A few month backs, a good friend of mine asked me if I’d like to contribute to a project he was working on with Visit Florida. The project involved traveling to central Florida to photograph what he called “hidden gem” golf courses in the Orlando area. Y’all know how I feel about golf…you’ve read about it… a few times . So, honestly, it didn’t take much convincing on his part.
Jay and I headed down to Orlando to explore, photograph, and play (well, he did) 4 courses in the area. Saturday afternoon, we made our way to Winter Park Golf Course to walk nine (or more) and to experience this little gem that has gained so much attention in the golf world recently. Just two years ago, the course was redone by two emerging golf architects who saw the rich potential in an otherwise basic municipal course. Jay, outlines the history so well in his piece “A Fine Time for Nine”.
As a photographer, I was in heaven. The location (the course butts up against a cemetery AND a railroad!), the graphics (perfectly minimal), the long shadows that adorn the fairways as the sun sets… I was giddy. Squeals of delight regularly emerging from my lips. But to be honest, I could’ve put my camera down and been more than fine. Wandering around this course in the golden hour was no less than a magical experience. There were guys walking nine with their buddies, beers in hand, t-shirts on their backs, speakers attached to their pushcarts. Folks walking their dogs along the city sidewalks. A wedding reception taking place within eyesight of hole 9. I even ran into one of my old friends who lives in the area. He had come up to the putting green (or “the back nine” as they call it) with his 2 year old, who was doing some unsolicited “landscaping” of the grounds. 😉
I don’t live in Winter Park. I don’t play golf. And, I had never been to the WP9 before that Saturday afternoon, but it seems to me like these people have it figured out. It took about 12 minutes before I was hooked and didn’t want to leave. The Winter Park Golf Course experience is exactly what people don’t know that they are missing out on when it comes to golf. It’s beautiful. It’s unpretentious. It’s modern. It’s approachable. It’s simple. And it’s a darn good time. Jay sums it up so well, when he says, “..in Winter Park they are sending a message that maybe most places should stop pretending to be championship golf and instead focus on being interesting and entertaining.” (Read the rest of his piece here.)
Here’s what I saw on a sunny afternoon at the Winter Park Golf Course: