Mystic Dunes Golf Club (Celebration, FL on 12/30/14)

I am slowly working my way through some of the “attraction” courses on my trips to Florida. Last time I played a couple of the Marriott courses and this time I made it to Mystic Dunes. My old roommate joined me and we took advantage of a discount that I had through Golfnow. We ended up paying about $33 which was an incredible rate this time of year considering the great layout that is Mystic Dunes!

We took I-4 to SR 429 to get to the course and since it is close to that interchange, it is easy to find. We got lost in the maze of roads that wind between the facility’s condos but someone pointed us in the right direction. As usual, I cannot comment on the accommodations but they looked nice, at least from the outside. The nice thing is that even though condos are nearby, they are only an eyesore for the last few holes. Much of the course meanders its way through a natural setting which is peaceful.

The first things that someone is going to notice when playing Mystic Dunes are the waste areas, domestic landscaping, mounding, and eccentric green complexes. The course almost looks like one that would be found towards the coast with all of the sand. Considering the flat land that the course is built on, I found it very easy on the eyes. The different colors from the sand, plants, and green grass popped even on a gloomy day! There is even a waterfall to greet everyone on the 2nd hole. The course seems to be designed with the tourist in mind!

Mystic Dunes is a Gary Koch design and, while I’ve played a couple other of his courses, I don’t remember specifics. After my round here I’d say that the course is full of options and strategy on just about every shot. All of the waste areas and mounding create interesting sight lines and someone can be aggressive or conservative on all the tee shots. Many times I could take an aggressive line for a simpler shot into the green. The course is relatively open throughout so someone can recover if they hit some sideways shots. It is the type of the course where someone can drive it well, hit the irons close, or chip and putt well for a good score. Obviously, all of those things have to be done for a great score, but not a good one. I really enjoy that type of a design.

We played the blue tees which play 70.8/124/6574 but I think that the rating and slope should be a bit higher. I say that because there are some crazy greens and many of the approaches are semi-blind because of the mounding. Plenty of the large greens have rises of at least 5 feet so a good looking shot can run away from the hole. However, if someone knows what they are doing then they can use the slopes to their advantage. The greens allow for a lot of creativity! One other thing that could add to the difficulty is that some bunkers have railroad ties on the sides of them. I didn’t end up in any, but they looked plenty tough to play out of! The course refers to them as “whiskey barrel” bunkers so if you more information an internet search should yield plenty of results.

I’m afraid that there isn’t a good way to say that the overall conditions were disappointing. The fairways were in nice shape with just a few divots and the overseed grew in nicely on the tees, but the greens were in bad shape. They were slow and had plenty of bare patches, almost as if they had some sort of fungus. I had to give plenty of putts a rap to get them to the hole and some of the bare patches were sanded. That’s too bad because I would highly recommend the course if the greens were even halfway decent. Their slowness also affected how creative that I could be using the slopes because the ball wouldn’t gather much speed down the hills.

Please don’t think that I’m trying to rip the course for the poor greens. I don’t know if this is a one time thing or if the course generally struggles to keep them rolling well. We might have just played the course at the wrong time. Mystic Dunes was worth the price we paid, but I wouldn’t call it a good value at this time. It is a very good layout in my book though!

#1 (329 yard par 4):

The 1st hole is shortest par 4, and the easiest hole, on the course! It is pretty open off the tee and plays to a large fairway that narrows as someone gets closer to the green. The yardage allows for multiple clubs to be hit off the tee, but someone needs to make sure to clear the water on the right. I’d suggest leaving a comfortable yardage into the green because there is a large, elevated back tier where the flag was when we played.

1-2 1-3

#2 (159 yard par 3):

This is a deep, kidney shaped green that is guarded by a bunker and some water off to the left. The back section of the green is maybe 3 or 4 feet higher than the front which makes a back flag tough to get to. A front flag should be much easier.

2-1 2-2

#3 (420 yard par 4):

The 3rd is a pretty well designed and tough par 4. A waste area to the left and a bunker to the right create a narrow fairway. Someone can lay it up to the fatter part of the fairway, but that will most likely create a blind second shot.

3-1

#4 (400 yard par 4):

The best tee shot is going to be either over the right side of that tree or just to the right of it. That leaves a mid or short iron into the deepest green on the course. The green is nearly 50 yards long and has some slope towards the back once someone gets over a hump in the center of it.

4-1 4-2

#5 (453 yard par 5):

While standing on the tee, I thought that it might be possible to lose a ball in the wire grass that is growing in the waste area. From personal experience, it can be done! The fairway angles to the right (which is where the hole goes) so be careful if trying to take an aggressive line off the tee. The good news is that the fairway is wider than it looks. After a good tee shot someone can knock a second shot up near the green on this short par 5. I’d probably favor the left side on the approach because it is the high side and you could get a bounce to the right. I actually didn’t realize that this was a par 5 until I started playing the next hole! Take advantage of #5!

5-1 5-2

#6 (352 yard par 4):

I think that the 6th is another brilliant design! It isn’t a long par 4, but there are plenty of ways to play it. The fairway is split by a large bunker with some railroad ties. I ended up on the right side of the fairway and had a blind shot into the green. Someone playing from the left side of the fairway will have a more difficult tee shot, but a clearer view of the green. If playing down the right side the fairway runs out around 240 or 250 yards. Make sure to carry the approach onto the green because there is chipping area short of that right pin location.

6-1 6-2

#7 (527 yard par 5):

The 7th is a risk/reward par 5 that could be reached in two depending on the conditions and player. I hacked it around on this one but the correct tee shot should move a little left to right and flirt with that fairway bunker on the right. If laying up then the approach is going to have to be played short and/or right of a waste area that guards the green. The way the hole is laid out someone can get it pin high and right of the green which leaves an easy chip.

7-1

#8 (222 yard par 3):

The 8th is the longest par 3 on the course but thankfully the tees were up a few yards when we were playing. It is another large green and there is plenty of space around it to accommodate a driver if necessary. It isn’t one of those long par 3’s where someone is going to lose a ball. That’s nice as a par can still be made after an average tee shot. The main story is the undulating green. Even if someone hits it in regulation, it could be an almost impossible two putt.

8-2

#9 (460 yard par 4):

This is an almost tour length par 4 and it isn’t even the longest one on the course! It is the #2 handicap which is due to its length. It is a bit of a double dogleg as the tee shot moves left around a waste area while the approach goes back to the right. The bigger hitters can probably carry the waste area, but I was forced to play out to the right. It isn’t a hole where I’m going to have many birdie putts, but I don’t mind trying to scramble for a par. Note that it is longer, as a par 4, than the 5th which is a par 5! That isn’t seen too often.

9-1 9-2

#10 (360 yard par 4):

This hole is a chance for a good score. I think the tee shot is the toughest shot because the angle of the fairway tempts someone to challenge the waste area. This tee shot sets up similar to the one at the 5th. After a good tee ball someone should have a short enough club into the green to hit it close.

10-1

#11 (468 yard par 4):

The 11th is the longest par 4 on the course. It doglegs right which knocks off a few yards, but it plays back uphill so it is still going to take two big shots to reach the green in two. The green slopes from back to front which makes it important to chip or putt from below the hole.

11-1 11-2

#12 (414 yard par 4):

This looks like a boring one because it is straightaway. The tee shot isn’t too interesting but after that it gets fun. The green is divided into a left and right section by a ridge. The left side is probably 5 feet higher than the right which makes it tough to play to. If the pin is on the right side then someone can use the slope to their advantage. That ridge can make for some tricky shots.

12-1 12-2

#13 (332 yard par 4):

This is a short hole that is all about position and precision. The green is located out to the right over the waste area. However, the tee shot should be a laid up left of those fairway bunkers. Once that is done then someone has to deal with a green that is shaped like a volcano and slopes off on all sides.

13-2 13-4

#14 (172 yard par 3):

This par 3 places an emphasis distance control because of a shallow green. The green is wide, but only 13 yards deep which is a drastic change when compared to most other greens at the course. The water should only come into play on the poorest of shots, but sand does surround much of the green.

14-1

#15 (490 yard par 5):

The 15th is a potentially reachable par 5 that favors a draw because it doglegs left. The tee shot plays over some swampland which makes it tough to pick a line, at least the first time around. Like a lot of tee shots out here, if someone wants to be aggressive then they will need to carry it farther. The fairway is segmented with trees in play which can make the layup difficult. The pin was located on the right side when I played and I didn’t notice a lower section of green to the left until I marked my ball. If the pin is located on the left side then that slope can be used to get it close.

15-1 15-2 15-3

#16 (190 yard par 3):

The tees were up when we played so I only had to hit a mid iron on this par 3. If it was playing its normal distance then hitting an accurate long iron is important to avoid chipping from below green level.

16-1

#17 (479 yard par 5):

I think that the 17th is one of the more boring holes on the course. It plays uphill to the green which adds plenty of distance so it isn’t going to be as easy to reach in two as it looks. The only things that someone has to watch out for is a waste area to the left of the fairway and then a deep bunker that might be 90 to 100 yards short and left of the green.

17-1 17-2

#18 (347 yard par 4):

The final hole is a good driving hole. The green is straight ahead, but the tee shots gives some options. The fairway runs out short of some bunkers and wire grass, moves to the left, and then starts back up over the trouble. I went with the aggressive play off the tee and tried to carry the bunkers in hopes of a clearer view of the green. That didn’t work out as I ended up in the wire grass. There is a lot of slope to the right of the green which can be used to get a shot a close.

18-1 18-2

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