Isleworth is located in 600 tranquil acres near to Windermere in the heart of the lakes, which lie in profusion a few miles to the southwest of downtown Orlando. You’ll find Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill a mile or so to the southeast and it was The King and his partner Ed Seay who originally designed the course at Isleworth Golf & Country Club.
Opening for play in 1986, the course at Isleworth is the centrepiece for one of the nation’s premier residential communities and home to a plethora of famous golfing names. Steve Smyers completed a multimillion-dollar course redesign in 2004, which resulted in a tougher, longer and considerably more interesting layout.
Luxurious houses line a number of the lush and manicured Isleworth fairways where you’ll find many of the world’s top players honing their skills. The course can be stretched to 7,544 yards from the tips, which are generally left for a selection of Tour Pros who come together to contest the annual Tavistock Cup, a charity match billed as “the ultimate showdown to determine the World Golf and Country Club Champion.”
The inaugural, televised Tavistock Cup event started in 2004 as a match between Isleworth and Lake Nona but, in 2011, two other clubs that also enjoy an unrivalled depth of professional talent, joined the party. The Bahamian Albany came second in the 2011 matches while England’s Queenwood could only pick up the wooden spoon while watching Lake Nona lift their fourth World Golf and Country Club Championship title on Isleworth’s home turf.
The Hero World Challenge was hosted at Isleworth Golf & Country Club in 2014 for a single season when Jordan Speith destroyed the field winning the event by 10 strokes.
Isleworth is a fun course that meanders through a high end housing developement yet the houses are nicely set back from the course. Steve Smyers did a really nice job creating risk reward approach shots that tempt you to fire at short sided pin placements where if you don't pull off the shot you will be faced with a brutally hard recovery / up and down potential. The side boards on some of the greens are modest yet add to the fun to ensure that a well struck shot often funnels closer to the hole. The routing is interesting and keeps your interest far more than your typical Florida golf course. The modest man made elevation changes are an added feature that adds variety to what otherwise would be mundane terrain. The 2nd hole can be an early round crusher as the narrow shoot is quite intimadating and its a long par 3 which feels like it's almost all carry over water. Personally, it is too narrow for my taste but I can surely see the appeal for a hole that is different than nearly any you will find anywhere. See picture below. The finishing two holes are very strong with a great risk reward par 5 in the 17th followed by a challening and long par 4 18th. Interestingly, the 17th is a dogleg left and the 18th a dogleg right. This course is great training ground for a tour player and as you would expect the conditioning is excellent.
It was another long awaited in our Tour to Orlando, we wanted to get into what was Tiger’s home for years and iwe were not disappointed at all! I have to be fair, this is one of the toughest tests of golf I have faced in Florida from first tee to eighteenth gree. Every shot demands sharpness, use of brain and perfect execution. Overall I felt my game was not bad on a round that could have been a good score but 3 very rarrow misses led to three painful doubles!
Another practice facility that is so good! I had a 15mins chat with 56 years old Lee Janzen, he is still very fit!! Great to hear from him what to expect from the course and some good advice to play. Then share the Range with Stuart Appleby who although coming from back injury he looked quite well and his timeless swing is as good as always!
About the course … what a test!! It is not usual to face a 200yds par 3 with tee shot to go in between trees to a well protected green as second hole! Then 3rd hole around the corner is a great strategy par 5 needing 3 very good shots!
Par 5 7th gives some of the best views and a fantastic birdie chance, although getting home in 2 is not easy. The big lake and the bay homes are just out of this world.
11th which a nearly aced is very similar to ANGC’s12th, you need to carry water to a very shallow green and if you go long the chip back needs to be as precise as a surgeon. Then 12th down the hill to a water protected green gives you one of the nicest shots on the course.
I find 15th one of the best designed holes, where a left to right sloping green protected with a false front saw my best shot to be 20cm short and come back 30yds to a painful double bogey! But this will not hide the fact the hole is excellent.
The last 2 holes are a grand finale like Lake Nona, a demanding par 5 to an elevated green and a sharp dogleg right where if you cut the corner with the drive the hole changes dramatically.
And the Club House … WOW! We were hosted by a Member and had dinner there, it complets the fantastic experience.
These 2 are experiences to be lived and my personal advice is don’t expect history like Scotland or a Seth Raynor Design, but yes facilities in top class shape and courses where if you go to back tees you need to have a very good long game to enjoy them, if your driver is wild the round will be a very tough one to score.
Isleworth is tough to get on, but tougher to play. As we pulled in, I said, “Guys, we need to be on our best behavior.” Isleworth was founded in 1986, and one of the founding members was Arnold Palmer. It is infamous for Tiger Woods’ fall from grace. One interesting (peculiar) feature of Isleworth is the collection of random sculptures across the premises. As an art heathen, I do not have the expertise to critique or pass judgment, but there did appear to be a multitude of Raphaelesque statues of women. One statue that I did recognize was “Charging Bull.” One of the more bizarre statues is between 10 and 11, it is probably ten feet tall, and it portrays a hand with a thumbs up. Some things defy explanation; it certainly wasn’t an acknowledgement of our quality of play.
Back to what is important. Isleworth is lllllloooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnngggggggg. Do not, I repeat, do not play from the Tiger tees. Additionally, the fairway yardage markers are to the front of the green. I, for one, do not understand why golf does not standardize, either to the front or the middle. As we all should be concerned with pace of play, this seems to be an easy solution. Isleworth is relentless. I hit the ball pretty good, and I got tired of hitting a driver and then five wood. The highlight of the day was probably on 11. It appeared to be a relatively benign short par three over water. Well, after Vince, Peter and I hit the ball in the water, Mark was ecstatic when his tee shot landed on the green. We all made the walk of shame to the drop area and Vince chipped in for a par! Mark felt the pressure and sure enough, he three jacked. Mark did have the last laugh. He was a big hitter and he had a huge advantage, as he was actually hitting irons to greens. I believe he shot a 92 and the rest of us came in at 99. I had to sink a thirteen-footer on 18 to do that.
Isleworth is always immaculately groomed and ready to impress aesthetically! The course can play long depending on the tee's that you choose. It is very generous off the tee and really plays as a second shot type of course. If you can control your approach shots then you will have a good chance at scoring. The greens are usually fast and undulating but true. The experience of playing here is truly first class!