50 Words or Less
The Waldorf Astoria Golf Club in Orlando, Florida offers a premium golf experience. Challenging off the tee but with many tempting scoring opportunities. A beautiful respite from the typical Orlando experience.
The word “Orlando” brings to mind Mickey Mouse, the Magic Kingdom, and Universal Studios. But if you’re craving a break from the bright lights and long lines, book a tee time at the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club. This secluded course offers a chance to breathe in some natural beauty and test your game against a very tricky layout.
The practice facilities at the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club aren’t overwhelming in scale, but they’re very well executed. The driving range can comfortably accommodate about ten golfers, but what elevates it are the target greens. All the way to the farthest target, you can see exactly where on the green the ball lands, which is very helpful for dialing in distances. I wish more ranges were set up this way.
Similarly, the practice green can hold a handful of golfers, and the conditions mirror the course perfectly. I found putting to be particularly important to my pre-round warm up as it helped me learn the difference in speed when putting with and against the grain.
Customer Service & Amenities
The Waldorf Astoria charges a fairly steep green fee (typically well over $100 for a resort guest), but it delivers on the premium experience. From the minute you pull up, the customer service is excellent, and there’s always someone around to help you.
Two amenities that really boosted our experience were the GPS systems on the carts and the rest station. The GPS screens were large and detailed and showed very precise distances to the pin. Given the challenges on this course, that’s a huge plus. Also, there’s a rest station that you pass twice with a very clean bathroom and a water/ice dispenser. Having a place to rehydrate and reload on ice is no small thing in Orlando’s heat.
Beauty & Scenery
With the exception of a few hotels that reach beyond the tree tops, you’d never know you were in the middle of America’s theme park capital. The Waldorf Astoria Golf Club is absolutely beautiful with rolling fairways, plenty of water, and fragrant flora. If you schedule a round here as a mid-trip break from Disney or Universal, you’ll leave here fully recharged and ready for more rides. Or you may not want to leave at all.
When we rolled up to the starter, he informed us, “There’s no OB on this course.” I learned that there’s a big difference between “No OB” and “You can hit it anywhere.” The fairways at the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club have decent width, but there’s very little margin for error if you miss them. Nearly every drive is menaced by trees or water (or both) within a few steps of the short grass. There are spots where you can play your ball from the vegetation (see below), but it’s more likely that you’ll be taking a penalty stroke.
This is a course that challenges you to be precise with both your distance and direction. There aren’t many doglegs, but the fairways twist and wiggle and are spotted with bunkers large and small. If you haven’t played here before, trust the GPS as there are a lot of visual tricks on this course.
As you drive out to your tee shot, you’ll notice that these are not your typical flat Florida fairways. Prepare to be challenged by every kind of lie – uphill, downhill, and playing the ball above and below your feet.
Though the course doesn’t have a lot of elevation, there is interesting shaping around nearly every green. Most of the greens are lifted slightly above the level of the fairway with narrow windows for running the ball up. Local knowledge is useful here as there are definitely certain sides of each green that are friendlier than others.
Speaking of interesting shapes, our entire group remarked on how unusual the bunker shapes are at Waldorf Astoria Golf Club. There are many sand traps on this course, but you’d be hard pressed to find a single boring round one. However, when one of the spindly fingers of sand happens to reach out and capture your golf ball, you may wish Rees Jones had been a bit less imaginative.
Greens & Surrounds
The putting surfaces at Waldorf Astoria Golf Club bring wonderful variety to the round. In size, shape, and contour, you’ll never see the same thing twice. At the risk of being an armchair critic, variety in the greens is something more architects should take advantage of. On a short par 3, a tiny green keeps the hole engaging. Similarly, not every putt needs to be rollercoaster, but they shouldn’t all be straighter either.
If you’re missing a lot of greens, your short game will get put to the test here. You can find everything from straightforward chips to testy pitches to nearly-blind bunker shots.
As I played my round at Waldorf Astoria Golf Club, none of the holes seemed overly difficult, but the score at the end told another story. When I walked off the course, my first thoughts were, “I left a lot of shots out there. I’d like another swing at that.”
Further reflection still has me wanting to play again, but it’s given me a different take on the course’s difficulty. If you’re really dialed in from the tee, this course presents a lot of scoring opportunities. However, if you’re not hitting fairways, you can pile up bogeys. The Waldorf Astoria Golf Club presents many chances for birdies but does not give away pars.
#13 – Par 4 – 324 Yards
One of the most fun holes we played on our trip, and one of the most visually deceptive. Trust your GPS, pick a bold line, and swing hard. This hole is one of the best birdie opportunities on the course.
#15 – Par 4 – 392 Yards
The tee shot epitomizes the challenges you’ll find on this course. The fairway sits at an angle to the tee box tempting you to take a risky line, but a pair of bunkers will give you pause. Regardless of your line, you need to hit the right yardage or else you’ll run through the fairway and have a very difficult second. Unless you hit a mammoth tee shot, your approach will be played to a green that runs away from you and is fronted by a deep sand trap.
Whether you’re on a golf-centric trip to Orlando, taking a break from a convention, or escaping theme park madness, the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club is worth checking out. The experience lives up to the premium price in every way, and the course will leave you wanting another round.