Course Source: Mayfair Country Club, Reunion Resort

The SportsXchange

IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Mayfair Country Club in Sanford, Fla.

THE LAYOUT: With all the tricked-up resort and daily-fee courses that have sprung up in the Orlando area, this is an almost forgotten gem designed by the legendary Donald Ross and opened in 1924.

Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen established the original course record of 65 during the 1925 Sanford Open.

Ben Hogan and Sam Snead also played at Mayfair, and Walter Burkemo, George Bayer and Al Balding were among the winners of the Mayfair Inn Open.

Arnold Palmer won for the first time as a professional at Mayfair, which measures a modest 6,403 yards from the back tees, with a PGA rating of 70.3 and a slope of 123.

Don't be fooled by the yardage because position is the most important factor on this classic course. If you can keep your ball in the optimum spots, you can go low at Mayfair.

It's not exactly Magnolia Lane, but a double row of oak trees line the entrance to the course.

HEAD PRO: Dave Allen.

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Mayfair, which has overcome flooding problems caused by three hurricanes that swept through the area in 2004, requires strategic play from tee to green.

Ross cleverly utilized lakes that come into play on nine holes, bunkering and large trees to challenge the golfer. The par-4 fourth hole, which measures 371 yards, is a perfect example, with a large oak tree guarding the right side of the fairway and an uphill approach shot to a relatively small green protected by sand and water on the left, with out of bounds on the right.

The 440-yard 12th hole is one of two par-5s that are very reachable in two, but don't be short on your approach or you ball will get wet, and the green slopes severely from back to front toward the water.

The other short par-5 is the 443-yard second hole, a sweeping dogleg left where the shallow green is guarded in front by a lake and a large bunker. Go long on the approach and your ball might end up on State Road 46-A.

The New York Giants baseball team once owned the course and the nearby Mayfair Inn, when they had an alternate spring training site in Sanford, which also was the spring home of the Boston Braves in 1942.

OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: Right down the street is Timacuan Golf and Country Club, which has been rated No. 14 in Florida by Golfweek magazine, and only a few miles east on Interstate 4 is the recently renovated Deltona Club. Among the newer courses in the area are Victoria Hills Golf Club in DeLand, Black Bear Golf Club in Eustis, DeBary Golf and Country Club and Eagle Dunes Golf Club in Sorrento.

Also within easy driving distance are the four Walt Disney World resort courses, Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge, the Diamond Players Club in Longwood, Celebration Golf Club, Falcon's Fire Golf Club in Kissimmee and Hawk's Landing Golf Club at the Orlando World Center Marriott, among dozens of others.

WHERE TO STAY: The sprawling Mayfair Inn on Lake Monroe in Sanford now is owned by the New Tribes Mission, but there are plenty of up-to-date accommodations away from the crowds in the resort areas near Orlando. In Sanford are the Spring Hill Suites by Marriott, the Renaissance Inn of Sanford, the Best Western Marina Hotel and Conference Center, and the Comfort Inn and Suites. Also nearby are the Marriott Lake Mary, Courtyard by Marriott Heathrow, the Hampton Inn and Suites at Colonial Town Park in Lake Mary, the Westin Lake Mary and the Candlewood Suites Lake Mary.

ON THE WEB: www.mayfairlinks.com

THE LAST RESORT: Reunion Resort in Reunion, Fla.

THE LAYOUT: Before the recession hit, real estate entrepreneur Bobby Ginn created a golf paradise a few miles south of Orlando, Fla., off Interstate 4 where guests can play with one of the game's most decorated foursomes -- Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam.

The Legacy Course, designed by seven-time major championship winner Palmer, is a par-72 layout created in 2004 that measures 6,916 yards from the back tees, with a USGA rating of 73.4 and a 137 slope from the back tees.

The Independence Course, designed by five-time British Open champion Watson, also opened in 2004 and plays 7,154 yards from the tips, with a rating of 74.7 and a slope of 140.

Nicklaus, the greatest golfer of all-time, designed the Tradition Course, which opened in 2006. It stretches out to 7,244 yards from the back and plays to a par of 72, with a 76.7 rating and 147 slope.

Sorenstam, the 41-year-old Swede who is one of the greatest players in LPGA Tour history, realized a lifelong dream a few years ago when she opened the Annika Academy on the back end of the driving range at Ginn Reunion Resort.

Even if you are not staying on the property, book a lesson at the 5,400-square facility, which offers a fitness room, two large hitting booths, Callaway club-fitting, video training.

Sorenstam has retired as a touring pro, so you might be able to book a lesson with her because she is spending more time at the academy. If not, her sister Charlotta, herself a champion on the LPGA Tour, also is an instructor at the Annika Academy.

DIRECTOR OF GOLF: Kevin Baker.

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Reunion was host to the best women golfers in the world for three years in the Ginn Open, which was captured by Lorena Ochoa, then No. 1 player in the Women's World Golf Rankings, four years ago when she set a tournament record of 19-under-par. Brittany Lincicome and Myun Hyun Kim of South Korea were the first two winners of the tournament.

However, Ginn terminated its sponsorship of the tournament because of the losses he was enduring in the troubled housing market.

However, amateurs still can play the tournament course, which consisted of the front nine of the Legacy Course and the first nine holes of the Independence Course, both located at the Reunion Grande, a luxury hotel and centerpiece of the resort.

The second hole of Palmer's Legacy Course is a gorgeous par 3 that measures 162 yards from an elevated tee to a green surrounded by a stand of tall trees. But don't lose your focus while admiring the view because the 50-foot drop in elevation requires careful consideration to select the right club for a shot to a green that slopes toward the bunker on the right.

The par-4, 13th hole measures 443 yards from the back tees, but from the resort tees it gives the high-handicapper a chance to go for the green in Arnie's typical go-for-broke style.

The Independence Course, the first Tom Watson-signature course in Florida, is what the British would might a traditional parkland layout, but with sand traps scattered throughout the landscape. There are no water hazards, but 119 bunkers are strategically-placed on the course, which is enhanced by 15 varieties of native grasses, azaleas, hibiscus, camellias and other foliage.

Watson starts the course with a dramatic par 5, which measures 562 yards from the back tees. Big hitters can reach the green in two if they get past the bunkers on both sides of the fairway, but there is plenty of trouble waiting to turn an eagle or birdie opportunity into bogey or worse very quickly.

The fifth hole is rated No. 1 in the card, a 461-yard par-4 which gives the golfer a choice of right or left off the tee because a large bunker sits in the middle of the fairway. Play the right side to get a better angle of approach to a large green that runs away from right to left and is guarded by traps on either side of the hole, which plays through a scenic wooded area.

All three courses are playable for golfers of all abilities with five sets of tees, but the Tradition Course gives more of a challenge than most resort layouts, as the numbers indicate.

The Nicklaus-designed course is a short drive from the main property and does not yet have its own clubhouse, with employees on the site working out of a trailer. However, it does offer its own practice area.

Best stretch of the Tradition Course comes near the start, where the 440-yard, par-4 second -- No. 1 on the card -- is followed by a 585-yard par 5 and a 414-yard par 4, which play along the shores of a large lake. Be careful of the blind approach to the fourth hole, because another lake awaits below the green on the left.

When you are finished with a heated round, head across the street to cool off at Reunion's water park.

OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: Walt Disney World Resort in nearby Lake Buena Vista offers golfers five courses, including the Magnolia and Palm, where the PGA Tour's Children's Miracle Network Classic is played in November. Also at Disney are the Lake Buena Vista, Osprey Ridge and Oak Trail courses, the latter a nine-hole walking course tailor-made for families.

Celebration Golf Course is not on Disney Resort property, but is a nearby cousin designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr., in Celebration, a town built by the Disney Corporation.

Hawk's Landing Golf Club in Orlando wraps around the World Center Marriott, the largest property owned and operated by the J.W. Marriott Corp.

Also in the neighborhood are Kissimmee Bay Country Club, Mystic Dunes Golf Club and Falcon's Fire Golf Club in Kissimmee, the Crooked Cat and Panther Lake courses at Orange County National Golf Center, Royal St. Cloud Golf Links and 45 holes at the Grand Cypress Resort, all in Orlando.

Across Interstate 4 from Ginn Reunion Resort is ChampionsGate Golf Club, with a course designed by Greg Norman, and the David Leadbetter Golf Academy.

WHERE TO STAY: Reunion resort remains under development on 2,300 rolling acres about six miles from Walt Disney World Resort to the southwest of Orlando and about 60 miles east of the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.

The resort offers guests more than 300 guest rooms, from luxury hotel accommodations to spacious townhomes and luxury villas scattered around its three magnificent golf courses.

All of the accommodations are equipped with luxurious furnishings, flat-screen televisions that include DVD players, high-speed Internet access and high-end kitchen appliances.

In addition to golf, the property includes the Tennis Centre at Centre Court Ridge, the Seven Eagles Pool Pavilion, a private water park, a full-service fitness center, biking and hiking trails, a convention center and a boutique spa.

The Kids Crew for children 4-12 and several playground areas around the property keep the youngsters occupied while the grownups are out on the golf course.

Dine at the Reunion Grande at Forte, an upscale chophouse, or Eleven, a rooftop lounge serving tapas and an eclectic fusion of new world and Asian cuisine.

Or grab a quick meal outside at the Clubhouse or poolside at the Seven Eagles Grill across the street, or simply enjoy a snack while watching the big-screen television at the Grand Lobby Bar.

Reunion is close to all of the Orlando tourist attractions and less than an hour's drive from those near Tampa.

Guests at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Contemporary Resort, Wilderness Lodge, Polynesian Resort, Caribbean Resort, Beach Club Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boardwalk Inn and Yacht Club Resort receive vouchers for free cab rides to and from the Disney courses.

The Orlando World Center Marriott, built on 220 lush acres of tropical landscape, is only a mile and a half from Disney World and Orlando's other tourist attractions, including Universal Studios, Sea World and Discovery Cove.

Also nearby are Palmer's Bay Hill Resort and Lodge, the Celebration Hotel, the Wyndham Orlando Resort, the Renaissance Orlando Resort, the Omni Orlando Resort and Spa, the Grand Cypress Resort, the Grande Lakes Orlando and at Universal, the Portofino Bay Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel and the Royal Pacific Resort.

ON THE WEB: www.reunionresort.com
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