ORLANDO, Fla. -- Every Monday, 93-year-old Eddy (the only name he's known by at MetroWest Golf Club) is the first one out on the golf course.
"Plays from the reds," the starter says. "Never misses a round."
Make no mistake, MetroWest Golf Club is a high-end Robert Trent Jones, Sr. design that includes a majestic clubhouse, an award-winning restaurant, beautifully appointed locker rooms, GPS yardage system, a dual-sided double-tiered practice range with chipping and bunker areas, valet service and a staff that will come to your car to pick up your clubs if you miss the bag drop.
But what makes MetroWest different from all the other upscale facilities in and around Orlando is how much it feels like a friendly neighborhood course.
"Yeah, you're right. It has something to do with the community nearby," said Justin Norvell, director of golf at MetroWest. "We get a lot of regulars. It creates a nice atmosphere."
And a welcoming one, too. You may not be a "regular" at MetroWest G.C., but everyone from the bag drop attendant to the pro shop staff to the starter will make you feel like one.
Still, the best reason to get away from the crush of resorts surrounding Orlando and head for MetroWest is the golf.
"There is so much flat golf in Florida," Norvell said, "so a place like this with the hills and the elevation changes is quite nice."
It's not just nice. It's truly beautiful.
Don't rush off the tee boxes. Look around. Many of the views are worthy of some pictures. And many of the holes will be far more than just a photographic memory.
The first beauty is the par-5 fourth. The dogleg right starts from a slightly elevated tee and runs out at more than 600 yards from the tips, requiring three good shots to get home in regulation. An imposing oak tree on the left side helps frame the landing area for your tee shot. The maintenance crew has been told to take good care of that oak. It makes the hole.
The par-5 seventh is another knockout with its huge and artistically shaped bunker fronting the green, and the par-3 eighth shows off sculpted dual bunkers on either side of a heart-shaped green. But one of the real stunners is the 405-yard par-4 ninth.
"John Daly hit the green from the gold tees," Norvell said. "It was a 360-yard carry over water. I think it was during the Oldsmobile Scramble held here in the 90s."
There's a rumor at MetroWest that one of the assistant pros also struck the green from the golds during a friendly round. It's probably best for the rest of us, however, to play from the blues or whites and hit a nice baby draw with a fairway metal down the right side and safely away from the water.
The back nine at MetroWest is a bit more wide open, although nearly every one of the 18 holes gives the golfer a generous fairway. But the inward nine is just as pretty as the rest, especially the par-5 14th. Here you're at the highest point on the course and can see parts of downtown Orlando. The 562-yard hole descends to a peninsula green with water on the left and back, and two big bunkers on the right. It may be the most picturesque hole on the course.
Mix together the design of one of golf's elite architects, a grand clubhouse and a neighborly feel, and there is little else anyone would desire from a day of golf. Also, if you're looking to get away from the pricey Orlando-area resort golf courses, MetroWest can offer a good test of your game.
And, if you get an early Monday morning tee time at MetroWest, say hello to 93-year old Eddy. He'll be there, playing from the reds.
July 18, 2011