LADY LAKE, Florida – Tucked away quietly off US Route 27/441 just north of where it’s passes by US Hwy 466 is the Water Oak Country Club Estates. A beautiful monument sign welcomes you to a growing 55-plus community that offers residents many amenities, including the semi-private Water Oak Golf Course, designed and built by architects Mel Bishop and Lou Grimes in 1982. The course recently completed a 13-month reconstruction project that has changed this aging 41 year old golf course into a 2023 masterpiece.
Designed by Sanford Ferris Golf Designs, the new course has alleviated flooding issues with newly designed retention ponds. Improved the routing, that takes advantage of the 90-acre site’s 70 feet of vertical change that provides a strategic and fun challenge for all golfers. The new par-70, 6,209-yard layout has created perfect harmony with the course’s natural characteristics such as the large mature oak trees that have defined the course for decades. Over a hundred new magnolia trees and numerous indigenous plants have been placed throughout the course adding to its intrinsic beauty.
Water Oak CC offers golfers practice facilities which include a chipping/pitching area and two putting greens. A visit to the pro shop is met with a smile and a warm greeting along with a chance to spend some time browsing through a well-stocked inventory of golfer’s equipment and clothing. Electric golf cart rentals offer riders a smooth and quiet trip around an expansive and hilly course. The Sandwedge restaurant offers a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu while operating a flex schedule throughout the week.
The Water Oak Country Club layout offers four sets of tees and plays to a maximum of 6,209 yards and a par of 70. Blue tees: 6,209 yards, course rating 69.4, slope rating 130. White tees: 5,555 yards, course rating 66.3, slope rating 122. Gold tees: 4,977 yards, course rating 63.5, slope rating 117. Red tees: 4,235 yards, course rating 64.0, slope rating 120. My round was played from the White Tees.
While many of the holes provide generous driving areas, level ground is rare and the firm celebration Bermuda fairways are contoured to resemble a rolling New England course. Hilly lies make it challenging to attain the accuracy needed to find most greens. The Tif-eagle greens are firm and fast, allowing only a well played approach shot to hold their surface. Miss the green, and you face a difficult par. Several holes require length, all reward finesse.
The first three holes quickly introduce you to the challenges ahead as you face a long par 4 1st hole that heads straight down hill off the tee. The 2nd hole par 3 requires a well-placed shot over water to a slightly raised green. The 3rd hole par 4 heads straight back up hill with a right sloping fairway. A raised green makes for a challenging approach shot. The 4th hole par 3 has a raised green but a solid tee shot will offer you a good birdie putt. The 5th hole par 5 is a dogleg left. Tree limbs to your left and trees lining the right makes for a difficult drive. Anything hit down the middle offers you a nice down hill open fairway to a raised green.
The 6th hole par 3 is a nightmare in waiting. A 135 yards tee shot carries the water, but it takes 155 to carry the front bunker to a fast-sloping green. The slight dogleg right 7th hole par 4 is the #1 handicap hole. A 148 yard tee shot reaches the fairway over the water leaving you with a tough up hill approach shot to a raised green. The 8th hole par 4 requires a well-placed tee and approach shots. Trees line the entire length of the fairway on both sides and any shot that lands left of green is trouble. The 9th hole par 5 is a monster. It’s all up hill with two plateaus along the way. Two precision fairway shots will get you close to a raised green where a left side bunker adds a little more difficulty to the hole.
The 10th hole par 4 has a wide-open fairway with a green guarded by a single right-side bunker. It’s a birdie opportunity in waiting. The 11th hole par 4 317 yards tee shot is taken at the highest point on the course. This eagle nest hole goes straight down hill which calls for a “grip it and rip it” tee shot that can get you close, if not on the green. The 12th hole par 3 plays long and over water to the left side of an undulating green. Keep tee shot to the right if possible. The 13th par 5 dogleg left requires a long tee shot to a steeply right sloped fairway. This is a difficult fairway to get your drive-in position to make the left hand turn up the fairway. It definitely lives up to its No. 2 handicap hole designation.
The 14th hole is a par 4 and birdie hole if you get your drive to the bottom of the hill. Leaving you with a short iron to a receptive green. The 15th par 3 plays straight back up the hill parallel to the 11th hole. It plays longer that its yardage. The 16th, 17th and 18th holes bring you back to the clubhouse with one more trip across, down, and back up the hill that has played a major role on most of the back nine holes. The 18th green is located just to the left of the Sandwedge restaurant patio which makes it a great finishing stage for golfers and spectators alike.
Water Oak Country Club’s newly designed golf course will challenge both your shot making and patience. It’s a “Golfer’s Golf Course.” Choosing the tee box that matches your skill level is the first decision you’ll need to make, and from there you’ll enjoy your round!