“Mike Dasher’s Highlands Reserve Golf Club (opened in 1998), located 10 minutes southwest of Disney World is a golf course unlike anything you would expect in Florida. What makes it so is a piece of land that’s unlike most everything else in the region, topped by a spirited design that matches the property’s unique character. The course sits on the edge of a long sand shelf called the Green Swamp Ridge near the town of Davenport, with elevations spanning 120 feet from top to bottom. Dasher’s holes fairly dance around it, two-stepping from a high point at the first green all the way to the low basin of the 13th fairway.
We say two-step because that’s exactly what it does. Dasher’s directive was to build an affordable, walk-able, and fun golf course for all to enjoy. Dasher used several methods to prevent monotony and claustrophobia on bordering holes.
Thirteen through 17 are terraced into the side of gently rising bowl, separated by elevation, planted vegetation, and bunkering. Linear rows of pine trees similarly seclude sections of the parallel second and third and the 10th and 18th. Because Highlands Reserve Golf Club is situated on what’s basically a giant sand hill, natural waste areas were available to Dasher wherever he needed them. The waste areas serve as divisions between holes, strategic bunkers that cut into the angle of play (challenging aggressive drives at the par-4 seventh and 10th, or the approaches at 10, 11 and 12), and as turf and irrigation-saving washes.
Dasher’s diverse, uncommon design punctuates the distinctiveness of the natural site. The tidy tournament yardage of 6,647 will not overpower or intimidate anyone, but the routing keeps the player engaged with three sub-400-yard par-4 starting holes, back-to-back par-5s at eight and nine, several potential drivable par-4s for long hitters, continuous changes of direction, and holes that provide the option to work the ball left or right or simply go for broke over a hazard. Accompanying all this is one of Orlando golf’s three or four most sporting sets of green complexes. “The design really begins at the greens,” Dasher says, noting the design’s roomy fairways. Most are open to the fairway and fall away into chipping and drainage lows on several sides. The variety of size, shape, and orientation is staggering: – the first green is 52 yards deep and roughly 12 paces across with a swale across the center; – the third green is tilted and almost perfectly round; – five is crowned and elevated, a perfect foil for the short pitch shot approach; – number nine green features upper and lower levels; – the remarkable 10th offers a front left pin location sunk nearly six feet below the rest of the green; – the 16th fulfills the promise hinted at the first. Modeled after the Gate hole at North Berwick, the Biarritz green is 53 yards deep and cut in half by a trough roughly two feet lower at the center than either the front or back. “I’ve always been looking for a place to do that, and that’s where I decided to do it,” says Dasher.
Highlands Reserve offers a different experience for all player types. For the average to beginner golfer, the course provides wide open fairways and forgiving landing areas. For low handicap golfer, the challenge comes in the vast undulating greens strategically placed throughout the course. In short, we are sure you will enjoy this unique taste of Florida golf unlike any other in the Orlando area.