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|Falcon's Fire has some nice risk-reward situations. (Tim McDonald/GolfPublisher.com)|
KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Falcon's Fire Golf Club fits in well with the Orlando golf scene: an upscale semiprivate course that appeals especially to tourists looking for pristine conditions, picture-perfect Florida wading birds and a welcome-to-Orlando layout that will let them brag to their friends back home.
It's a Rees Jones work that opened in 1993, and it shows his classic traditional values, very open in the interior and with fairways as wide and inviting as Orlando International Airport's runways.
"I think it's fun, not too difficult, good for the average golfer," said Charlie Grayson of Orlando, playing in a foursome that included two players from Denmark. "It's a good friendly course without too much trouble. I mean, you can get in trouble if you try."
Indeed, Falcon's Fire, being a Florida golf course, has quite a bit of water over its flat surface, but much of it is out of play unless you're bold and reckless. Some of the greens are set at angles to the fairways with water beside them, but there are no prodigious water carries off the tee, other than the risk-reward 13th hole, a dogleg right that wraps around a lake. That hole offers a shorter, safer route.
The No. 1 handicap hole, the long par-4 fifth, has a marsh carry off the tee, but it is short and there mainly for intimidation purposes.
Many of the greens are open in front, allowing for the bump-and-run, and sport neither severe slope nor undulation, though they are fun to putt on because they roll true and have some speed to them.
It's 6,901 yards from the tips and playable from back there, since it encourages you to swing like there's no tomorrow. There is a bit of rough to slow you down, but it's difficult to lose balls on a course like this.
The fairways - as if they weren't wide enough - are mounded for the most part, which can keep your ball in play, but the mounds and hillocks off to the side can also make for some difficult lies.
Conditioning is the star attraction here, with the fairways and greens in tip-top shape, with beautiful flourishes of flowers and other plantings. The service matches the conditioning, with free valet parking, attentive cart girls and color GPS with tips.
"It's always like this, year-round," Grayson said.
The benign slope rating of 125 from the back tees is an indication of how user-friendly the course is. In fact, the biggest hazard may be the wind that can come sweeping across the open interior, which can mean up to a three-club difference.
Greens fees are in the $75 to $150 range, which some have balked at, since the course doesn't offer any melodrama of the sort more famous and difficult courses do.
But, if you're looking for a player-friendly course with supreme conditions and great service, you probably won't mind paying up.
Women sure like the course - Golf for Women magazine named it among its Top 15 Women-Friendly Courses in America. It was also the site of a PGA Senior Tour regional finals for four years.
It's convenient to reach, being only 3 miles east of the main gate of Disney World, just off the Osceloa Parkway.
Falcon's Fire is managed by Western Golf Properties, and its golf shop has won numerous deserved awards.
July 5, 2007
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.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Referred to by its hosts as a "hidden gem," the greens alone at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, Calif. make this a stone worth turning over. Located an hour northwest of L.A., it's a pleasing, quiet and generally engaging round that will appease players of all levels.
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