MYSTIC DUNES RESORT
Course Architect: Gary Koch
Year Opened: 2001
Location: Celebration, Florida
Slope: 145. Rating: 75.0
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 375 Yds 10 - Par 4 350 Yds
2 - Par 4 508 Yds 11 - Par 3 177 Yds
3 - Par 4 428 Yds 12 - Par 4 434 Yds
4 - Par 4 344 Yds 13 - Par 4 419 Yds
5 - Par 3 175 Yds 14 - Par 4 496 Yds
6 - Par 5 510 Yds 15 - Par 4 366 Yds
7 - Par 3 200 Yds 16 - Par 5 546 Yds
8 - Par 5 571 Yds 17 - Par 3 249 Yds
9 - Par 4 379 Yds 18 - Par 4 485 Yds
Par 36 3,490 Yds Par 35 3,522 Yds
Awards Won: Rated four stars - Golf Digest's - Best Places to Play (2004-08),
Ranked #2 by FloridaGolfGuide.com - Orlando's Top 5 Golf Courses,
Ranked #2 by TravelGolf.com - Orlando's Top 5 Golf Courses,
Top-100 Best Resort Golf Courses - Golfweek Magazine (2007).
Key Events Held: Buick Scramble National Championships (2005),
PGA Pro-Pro Series Tournament (2005-07),
Darrell Armstrong Celebrity Golf Tournament (2005-07),
AJGA Medicus Preseason Junior Series (2007).
Website: mysticdunesgolf.com, mystic-dunes-resort.com.
HISTORY: Open just a few seasons, Mystic Dunes Golf Club has received rave
reviews, including four stars by Golf Digest's, Best Places to Play. Designed
by tour player and NBC golf analyst Gary Koch, Mystic Dunes is an exciting
track featuring elevation changes, rolling fairways and sand dunes, wetland
areas and beautiful vegetation. Mystic Dunes is just minutes from the Magic
Kingdom of Walt Disney World and is home to the Advantage Golf School.
In 2007, the course went through a re-certification of its slope and rating
and the USGA awarded Mystic Dunes with a course rating of 75, up from 74.3 and
a slope of 145, an increase of eight points. "Since opening a few years ago,
our landscape has had a chance to mature, offering golfers a truly unique
experience on one of the area's most beautiful courses," stated Head Golf Pro
To make matters worse, or better, depending upon how you see things, Mystic
Dunes' greens were just named among the most difficult in all of golf by the
2008 PGA Professional's Guide to travel. "We are pleased with the growth and
maturity of the course since our first rating," acknowledged Melissa Suttles,
General Manager at Mystic Dunes Golf Club. "Although the slope rating did
increase, the course is still a fair, yet challenging test for every player."
REVIEW: The course opens with a solid, dogleg right par four, just 375 yards
from the back buttons. Your tee shot must favor the left side, as you must
carry over a sandy waste area that traverses the entire right side, in
addition to the native love grasses. A short iron approach is left to a
somewhat crowned green, surrounded by tightly shaved areas. A solid shot at
birdie to start your round.
Your first real test comes at the second, a U.S. Open type par four,
stretching 508 yards, yes, 500 plus from the tips. A big ball down the left
side is needed just to reach the corner of the fairway as it bends to the
right. From there, well, a fairway metal is required to have any chance of
getting home in two. The green is very undulating, guarded only on the right
with a pot bunker and by shaved slopes. Quite a hole to talk about, even if
you make bogey.
The third is a straightaway par four with trees right and left, plus a
fairway bunker to the left. The putting surface is quite difficult and very
deep, so club selection on your approach shot will be key. Three pot bunkers
to the left of the green do not come into play, however a trap long and
right will catch any misplayed shots. Take par and move on.
The fourth is a relatively simple par four with a wide fairway, as it moves to
the right. The landing area is highlighted by four traps which challenge the
player as he or she decides the angle of attack. The percentage play is
three-metal off the tee and a little wedge to a sloping, sandless green.
Slopes and hollows protect the left side of the surface, but this hole can be
One of the many signature holes at Mystic Dunes, the fifth is the shortest
par three on the course, featuring an island green. This clever one shotter
is fronted by water and sand and on both sides by collection areas. If
the wind is blowing, your choice of clubs will be quite difficult. The
green is quite narrow, sloping away on both ends. Par will be a good score.
As you reach the par-five sixth, thoughts of eagle run through your mind, as
the hole is only 510 yards from the black tees. That however is where your
idea of getting home in two should end. First of all, the hole doglegs
severely left. Second, water and wetlands hug the entire left side all the
way to the green. Third, trees guard the right side of the fairway, from
the tee towards the green. And finally, the putting surface has an eight-
foot slope. Here's the plan. Take out driver and bomb one down the right
side of the fairway. This will leave you a taste of the green. A long iron
or fairway metal may get you home, but play to the right, just in case.
Pin position is key, as the green slopes severely from front-to-back. With
a front cup, you'll be hard pressed to three-putt if you miss long. All in
all, birdie is a distinct possibility.
The seventh is a lengthy par three that requires a carry over wetlands to a
long, kidney-shaped green, with the only sand trap behind the surface.
Another sloping green, so play center, two-putt and move on. Anything off
target will roll off into collection areas, stressing out your short game.
The sixth might have been reachable in two, but the eighth, no way. It's
571 from the tips, uphill all the way and sand, sand and more sand from
tee to green down the left side. Start off with a drive that must carry 200
yards just to reach the fairway. Layup towards the right side of the landing
area to set up the best approach to the green, which sits below the fairway.
The mounding around the putting surface will repel errant shots, but the
green is fairly simple, so making birdie is a definite possibility.
The ninth hole is unique, as you look out from the tee box, which sits high
above the landing area. The play is to the left side of the fairway, thus
avoiding the series of bunkers that cross out towards the fairway. The second
shot will be uphill to a green that slopes hard from right-to-left and
back-to-front. A front pin location is the easiest, so take advantage of
the situation, play slightly long and right and let the ball feed towards the
A perfect opportunity for birdie awaits as you tee off on the 10th. Just 350
yards with a wide landing zone, this hole requires just a fairway metal to the
right side of fairway to set up the best approach to the green. The putting
surface can be tricky, with three separate levels, but take advantage of a
middle or front flag and make three.
The 11th is beautiful, dangerous and intimidating, but don't be scared.
This spectacular hole features an island green that requires a mid iron from
the tee. Water lurks everywhere, including waterfalls to the right and left.
Let's not forget the sand, left, back and right which makes club selection a
must. A back-left pin could spell doom, so play towards the center and two-
putt for par.
The next hole is a straightaway par four, stretching 434 yards with a
fairway bunker guarding the right side of the landing area. Play towards the
left side to set up the best approach to the green. The putting surface is
elevated, so make sure you have enough stick, otherwise your shot will
roll back down towards the fairway, finishing in a deep valley.
Although the 13th hole is straightaway, the tee shot requires a draw to
avoid a large tree and waste area down the left side. A medium to short iron
is all that is needed to reach the green, which is fairly flat by Mystic
Dunes standards. One word of caution, the collection area to the right of
the green is quite steep, so to err, miss left.
If you thought the second hole was brutal, wait till you step up to the
box on 14. Eight different teeing areas and you'll need a wallop just to
reach the fairway from the black tee. The entire right side is waste area and
sand dunes, while the left features more of the same with trees as you get
closer to the green. The putting surface is one of the largest on the
course with a pot bunker looming, short and right. With so many different
tiers to the green, you'll be hard-pressed to make four, let alone five.
Good news and bad news for the 15th. The hole only measures 366 yards,
and yes, that is the good news. Unfortunately, the fairway slopes severely
left to right with a bunker in the center of the grid and the green, well,
there is no doubt that this is the most undulating putting surface on the
course. After a successful drive, just a wedge is left to a green split in two
by a large hump that will make putting difficult if you miss to the wrong
side. A pot bunker resides to the left of the green, while a deep valley looms
right. A fun hole that can put a smile or a frown on your face.
The three closing holes at Mystic Dunes are certainly no picnic, although the
16th will most likely be your last shot at birdie. A par five that doglegs to
the right, this 546-yarder requires a belt over the trees and sand in an
effort to cut the dogleg. From there, you'll have two options, go for the
green in two or layup, short and right. The hole plays downhill to the green,
however if going for it, you must carry the large sandy waste area fronting
the surface and to the left. The sensible play is leaving yourself with a
full sand wedge to a green that slopes from middle-to-front and away in the
back. A front flag will enable you to stick it close and make a four.
There's no doubt that your going to need it as you play 17 and 18.
Picture this. The wind is in your face and you have 249 yards to the flag
and your on a par three. That's what can happen on the 17th, a stern,
slightly uphill hole with a severely undulating green. Even if you happen
to land on the putting surface, the green slopes from back-to-front and
when it's fast, you'll be hard-pressed to keep your ball on the green if you
miss long. Par is a bonus, birdie a miracle and bogey, a very good score.
As you ride towards the 18th, you'll pass the first green and driving
range, similar to your trip to the second hole. You'll be thinking of what
might have been or that maybe you should stop by for some lessons. Whatever
the case, don't forget you have one more bear of a hole to complete. The
closing hole on the home nine is quite demanding, as it swings from right-to-
left. It's 485 yards and a par four, not your weak sister. If you play
down the left side to cut off some of the yardage, you'll run the risk of
bringing trees and sand into play. The right side opens up the hole, but
you'll be left with 200-plus to the green. From the landing area to the
green, the entire right side is flanked by a bunker and beyond that,
wetlands of no return. The putting surface is quite deep and slightly
reminiscent of that famous mouse. Make par on 18 and you'll forget about how
tough this course was.
OVERALL: By most standards, Gary Koch had a pretty decent career as a PGA Tour
player, winning six times, four of which were in Florida. Koch, who calls the
Sunshine State home, has crafted another victory with Mystic Dunes Golf Club.
First of all, the layout offers surprising elevation changes, not normal to
the region. Sand dunes and waste areas with majestic oaks invade the course
throughout the layout with just 36 bunkers. The venue is a tale of two cities,
with the outward nine driving through century-old trees while the closing
holes play more to a scottish-style of rolling fairways. When people talk
about courses, they always mention the signature holes. Well, how about Nos.
5, 11, 16 and 18 to name a few. Secondly, conditioning. The course is
immaculate. Greens as smooth as glass and reminiscent, so the starter will
tell you, of Augusta National. Beautifully manicured fairways and chipping
areas make you wish your lawn was as nice.
Next, the challenge. If you don't believe that this course will bring out
every club in the bag and test your nerve, then no course will. Mystic
Dunes features holes that question your courage, thought process and ability.
How about the practice facility you ask? The driving range alone is 60,000
square feet and is home to the Advantage Golf School. Not only that, the pro
shop staff are more accommodating than the doting "cast members" at Disney.
And speaking of the pro shop, a 3,000 square foot apparel home to everything
your heart desires. The clubhouse alone is 20,000 square feet.
Finally, the price. Some might call it steep at $165 per round, but with Stay
and Play packages or off-peak rates, the price could drop to as low as $65.
This is a must play, no doubt about it. Yes, some of the buildings that
surround some of the holes are obtrusive, but look past that. If you're
trying to find something wrong, then you're not on vacation and you have a
bad state of mind. If you're looking for a challenging golf course,
beautiful layout, scenery and friendly people, then you're in the right place.
The course offers a wide variety of tee boxes, as it ranges from 4,665 to over
7,000 yards, so it's a course for all levels of play. Let's not forget the GPS
units on all carts to make life easier when selecting a club for your next
shot or ordering lunch. The drawback is that this is not a walking course,
especially when some of the cart rides take a lengthy time to reach the next
Mystic Dunes has all the answers. There are over 700 spacious villa
accommodations, featuring one, two or three bedrooms, with all the amenities -
fully equipped kitchens, Whirlpool bath in the master bedroom, Internet
service, washer and dryer, 52" large screen televisions and screened patios.
Let's not forget the four heated pools, Dunes Lagoon, a two-acre water
recreation area with a two-story waterslide, miniature golf, tennis and
basketball courts, fine dining and of course, the outstanding golf club.
Remember, you're just minutes from Disney, so your significant other won't
mind a quick morning round, after which you're back in the park before noon.
Mystic Dunes is an eagle of a course that will only get better with age.
The key here is to choose the correct set of tees. You have five choices, from
the red markers at 4,665 yards to the black buttons stretching over 7,000
On my first visit to Mystic Dunes, I opened with the back tees and struggled
mightily. So after some soul searching and the realization of getting older
and wiser, I decided to play from the blue markers on my second sojourn to the
resort. Although my score was similar to the first, I thoroughly enjoyed the
layout and can't wait for a return round. Mr. Koch, stop broadcasting and
design more courses like this. You're right on the mark.