Isleworth is a 600-acre private gated community surrounded by picturesque lakes and about 10 miles of private waterways. It is ten minutes from the center of booming Orlando and provides these pros everything they are looking for in a residence community. Except for one infamous middle-of-the-night fire hydrant incident back in November of 2009, there is rarely anything that disrupts the solitude of this place.
The schools are good, income taxes non-existent, major airport a drive and a five iron away, tolerable weather ten months of the year, and a golf facility fine tuned to their every want and desire. As a result, it is the home of a plethora of PGA and LPGA pros including John Cook, Stewart Appleby, Darren Clarke, J. B. Holmes, Paula Creamer, Annika Sorenstam, and Yani Tseng. Other sports and entertainment stars and high worth individuals have purchased homes here as well so there is a real who’s who atmosphere on the property every day.
The Isleworth Golf and Country Club is the centerpiece of the community that was started by a group of investors in the mid 1980s. The Tavistock Group subsequently took over the development in 1993 and worked to bring it up to a standard that would attract the golf professionals and high worth individuals for their permanent residences. They built an exquisitely appointed 82,000 square foot club house that blends classic design with casual elegance. From the locker room to the wellness center everything about this place speaks to daily needs of their members in an informal atmosphere of comfort. Tavistock even appointed the property with distinguished pieces of lawn sculpture from artists like Henry Moore, Phillip Jackson, Eric Goulder, and Arturo Dimodica.
To most guys the Champions Grill is the centerpiece of the Isleworth experience. This grillroom is something to behold. You walk down a spiral staircase from men’s locker room surrounded by the golf bags bearing names of the pros who are members at the club. This leads you to an area with a manly wood appointed bar and restaurant outfitted with comfortable seating and a flat screen TV everywhere you look. The walls are covered with captivating memorabilia including plaques for each Major Championship with winners listed who are Isleworth members. Adjacent is a large recreation room with a putting green and a half court basketball court as it’s centerpiece. Additionally you will see every boy toy ever invented including a pool table, ping pong table, video games, table top shuffleboard, dart boards, air hockey, and a golf swing simulator. There are cushy spectator chairs horseshoeing each of those so there are lots of ways to settle a push bet on the back nine with your buddies.
The golf facility leaves no pebble unturned. It includes a massive practice facility with reclusive areas where the pros can practice without disruption. Tiger Woods got his own secluded pad on the driving range with an extra 50 yards of carry room so he doesn’t bomb any of the other patrons while practicing his stinger. They have a two-acre short game area with replica bunkering from Augusta National and TPC Sawgrass and an 11,000 square foot putting green. Plenty of room for the pro, the caddy, and a couple of hundred of their brand of shag balls for the daily practice grind.
The golf course was originally designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay and was subsequently modified extensively under the direction of the very capable architect Steve Smyers. The course has a distinct Florida target-golf character to it-this was probably intentional to give the professionals a way to simulate the challenges they see during their regular work day. It is a testing golf course with six sets of tees that can be stretched to as much as 7500 yards for those with masochistic proclivity. At 6400 yards it is all most amateurs can handle so pick your teeing ground with proper forethought.
The most distinctive characteristic of this course is the very demanding driving areas. Throughout you see harrowing bunkers hugging the corner of the doglegs adjacent to which is the most advantageous approach angle to the green. But unlike other courses, the other side of the fairway provides little respite-there is no safe way to play off the tee on most of the holes. You have to take on the challenge through the day if you want any chance of hitting these greens in regulation.
The course does not have very many stunning holes you will not forget but there are quite a number that will get your competitive attention. Once you get over the greeting of the Charging Bull on the first tee you have a relatively routine opening hole. But your heart beat will be prompted by the harrowing challenge of the “Cypress Chute” you have to negotiate on the par 3 second. Two through four are the three lowest handicap holes on the front so reaching the fifth tee with a scorecard still in tact is your biggest challenge. A little bit of a breather over the next few holes brings you to Champions Point and a view of some really nice boat slips with their matching bungalows. “Best of Bessie” is a very challenging par four at the eight and you close the opening nine plotting your way “Around the Lake” with another technical par four.
A bit of a ethereal moment as you leave the cart park next to nine and drive by the Three Monks on the front lawn of the clubhouse driveway. Seems appropriate to mutter a little deferential prayer on your own behalf before heading to the back nine.
The back nine starts routinely enough but, like the front, you get a sizeable challenge on the next two holes. The 11th with its beautiful flower beds behind the green is the Kodak moment of the day. But this is a full metal challenge with a 150 yard club-especially if the wind is influencing. The 12th provides another daunting approach with the green wedged between a pond and a side hills on the right. The par five 13th is a bit of a breather-more lakeside residential eye candy…..these people must have large families or extensive wait staffs.
From here to the end the holes a not bulky in length but they will challenge you constantly to execute well planned shots. After an interesting short hole on sixteen, the last two are the hardest handicap holes on this side and they well deserve that distinction. Both green settings are diabolical so the real challenge on each of them is at the end. The final hole is a bear-this is two booming shots or a deft up and down if you need a par to wrestle away the back nine Nassau.
Isleworth, when taken in total, is quite the golf experience. If it presents itself as an opportunity just throw caution to the wind, pay the ticket, and indulge yourself for the day in the life of the rich and famous.
Architect: Arnold Palmer/Ed Seay (1986)
Steve Smyers (renovation)
Tees Par Yardage Rating Slope
Lewis 72 6765 72.9 139
Chase 72 6409 70.8 134