Duffer Dan and the Undercover Gang at SugarLoaf Mountain
Our good friend M. G. Orender, President of Hampton Golf Clubs and former President of the PGA of America, recently invited the Gang to visit the latest addition to their already exceptional family of clubs. Located in the Lake County hamlet of Minneola, just west of Orlando, Sugarloaf Mountain is the first Florida design by Bill Coore and PGA Hall of Fame member, Ben Crenshaw. The two traditional designers from the Southwest have been together over twenty years, but only take on one or two projects per year. The unique elevation and topography of the site allowed them to create a world class 7000 yard layout without moving much dirt, and utilize a great deal of the natural vegetation of a former tree farm as part of their design. This minimalist effect is apparent as you enjoy playing the rolling terrain of Sugarloaf with the highest point in the Florida peninsula at 312 feet above sea level. This outstanding golf course is just one of the many amenities available to the residents of Sugarloaf Mountain Golf & Town Club, a Landmar Community.
The journey took us from highway 50, just off the turnpike through Monteverde, and on the Green Mountain Scenic Highway that runs right through this unique private club community. When you get to the roundabout, go ¾ around and up the mountain to the temporary clubhouse. Inside we found the congenial Bill Hickman who checked us in, made sure we had plenty of beverages, directed us to the practice area and first hole, and taught the Duffer how to tie a double knot so his shoe strings would not come undone. Brian Hewitt from the Golf Channel was there getting his first look with some friends as well.
The first hole is a gorgeous 433-yard downhill par 4, which we all played remarkably well. The course was not rated yet so we don’t have the slope or the hardest holes ranked. I’ll let you know soon enough which ones gave me a fit. The par 5, 2nd is another parable hole provided you keep it in the grass. If you tend to hook or slice when you are attempting to get those extra yards on a par 5, I recommend you play safe. Many of the holes have severe waste and natural vegetation areas that do not provide very good lies to play out of and will cost you strokes. The next two par fours took us on a downhill journey but were again very playable and the Jones- Dwarf greens were receptive, easy to read, and very true. The par 3, 5th is 200 yards from the back tees and you want to play your ball to the right side of the green. We had an opportunity to watch the group in front of us and saw how the slope of the green allowed balls hit to the center or left continue to roll off the green and down into a deep bunker. With no homes yet built on the course, the sheer beauty of its natural setting is really something to experience. How sweet it is! The 6th hole starts an uphill run with a blind tee shot, but if you keep it in the fairway there should be no problem reaching the green and making a decent score. The same is true of the longer par 4, 7th and the short par 3, 8th. The huge fairway bunker on the ninth was were I landed my tee shot, but surprisingly I got a good lie and a decent shot out of it to come away with a bogie on a major uphill par 5. Cart service was readily available and the very attractive lady made sure we were well stocked.
Although the front nine was longer it played easier than the back nine. The long par 4, 10th, the short par 3, 11th, and the longest hole, the 575-yard par 5, 12th gave the Gang a false sense of success. The downhill par 4, 13th is 507 from the back tees and again we were playing some great golf. Fourteen is short enough but a waste area that has bunkers surrounding it gives cause for alarm. While the rest of the Gang was baling, I took my Element 21 Hybrid and stuck my second shot about 10 feet below the hole. Can you say birdie? I don’t often get to, so it was a big deal to sink my only one of the day. The 283 yard 15th was a par four that we played well. Remember I told you I would mention the tough ones. Can you imagine playing 15 holes with no problems and then reality hit me square in the face. The finishing holes are a 459-yard par 4, a downhill 257-yard par 3 and a 468 par 5 straight up to the top of the mountain. Number 18 is the toughest hole to me on the course and my score was certainly above the challenge. Lee Janzen, a two time U.S. Open Champion says “There is not a bad hole out there, and I look forward to playing here again in the future.” Take it from the Duffer- you will love playing this masterpiece. If you want to know more about Florida’s “sweet spot” contact www.themountaincc. com or call 1-866-936-4455 to get a little taste of Sugarloaf.