Architect Ron Garl has been designing courses since the early 1970s and around a third of his activity (involving more than eighty courses) has taken place in the state of Florida. The 18-hole layout at Victoria Hills is one of his more celebrated projects in the Sunshine State and it’s garnered a number of awards from a variety of golf publications since it opened at the start of the new millennium.
Described by one commentator as having “a feeling of courses in the Carolinas,” the Victoria Hills course is set out on a gently undulating landscape and its sandy-soiled fairways are routed around Augusta Pines, majestic oaks and stands of other mature trees. Water comes into play at several of the holes, most notably on the stretch between the 13th and 17th.Highlight holes include the par threes at the 3rd and 7th and the par five 15th, where water threatens both the tee shot and the approach to the green. Both nines conclude with demanding par fives; the 552-yard 9th doglegging downhill to the right and the 554-yard heading uphill towards the clubhouse.
Deland, FL is located about 30 miles north of Orlando, on your way to Daytona Beach along I-4. To many, it’s recognized as the home of Stetson University although golfers may recognize it as the home of one of golf course architect Ron Garl’s best designs.
Victoria Hills opened in 2002 and has been delighting golfers of all abilities ever since. Over the years, the course has been awarded its fair share of accolades including a 4 1/2-star rating from Golf Digest Places to Play as well as several others including the 7th Best Public Access course in Florida (Golfweek 2004/05), and #41 in the Top 50 Public Courses you can play in the US by Golf World Magazine in 2010. It’s a perennial Florida favorite and has been consistently ranked in the top 12 courses in Florida, thanks to Ron Garl’s creativity. Victoria Hills is also enrolled in Audubon International's Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses to ensure that the course helps to protect our local environment, conserve natural resources, and provide wildlife habitats.
The course sits on over 150 acres of gently rolling terrain that is typically not found in Florida. The land features lots of contouring and elevation, something not often seen in these parts of the state. Many golfers once considered Victoria Hills the best course in Central Florida with its rolling hills, lush vegetation, and finely manicured course conditions. Victoria Hills is surrounded by hundreds of oak hammocks and Augusta pines, and the course is delicately carved from a sandy terrain with pristine lakes and flowering green foliage throughout.
The naturally rolling terrain and pine tree-lined fairways are more reminiscent of Pinehurst, North Carolina than Florida. Trees line the fairways of many landing areas although there are ample landing areas off the tees. However, on a few holes, clusters of bunkers on either side seemingly shrink the landing area. Around the greens, you’ll find a variety of swales, collection areas, and deep bunkers guarding many of the elevated putting surfaces. Straight putts are a rarity at Victoria Hills. The majority of greens have a good deal of slope and undulation to them.
Florida golf courses are often defined by water, palm trees, and sand. That isn’t the case at Victoria Hills in Deland, FL, except for the sand. There are over 100 bunkers on Victoria Hills in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many of them are quite penal with thick, well-trimmed bunches of sawgrasses framing many of them. Clusters of bunkers dot the landing areas off of most tees, sometimes on both sides of the fairway. Water is basically non-existent and only comes into play on 5 holes.
This beautiful 18-hole, par-72 golf course offers golfers five sets of tee boxes. The Champion(back) tees play 7149 yards with a course rating of 74.7 and a slope of 134. If you’re good enough to play from these tees you’ll face some formidable carries over the few water hazards that do exist, as well as ravines and sandy waste areas. Move up to the Challenge (Blue) tees (5967 yards/69.3/124) and most of these hazards are either not in play or out on the peripheries. Nonetheless, the course still offers a challenge for all who visit. The views are magnificent, and you’ll be tested with each shot you take!
Like most Ron Garl courses, Victoria Hills has many holes that will stick in your memory for a while. Number 4 is a slight dogleg left that plays 361 yards from the Challenge Tees. By hitting your tee shot past the fairway bunkers on the right, not only will you take the lake on the left out of play, but you’ll also have an unimpeded shot into a well-undulated green.
Number 5 is a long straight par 5 that, if I were naming holes, it would simply be called “Bunkers.” There are no less than nine bunkers in the landing area and from the Challenge Tees, this demanding par 5 plays 520 yards. Even though it’s about as straight as a hole can be, it’s going to take three well-executed shots to reach the green, which is surrounded by bunkers on all four sides. If you can make a par or better, take it and be happy.
The 8th hole is another picturesque hole with a landing area squeezed in by bunkers on either side. From the Challenge Tees, it plays 347 yards and from the tee box, it looks as if there is no landing area past the traps on the left. A good drive that finds the fairway is going to leave a short pitch shot into an elevated green with a false front. Bunkers protect either side and the one on the left is rather deep.
Number 15 is an interesting dogleg left par 5 that plays 477 yards from the Challenge Tees. What makes this hole so interesting is the group of large oak trees on the left side of the fairway that comes into play with your tee shot. Long ball hitters that can guide their tee shot between the water on the left and the oak trees, can shorten the hole and have a go for the green in two. Higher handicappers that play down the right side the entire way take the water out of play. It’s a fun golf hole.
One of the better public courses between Orlando and Jacksonville. Tree lined, fast greens reminds me of North Carolina.
Like nearby Deltona Club, Victoria Hills is on its uppers and badly needs some TLC. The once polished gem is now badly scratched and needs a makeover. The club has set its stall out as a $20 free for all and as a result it’s stacked out. Its position in the FL Top 50 needs urgent attention and that’s a great shame because a few years back it was deserved.
This course is a trifecta my friends. It makes this top 100 FL list. I think it is a US Open qualifier course, it is the home course of the Stetson Hatters. I always enjoy playing collegiate courses (65 so far). To find this course on this list (as it should be) makes it legit! My only critique is that it gets tight. Accuracy is the premium as this track.
If friends were asking me where to play golf between Orlando and Jacksonville Victoria Hills would not even cross my mind. If they were to ask, my response would be, "Don't go there." This may have at one point been the belle of the ball, if so, she needs a facelift. Course conditions were subpar, pace of play was so slow I was afraid we may get arrested for loitering. I have seen glaciers mover faster than the group ahead of us. The layout has merit, but sadly, on this economic golf environment i would be surprised if the downward trend does not continue. To the course:
The first hole is welcoming, favor the right off the tee. The 2nd hole is a tough, narrow par four. Off the tee left is better. The par 4 4th is an interesting hole, the further you hit your drive the more the water hazard on the left comes into play. If you are too far right, you are blocked out and if you are too far left you are wet. The par 5 5th, other than being tight, should not be the number 2 handicap hole. Three mediocre shots will give you a shot a birdie. The 6th-8th are excellent birdie oppties. The 9th is another really tight par 5. All you need are three mediocre shots and you are putting for birdie.
Even though the back is shorter than the front, I think it plays much tougher. The 10th is a long par 4 that is deservedly the number 3 handicap hole. The par 4s 12th and 13th are your birdie holes, The 14th is peculiar, is it a long par 3? From the two back tees yes, 221 and 214 respectively. The nest tee is 124!?! The strength of the layout are the last four holes. The par 5 15th by far was my favorite hole, dogleg left, carry over water, water left on and bunkers right on the second shot. Super hole, other than being a par 5 with the number one handicap. The par 4s 16 and 17 are almost opposite hand, dogleg left and right.
If you paid my greens fee, I would pass (unless i could outhustle you on the bet)
It is not the courses responsibility to provide lifelong free lessons with nationally rated instructors just so you can play at lightning fast pace. Golf is a dying and slow sport, get over it. If you cannot, then pony up for three tee times and take the last time and you'll be 18 minutes behind on every hole, problem solved.
Very sorry (but not surprised) to read this review as a group of us played this course in 2008 (when it was outstanding) and again in 2016 when it was clear money was tight and the conditioning had noticeably deteriorated. That said, I disagree with the Reviewer in that the routing / design of the course is outstanding and still worth a visit. (Also, as the Responder noted, the course cannot be blamed for slow play as this is an endemic problem, even on "great" courses).