After playing Orange Lake earlier in my week in Florida and playing pretty well, I was excited for another round in Florida. Unlike my first round, I wasn’t flying solo for round two, but would be hitting the greens with a good friend from Toronto whose family had joined us on our Florida adventure.
Most of Florida is fairly flat, but Mike Dasher’s (same designer as Orange Lake – Reserve) Highlands Reserve is anything but, with 120 feet of elevation change from the 1st green (the high point) to the 13th fairway (low point).
Opened in 1998, the course was designed to offer an affordable, walk-able, and fun golf course for all to enjoy. A number of factors contributed to Highlands achievement of this original goal, including wide fairways, lack of water hazards and not being an overly long course.
The Highlands plays to a par 72 reaching 6647 yards (72.9/134) from the tips and doesn’t look overly intimidating off the tee, but it more than makes up for it around the greens, where misses are punished and GIR are rewarded with daunting birdie putts that often lead to even more daunting par putts.
500 Highlands Reserve Blvd Davenport, FL 33897
Highlands Reserve is located just off highway 27, minutes from the 192 / 27 Interchange.
Coming from the 192 the property is pretty easy to get to, but leaving the property going back to the 192 you have to make a left across a pretty busy highway without the aid of lights, its a pain in the butt.
Small, modern, and containing anything one would need from a clubhouse. No formal restaurant that I could see, but a decent snack area/half way hut.
One of the interesting things they had in the clubhouse was an area I could only describe as a shrine/wall of fame of one, for Sam Horsfield, a member or former member with quite the resume including a course record of 59 and qualifying for the 2015 US Open.
The course is situated within a housing development, but once out on the course you can hardly tell. The clubhouse, 1st tee and 10th tee are the only times you even realize your within a development, while the rest of the time feels much more wide open. While both nines were pretty open, the front nine felt more mature than the back, with good separation between holes that was a bit lacking on the back.
The fairways are wide and the lines off the tee are straight forward, so getting into play was never an issue. Also, the course had almost no water (I think it had one pond), which really speaks to the play-ability aspect in the design goal. Instead of water hazards, the course is covered in waste bunkers on almost every hole.
What the course does have, are punishing green complexes, requiring somewhat heroic shots on any missed greens. Most greens are elevated and all of them were undulating, making for tough putting, and even tougher chipping.
Course conditions were not great, but suspect that is a combination of winter conditions and keeping the course affordable. Fairways and rough were thin, very thin. Greens were quick, a little bumpy and pretty firm.
The most memorable hole was the 507 yard par 5 8th. Not a hard par 5, but well framed, with bunkers down the right side and a big waste bunker left of the green. Like most holes the green was tough, which made par a good score even if you hit it in two.
Our tee time was at 6:35, so we hit the range around 6:15 and it was still dark, real dark. Can’t say I saw a single shot I hit, so its tough to comment on the quality of the range, although the turf seemed decent.
The putting green was large and featured some flat areas and some good uphill/downhill putts. The speed and consistency of the practice green was more or less predictive of what I saw on the course.
Bits and Bites
- I didn’t play well. A tough 87. I enjoyed the course and would really like to play it under better course conditions and me being more in season form.
- With a 6:35am tee time and a 6:45am sunrise I assumed we would be the first tee time, but no. They had actually booked 6:20am as the first time, which meant two groups went out in the dark before us, who went out in the semi dark.
See you at the turn,