Original golf course at Orlando's Grand Cypress Resort one of the Golden Bear's grandest

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

ORLANDO - Jack Nicklaus has hundreds of golf courses to his credit. Some of them have a little more of his imprint on them than others. The North-South 18 at Grand Cypress Resort is certainly one of those golf courses.

Grand Cypress Resort - South Course - hole 6
The finishing hole at Grand Cypress Resort's South Course is a par 4 that can play 475 yards and features plenty of trouble.
Grand Cypress Resort - South Course - hole 6Grand Cypress Resort - North Course - hole 7Grand Cypress Resort - North Course - hole 9Grand Cypress Resort - South Course - hole 2Grand Cypress Resort - South Course - hole 3
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In fact, Nicklaus left his signature on the North-South Course more than once. Not only is it the original 18-hole design at this classic Orlando golf resort that opened in 1984, but it was also renovated and redesigned by the Golden Bear in 2007. He came back to Grand Cypress to change up several of the holes, adding length, new greens, bunkers and a fresh look.

This is a golf course that exemplifies Florida golf, which Nicklaus, who lives in South Florida, knows plenty about. While the New Course at Grand Cypress Resort does its best to re-create the feel of the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, the North-South Course at Grand Cypress has an all-Central Florida identity.

You're not going to find a lot of artificial elevation changes on the original Grand Cypress 18 (there are 45 holes in all), although there is plenty of movement. What you will discover are plenty of native trees, lots of water, sand and really smooth, mini-Verde greens.

Lots of memorable holes at Grand Cypress Resort

Play this golf course from the back tees, and it's all you can handle. At more than 7,100 yards, it not only has length but some fairly difficult approach shots, although for the most part, it's plenty generous off the tee.

Water comes into play on all but five holes, and most of the time, it's pretty daunting when it does. There are plenty of bunkers, and in some cases, they're quite large and deep, meaning you'll need to avoid them if at all possible.

The seventh, a 423-yard par 4, is a good example of a hole that brings both elements prominently in play. After a good drive, players are faced with a shot over a lake and must also carry a bunker in front of the green.

One of the strengths of the golf course is its par 5s, which have great variety and plenty of challenge. Nicklaus starts it out easy with the 510-yard second on the North, which should be reachable by good players in two. He ramps it up with the 561-yard sixth, one of the few holes with no water, before setting players up with two difficult and long par 5s on the South.

You'll also find a nice variety of par 3s on the course, including the third on the South, which is all carry and heavily bunkered. The waterless par-8 eighth holes on both courses have no water but have plenty of sand to make up for it around a big double green that both holes share.

And each nine ends ends with killer par 4s, both of them capable of being set up to more than 470 yards. Both also have lakes, and the ninth on the South Course also intimidates with a huge bunker that runs from the fairway to the green.

Grand Cypress Resort's North-South course: The verdict

If you could only play one golf course at Grand Cypress, this would be the one you would want to play. It's a classic modern Florida golf course in every sense. It's certainly one of Nicklaus' better designs made that much better by the redo.

When I played it, it was in superb condition. The new greens run true and are a little firm, and the bunkering with the new white sand and reshaping frames the holes nicely.

The holes also had a nice variety to them. There were doglegs left and right and several semi-island type greens. The early stretch on the South Course is particularly appealing, starting with the par-5 second, a 590-yard monster that ends with a shot over water and bunkers framed by mature trees in the background.

Practice facilities at Grand Cypress Resort are also excellent, both at the course and at the nearby Grand Cypress Academy of Golf, which even has a short course that resort guests can play for free. And speaking of the Grand Cypress Academy of Golf, there are few places better to take a lesson.

Headed up by renowned teacher Fred Griffin, the Academy has state-of-the-art computer and video equipment as well as a stable of experienced pros to help you with your game. Group clinics and individual lessons are available.

Stay and play at Grand Cypress

Grand Cypress remains one of America's great golf resorts, with world-class accommodations and service. One popular option, in addition to the resort's Hyatt Hotel, are the Villas of Grand Cypress.

Recently remodeled, the villas are one-, two- or three-bedroom Mediterranean-style units situated along the North Course.

Non-golf activities include an equestrian center, walking trails, swimming, hiking, biking, fishing and jogging. The villas also provide transportation to nearby attractions.

There are also seven restaurants, five lounges and two poolside snack bars.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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