will do the trick, and you will probably be satisfied with the overall experience. If you have the time, however, and can handle a 90-120 minute car ride, head northwest to Brooksville, and play both the Pine Barrens and the Rolling Oaks course at World Woods. You can thank me later.

Fairways and Greens!

1 comment:

Share your beach experience. said...

Orange County National is one of the best courses I've played at. I highly recommend this course if you are in the area they offer many different rates and classes. If you are looking to save some money they always have discounts and coupons to take advantage of, the most recent one they have you can find at it is for two golf classes with a take home video CD, enjoy!


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