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Marriott's Grande Pines in Orlando is a stern golf test

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
Bunkers at Grande Pines
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Grande Pines has a host of high-lipped bunkers. (Tim McDonald/GolfPublisher.com)

ORLANDO, Fla. - If you're doing a minitour of Marriott golf in Orlando, you can do it the easy way or you can do it the hard way. Or you can have it both ways.

You can golf Hawk's Landing at the Marriott Orlando World Center Resort (easy), or you can tee it up at Grande Pines (hard), the other Marriott course right down the street. The savvy golfer will use Hawk's Landing as a warm-up. Or maybe a cool-down.

Whereas Hawk's Landing is a perfect example of a resort course, with immaculate grooming and a player-friendly layout, Grande Pines might ruffle your feathered pillows if you're looking for an ego boost.

Grande Pines was designed by Steve Smyers, who did the superb Southern Dunes a half hour away in Haines City. Nick Faldo, who has worked with Marriott Golf since 1997, was a player consultant on the course.

It is dramatically different from Hawk's Landing, both in visual appeal and challenge. It is longer, first of all, at 7,012 yards from the tips, compared to Hawk's Landing's 6,600 yards.

Whereas the fairways at Hawk's are wide and inviting, with gentle mounding and little rough to speak of, you'll maybe find yourself a little hot and bothered standing on the tee box at Grande Pines.

"These are tough fairways to hit," said Richard Walker, of California. "You have to shape your shots. You have to start everything over trouble and bring it around. There are a lot of fairways out here that run out."

True enough, the wise golfer and straight shooter might even consider keeping the driver sheathed and going with a fairway wood or even long iron, staying short of the hazards. Of course, that means long iron approaches. Oh, the sacrifices.

Those hazards come mainly in the form of deep-lipped bunkers, something unheard of at Hawk's Landing, but there are also quite a few trees in the fairways at Grande Pines that must be avoided.

Grande Pines throws tougher shots as well as more distance at you.

The greens at Hawk's Landing are surrounded by chipping areas that are closely mown so that you can putt on them, and there are almost always bailout areas around the more difficult holes, as well as mounding.

Not so at Grande Pines. Long is wrong here, as many of the well-bunkered greens have hazards behind them, and many of them drop off sharply so that getting up and down requires deft touch and feel.

"They remind me of some of the courses up near Pinehurst, where I live," North Carolina resident Norris Hand said.

The large, TifEagle greens, many of them multitiered, also have much more slope and undulation.v

Grande Pines: The Verdict

Grande Pines has a more natural feel than Hawk's Landing, and, again, it depends on what you prefer. Hawk's Landing is impeccably manicured, with flowers adorning the bridges that take you over so much water, and not a leaf out of place; Grand Pines, while still showing off the Marriott attention to detail, shows the touch of man less.

It's a terrific one-two punch.

Green fees at Grande Pines vary greatly according to the season, ranging from $62 to $139.

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The greens at Grande PinesMarriott's Grande Pines in Orlando

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.

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