Typically, the only hills one sees when visiting Orlando come at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. It is interesting then to consider one’s tee shot on the first hole at Bella Collina, which features more than 50 feet of elevation change down to the green on this long par four. Although this and the rest of the rolling turf at Bella may seem unnatural for typically-flat Florida, it’s actually a gem of a property find for those operating the residential development within.
Steve Smyers and Nick Faldo may not have needed to do much with the hills, but they certainly went all-out with regards to sand. Huge expanses of waste hazard cover the property, along with more traditional white sand bunkers. The architects seem to be replacing Florida golf’s frequent use of ponds with sand instead.
The residential development underwent financial struggles immediately after the course opened during 2008 (no doubt tied to the financial crisis) but it has bounced back nicely. The state of the clubhouse speaks to Collina's brand; a $55 million-dollar golf manor, allegedly constructed with the thought to compete with the ultra-exclusive Isleworth.
Far less known than many Florida golf courses, Bella Collina is located in Montverde, FL, about 40 mins from Orlando. The course opened in 2008 and can play to over 7500 yards from the tips. Unlike the vast majority of Florida courses, Bella Collina is on a great piece of land with rolling terrain and substantial elevation change, creating great interest in many of the holes. Steve Smyers and Sir Nick Faldo designed this course and they did an excellent job at using the natural terrain to route a fun yet very challenging championship golf course.
Overall the course is very playable and the par’s are excellent. With a premium on conditioning, Bella Collina is always a treat to play and certainly never gets boring. While the vast majority of the course is right in front of you, there are a couple of blind shots on the course that come into play on the 9th and 18th holes where playing them for the first time can be intimidating, but after seeing them once you know exactly where to go and have good sight lines to pick. Several holes here are candidates to be their signature hole so picking just one is difficult, but particularly memorable are the par 3 11th and 17th hole which plays uphill and has an incredible approach shot that allows you to land your ball left of the green and watch it funnel right onto the putting surface, creating lots of excitement. Some of the very best views of the course can be found right on the 1st tee where you are at one of the highest points on the golf course. On top of all of this, the course is absolutely beautiful and you would really have no idea you were playing golf in Florida unless someone told you so. You cannot make that statement about too many Florida courses, ensuring that Bella Collina is a memorable treat for anyone lucky enough to play there.
In terms of amenities, you know immediately when passing through the gate guard house and approaching the mammoth and spectacular looking Tuscan style clubhouse that you have arrived at a high end property. Upon entering the clubhouse, you feel like you are transplanted to Italy with nothing but charm and class surrounding you. Everything about the clubhouse and experience upon arrival feels quite grand and special. The food and beverage operation at Bella Collina is terrific and you will quickly see why they do a ton of weddings there as it’s a majestic setting.
If given the opportunity to play Bella Collina, you should jump all over it as I know you will have a great time.
Steve Smyers has done some great work in Florida as he also designed Isleworth, Old Memorial, and Southern Dunes.