When you can call somone like Ron Garl a friend, you can consider your self a lucky guy!
I am a lucky guy!
Who is Ron Garl you ask? His name is attached to over 250 golf courses around the world. Maybe not the notoriety of other designers with names like Nicklaus, Palmer, Dye or Fazio, but with your name on that many courses Mr. Garl, you must do some pretty damn good work and, in my books, you are somebody and a friend to me!
For golfers in Ontario, you would recognize Taboo in Muskoka or Wooden Sticks just northeast of Toronto as Garl courses. The later with a number of replica holes including TPC Sawgrass 17th – The Postage Stamp, The Road Hole and even Amen Corner at Augusta National.
Mr. Garl is the Master of Replica Course Design (and the first), with maybe his best replica creation being at the exclusive equestrian and golf club Golden Ocala in Florida.
A Florida native, Garl has built or renovated some 90 courses in the State and on this recent visit we had the pleasure of playing a couple, not to mention the pleasure of teeing it up with the man himself on three occasions.
Before we get to those, we missed out on playing a fourth round with “down the middle” Garl at Celebration Golf Club in the quaint little Town of the same name. Ron doesn’t play his courses exclusively, LOL!
I had been to this Disney Destination within the region known as Visit Kissimmee. Just west of Orlando, on countless occasions, we played the big-name resorts – Omni Champions Gate, Reunion and Grand Cypress. I had never even heard of Celebration Golf Club and no one even suggested we should check it out! Lesson learned – when in Florida there are so many very good courses – explore!
From the moment you set foot in the parking lot you feel welcome, something about that country club experience for one and for all! Opened in 1996, this is the last course and one of only three designed in tandem by one of the great father-son duos of golf course design, Robert Trent Jones Sr. & Jr.
The course was designed to reflect some of the best from the courses they built around the world, so there is no doubt to the fact that this challenging track has achieved a 4 ½ Star Golf Digest rating. https://celebrationgolf.com
Before you step up to the first tee at Celebration Golf Club, you might want to experience their driving range, you can make quite a splash as we did, Aqua Range!!!! Hopefully these will be the only balls that you put in the water. Believe me, there is plenty of it out on the course.
While at the range you can’t help but notice the Florida Elite Fitting Studio with all the latest in technology that one could imagine. In addition, the Golf Academy has the staff to teach you how to use your tools.
We did not have the prettiest of Florida sunshine days for this round but very enjoyable none the less. As will any RTJ Courses you never bite off more than you can chew or you pay for it. Yes, as mentioned, plenty of water and sand too. Here is a sneak peak at our day.
Just a little further west of Celebration, still along I-4, is Lakeland, FL, about midway between Orlando and Tampa. Head south of I-4, and you will find a semi-private hidden gem The Club at Eaglebrooke. Here Garl worked his magic with undulating fairways, meandering the many lakes and ponds, skirting strategically placed bunkers. Some will save you and some not so much. Greens are large, some undulation but very fair as that is the Garl way. Garl courses are meant to challenging but fun! We played later in the afternoon so the little video below has some stunning visuals! A bar-goon to say the least, in looking at online times into early March rarely do you get north of $70. www.eaglebrooke.com
Just north and slightly east of Orlando in the Lake Murray area is Timacuan Golf & Country Club, a very solid members club but accepting of outside play. Another bar-goon in looking at some upcoming availability I could not find anything north of $55.
Easing you into the round with a simple uphill par 4, it is not long before you are lead to a number of holes with watery graves readily accepting of errant shots. Where there is no water the fairways are dotted with bunkers and in some cases massive sand dunes making you think you are playing desert golf in central Florida.
The very playable course does stretch back to 7,000 yards from the tips. Even with all of the above-mentioned distractions if you play the right tees, they only add to the WOW factor of the day!
Next time you are in the Orlando area and you want to treat yourself to a member style course, great conditions and an awesome kitchen, you might want to put Timacuan on your list.