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Koch Reflects on his Design of Mystic Dunes in Florida


Like fine wine, a golf course sometimes needs time to mature into the great final product that was envisioned when the first seed was planted. Small tweaks are made in the formative years. Trees mature. Mowing habits change. And finally, after a few years of trial and error, and with the helping hand of Mother Nature, a golf course settles into its final stage.

The true test comes when the designer returns to play the course after all of these changes have occurred. And that was the case for Mystic Dunes Golf Club recently when architect, Champions Tour player and NBC Golf commentator Gary Koch teed it up on the course he created almost eight years before.

No problem. Koch was all smiles after the round. "I am very pleased with how things turned out," said Koch. "Mystic Dunes does a good job of keeping the course maintained. It is in fine shape."

Koch was given an unusual assignment when he signed on with Tempus Resorts to design Mystic Dunes. His charge was to create a unique layout for the Orlando area, and to make it a layout that would send people away buzzing about what they had seen. "It was a luxury to design," Koch said. "It was a unique opportunity, as the owners wanted something that people would talk about. I'd say we accomplished that."

There are three design elements that set Mystic Dunes apart. One is elevation change. With unique mounding, rolling sand dunes and natural wetland areas, Koch brought as much as 80 feet of elevation change into play on several holes. A good example is the par-5 eighth, where the fairway rises dramatically from the tee box to beyond the landing area, then drops down to a green that is partially hidden on the approach shot.

That elevation change can be found in many of the greens complexes as well. The par-5 sixth features a putting surface that drops almost eight feet from top to bottom. And the green on the par-4 10th, nearly driveable for long hitters, has three distinct plateaus, separated by large mounds in the middle of the putting surface.

A second unique element is the use of "whiskey barrel" bunkers on several holes. The traps feature steep, wooden-walled bunkers that create a visually stunning and difficult obstacle. This is especially true on the short par-4 fourth, where the three bunkers stand on guard on the right side of the landing area, directing players to a safer play to the left.

The third design element is that the front and back nines at Mystic Dunes are distinctly different. The front nine is characteristic of the Carolina Low Country, meandering through native wetlands and marsh areas, bordering oak and cypress forests. The back nine features the characteristics of a British Isles links course, with perimeter mounding, pot bunkers, and lush, rolling fairways.

When asked about the maturity of the course, Koch said, "The course has matured well. Mystic Dunes management had to compromise some design features to accommodate changes, such as losing a tree that was left intentionally in the layout, but again, the staff did a great job in working with these factors.

"I compare a golf course to nurturing a child," Koch added. "You make adjustments as you grow."

Koch also had positive comments about the golf experience being served up by the Mystic Dunes staff. "The level of service is great," said Koch. "The staff does a great job of making an impression on guests, and there is a keen level of ownership pride."

The course has received a 4-star facility among Golf Digest's "Best Places to Play", has been honored as a Course of Distinction among Golfweek's "Best Resort Courses", and is ranked No. 2 among "Orlando's Top 5 Golf Courses" by TravelGolf.com.

"Overall the playability, the fun factor, and the service were great," said Koch.

For more information or tee times, call 407/787-5678 or 866/311-1234, or visit www.mysticdunesgolf.com.