I decided to go for one more round in Florida before traveling back home. Of course it didn’t take much to convince me to check out another new course on an 80 degree day! I was hoping to have dinner with my family so I decided to keep my pick close to The Villages. That put me back in Ocala, where I found some good courses the last time I was down!
Ocala Golf Club has a long history which is something that I have enjoyed reading about! The course dates back to the early part of the 20th century and was purchased by the city not long after it opened. It is still a municipal course today, and one of the better ones that you’ll probably play.
I was paired with a couple members who gave me bits and pieces about the course’s recent history. They also shared that they were members of a private club here in town, but recently moved their membership back to Ocala GC as it was consistently in better condition. The course has been through some recent renovations and the city has sunk plenty of money into the facility. In 2009 Michael Beebe did some work on the course. This work included redoing the green complexes with emerald dwarf bermuda grass, and redoing the bunkers. I’m not a greenskeeper so I’m not sure why, but the emerald dwarf bermuda didn’t meet expectations and the greens were redone again in 2015 and the bunkers were made more playable!
What you end up with after all those changes is a layout that that looks stunning, complimented by mature trees and modern looking green complexes! Even though the course is smack dab in the middle of town with shopping and homes an iron shot away, the outside activity didn’t take much away from the experience.
What could be a problem though, especially on a busy day, is the compact layout! Consistent with older courses, tee are close to the greens and most of the holes are parallel. On such a busy day I was more worried about not getting hit and not hitting another group, than I was concerned about making a good shot. I know I hurried my swing a couple times just so I could be aware of shots other groups were hitting! I was able to walk so that’s a plus, but to do over I would have saved my play at Ocala GC for a quieter day.
I played the orange tees which are 71.2/125/6552 and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting to get my rear kicked here! The fairways are large, there is lots of room off the fairways to find your ball, and there are five par 5’s. Plus, there is very little water in play! At first glace, the course looks like one where you can go low. And for those precision players, Ocala GC shouldn’t be too difficult.
For most amateur golfers though, I see the redesign causing headaches around the greens! This is the first time that I’ve heard Beebe’s name so I’m not familiar with his design philosophy, but I’ll tell you that I didn’t have much fun around the greens here. My short game was terrible the day I played, so that didn’t help!
The green complexes are Ocala’s biggest challenge. Most are slightly elevated and surrounded by bunkers or chipping areas. Because of their shapes and the bunkers, the greens need a very accurate iron shot. Shots short land into an upslope and shots long kick off a downhill slope. Whatever you do, do not miss over the back of these greens! If you do then you will have to hit a high lob, probably from a tight lie, or get lucky and bounce a chip into the slope trying to have the ball’s momentum stop exactly where the green starts! I found very few “good” places to miss the greens. What’s unusual is that it seemed as if I needed just as good an iron shot to miss it in a good spot, as I did to hit the green. My advice would be to putt from wherever you can, even from the fairway!
I paid $31, and for that price I expected average conditions. I’m pleased to report that everything was in solid shape! The course was firm with mostly tight lies, which was consistent with the other courses I played on the trip. The tight lies into these greens proved too much for me to handle! The greens were full and rolled well, just a touch on the firm side from their recent renovation. I’d call them a medium speed. The tees and fairways were full and had the usual amount of divots that you’d expect from a plenty of play.
Ocala Golf Club is another good, local option if you aren’t looking to travel to Orlando to play. The course has some good holes (the 12th and 14th are two) and is a good bang for your buck. If you play here make sure to check out the awesome sculpture carved from a tree on the 4th. The tree was hit by lightning and is now a masterpiece! Apparently, it was completed just before I played there.
#1 (407 yard par 4):
#2 (523 yard par 5):
#3 (194 yard par 3):
#4 (532 yard par 5):
#5 (170 yard par 3):
#6 (385 yard par 4):
#7 (506 yard par 5):
#8 (191 yard par 3):
#9 (400 yard par 4):
#10 (349 yard par 4):
#11 (146 yard par 3):
#12 (430 yard par 4):
#13 (485 yard par 5):
#14 (161 yard par 3):
#15 (420 yard par 4):
#16 (395 yard par 4):
#17 (500 yard par 5):
#18 (358 yard par 4):
The tree sculpture!