Course Critic The tale of two
nines at North Shore Golf Club
By Ron Whitten
back nine is a beautiful combination of oaks and hazards.
Golf Digest's Ron
Whitten, the preeminent golf course architecture critic, will review
a course each week for GolfDigest.com.
I recently asked someone about the new North Shore Golf Club in
Orlando, a public course just a few minutes southeast of the Orlando
International Airport. "Too bad the front side isn't as good as the
back," he said.
Having now seen North Shore, I respectfully disagree. The front
is different from the back, but that doesn't make it a worse nine.
Yes, the opening hole is a drivable par 4 of just 301 yards (264
from the regular tees), but it doesn't slow up play if you simply
wait to tee off until after the group ahead has putted out. (If
anything, it helps spread out play.)
Yes, the front nine was created from old pastureland, has power
lines sizzling along its edges and an elevated turnpike along its
far flank. Yes, a bridge overpass is the backdrop to the
stout-hearted 235-yd. par-3 sixth hole. (A rather
artfully-positioned backdrop, I might add. I think the sixth green
was put where it is specifically to be framed by the overpass in the
But that doesn't make it a bad nine.
Some would argue that it's an ugly front side, compared to North
Shore's second nine, a stunner that has all but two holes woven
through an inspiring forest of old oak trees. I'd agree that the
front wasn't blessed with the same attributes as the back (few
courses in Orlando are), but I'd counter that there's really more
golf architecture on the front than the back.
As it should be. Any architect worth his price (and Mike Dasher
is worth more) knows how to enhance things when Mother Nature
doesn't provide enough. Dasher, a former Art Hills associate who
lives in Orlando and recently designed the underrated Highlands
Reserve course southwest of the city, was especially creative on
North Shore's front side. He provided lots of challenging green
contours and surrounded them with interesting chipping areas, so the
greens, particularly the one on the par-5 seventh, are reminiscent
of the domed ones at Pinehurst No. 2. He used wetlands and ponds
wisely, as lateral hazards that can be carried by those wishing to
cut off yardage and avoided by those less adventuresome. His use of
sand was anything but ordinary. Gentle manmade sand dunes edge the
fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth. He placed a target "carry" bunker
in the center of the fairway on the 367-yd. fifth hole, and has a
great set of diagonal bunkers off the tee on the fourth. The long
par-3 sixth I've already mentioned. It is counterbalanced by the
138-yd. eighth, over a pond to a diagonal green. I suspect Dasher
intended this as a mirror-image tribute to the 12th at Augusta
Agreed, the back nine is gorgeous. It has that Deep South
plantation look and feel to it. Hemmed in by ancient oaks, the 12th
fairway is probably not much wider than Magnolia Drive leading to
Augusta National's clubhouse. The 525-yd. gentle dogleg-left 15th,
down a corridor of oak to a green edged by a pond, may be the
prettiest hole I've seen in years.
But architecturally, those holes were no-brainers. Dasher should
be complimented for not screwing them up, but he'd be the first to
admit those holes didn't tax his architectural skills nearly as much
as the ones he created on the front nine, the ones some people seem
to gloss over, so dazzled are they by the beauty of the back.
Good architecture is more than cosmetics. It should include it,
but it should encompass much more. North Shore does.
North Shore isn't perfect. It feels rather awkward having a
boulevard between the clubhouse and the practice range and first
tee. As housing develops around the 18, I suspect a lot of the
beauty, especially on the back nine, will get compromised. But in
the highly competitive golf market that is Orlando, it's worth
seeking out. It has just as much variety as other new layouts like
Dunes, and at a fraction of the cost.
The VerdictThe course deserves a better name. It's not
really on the north shore of anything. Lake Hart is somewhere to the
southeast, but not visible from the course. Luckily, I don't rate
courses on the accuracy of their names.
On Golf Digest's 10 point scale (1 being Unacceptable, 5 being
Good, 10 being Absolutely Perfect), I rate North Shore Golf Club a
The DetailsNorth Shore Golf Club
11507 North Shore Golf
Orlando, Fla. 32832
For tee times:
fees: $59 weekdays, $65 weekends. Resident rates are
Walking allowed anytime.
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with the word "Whitten" in the subject field.