Don't bother filling your divots on the North-South Course at Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando -- just play

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Two of the critiques of Jack Nicklaus's golf course designs are that he never met a bulldozer he didn't like, and that he designs courses to suit his style of play.

Grand Cypress Resort - South Course - no. 2
No. 2 on the South Course is the longest hole at Grand Cypress Resort.
Grand Cypress Resort - South Course - no. 2Grand Cypress Resort - North Course - no. 6
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Well, in flat Florida, moving dirt isn't always a bad thing. Witness the North/South Course at Grand Cypress Golf Club.

The course, the original layout of the 45 holes of exclusive Nicklaus design, has tall, shaggy mounds and elevated, turtleback greens that often overlook sand and water.

Without that bulldozer, you'd have another flat course that can be found just about anywhere in the golf course-crazy peninsula.

"A lot of dirt was moved making these courses, a lot of mounding and a lot of undulation through the fairways, and not too often do you get that straight lie," Head Professional Jason Tomaras said.

If you like your courses al naturel, you might tend to avoid the North-South Course, but if you like dramatic movement in a land that doesn't have it naturally, you'll like this golf course.

It has rolling fairways and some elevated tees to go with the greens. No. 6 in particular stands out. It's a long par-5, 570 yards from the back tees, that wraps around a lake to a green elevated about 15 feet, which drops off sharply to water. It's a crowd-pleaser and thought-provoking to anyone from a scratch golfer to the high-handicapper.

The course also has wide, generous fairways that gives you options with a fair amount of risk/reward.

"Jack never made anything ridiculously tight, so you have options," Tomaras said. "There are some people who appreciate some of Jack's design techniques and the fact that, unlike some other designers, it's not real tight. You don't have too many 10-yard landing areas in the fairways but there is still plenty of challenge. I think people respect that."

Nicklaus' swing tendency is evident here, but not to the point where it overwhelms you.

"I know Jack cut the ball a lot, that was his strength, but that's not the case on every hole here," Tomaras said. "I think the great thing about Jack's designs are that they aren't tailored to one kind of golfer."

He might get some argument there, but one thing that isn't up for debate is the course's conditioning: it is one of the most well groomed golf courses in central Florida.

"I feel like I'm at a theme park," said Nathaniel Eberle, playing the course for the first time.

The conditioning is so good, in fact, that they don't want amateurs fooling around with it. Unlike most golf clubs, the carts here don't have sand in them to fill your own divots. Leave that to superintendent Tom Alex and the grounds crew; they're at it every morning.

"You're coming out here to enjoy the golf and we'll take care of the golf course," Tomaras said.

There are a number of memorable holes, like both finishing holes on the two nines which are fairly long par-4s -- the 435-yarder on the North Course and the 463-yarder on the south. Both slide by the lake going toward the clubhouse, and both can be complicated by cross winds.

No. 5 on the North Course, a 450-yard, slight dogleg left, can be cut, putting you either about 150 yards out or up to 210, depending on how brave and accurate you are.

No. 5 on the South is a near-drivable par-4, a gentle dogleg right with a lot of bunkers and grass on the left, and a long bunker right. Poke it good here and you'll be on the fringe.

Grand Cypress Golf Club's North/South Course: The verdict

The North/South Course at Grand Cypress Golf Club is one of the more enjoyable plays in Orlando, a well manicured, if slightly gussied up, layout that gives you a little room to work with off the tee, but challenges you in other areas.

Stay and play at Grand Cypress

The Villas of Grand Cypress have club suites and one, two and three-bedroom Mediterranean style units with waterway and fairway views of the North course. The villas have twice-daily housekeeping, concierge and valet service, 24-hour room service, full kitchens, fireplaces, whirlpool tubs and private terraces.

There is plenty to do for the non-golfer: the villas have a renowned equestrian center, with scenic trail rides, lessons in dressage, a lighted, covered arena and riding instruction.

There are also 12 tennis courts -- eight clay courts and four synthetic turf. The tennis facility features five lighted courts and daily clinics.

For non-tennis or golfers, there are exercise trails, swimming, hiking, biking, fishing and jogging on nature trails. The villas also provides transportation to nearby attractions.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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