By Bill Sangster

Having traveled around central Florida for the past week visiting golf courses, I can see the choices are numerous and run in all shapes, sizes and prices. While some players prefer to book random online tee times, I found a neat off-the-beaten path course that offers a decent layout and price, and overall fun golfing experience at Highlands Reserve Golf Club.

Heading south from Walt Disney World on Rt. 192 to 27 in Davenport, Florida, you’ll find Highlands Reserve Golf Club, designed by noted golf architect Michael Dasher . Opened in 1998, this is a golf course unlike anything you would expect in Florida. The course sits on the edge of a long sand shelf called the Green Swamp Ridge with elevations spanning 120 feet from top to bottom.

Hole No. 1 offers trees lining the right side and a large live oak tree stands in the landing area on the left side. If you’re lucky (or good) and clear the tree, vegetation filled waste bunkers stretch behind the tree up to a green that is two-tiered and lightning fast. Once you work your way through the next couple of holes, you begin to understand that you have found that golf course that has been calling your name and now it’s “game on.”

Holes 4, 5, 6, and 7 are designed more like a links course with wide-open undulating fairways and numerous sand traps. Actually, the word numerous doesn’t really cover the amount of bunkers you must negotiate on these four holes. And, who said being in the sand is such a bad experience?

Staying in the fairways is paramount to maintaining a decent score but be careful because “no good shot goes unpunished” might be a good explanation of what could happen on these pesky and game-testing holes.

Hole No. 9 is a dog-leg left with trees lining both sides and a green sitting three quarters of the way down a long hill. On most tee shots, a large live 0ak tree sits directly in front of your second shot from 280-plus yards. Going over the tree is an option but going around gets you a longer way from home. Good luck with this shot. You might need it! More