Since early 2019, rumors have been swirling around Florida and online on golf message boards over the future of Orlando's Grand Cypress Resort, one of the most popular buddies-trip resorts in one of the country's best golf destinations.
The chatter heated up this September when The Villas of Grand Cypress closed, and then 27 holes followed this month.
The 1,500-acre property is in a hot area of Central Florida and development appetite in the region has soared. So what is the true fate of this beloved golf hotbed?
The good news for golfers is the New Course - one of the most unique in central Florida - remains open for play. The even better news is the closures of the villas and the North-South-East nines that once hosted the 2010 LPGA Tour Championship doesn't signal the demise of one of Orlando's most luxurious golf resorts. It's merely to prepare for a major property-wide enhancement.
General Manager Mark Cox wouldn't supply details of what's next, only that the 27 holes will eventually be redesigned by Nicklaus Design into 18 holes. The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress will remain open for business throughout the transition, although there's talk of new resort hotel/accommodations being built to replace the villas and a new clubhouse replacing the current one.
“We are adding on to the resort, but I can't share any information," Cox said. "There is no firm timetable (set)."
A goodbye message on the resort's website reads: "This is great news for future guests on a development that they will enjoy for years to come. Although we do not have plans to share at this time, we know that the project will take more than two years to complete."
What does the closure mean for Grand Cypress New?
It's unclear how this project will impact the golf experience at the New Course (also designed by Nicklaus) going forward. Currently, the driving range and golf academy are closed. Players can warm up at a chipping and putting green. At some point, it's likely the clubhouse will close, and the pro shop/check-in process moves somewhere else.
What I love about the New Course is its wall-to-wall turf with no rough. You can spray the ball and mostly get away with it. Its reviews are almost as strong as the layout that closed (4.6 star rating average vs. 4.4 average). The New ranked among the top courses in Florida in 2015 and 2017, so it has a track record of good ratings. It is touted as a "links course" thanks to shared double greens, pot bunkers, burns (skinny water hazards) and a replica of the Swilcan Bridge from the Old course at St. Andrews. As a lover of links golf, I can't call it a "true links" but its novelty delivers more fun than most Florida courses.
Georgia Local Golf Advisor RettJ gave the New course five stars after playing it for the first time in March.
"I had a great time and loved the course," he wrote. "However, it is very challenging the 1st time playing the course because it is a challenge to know where to go, where is the next tee, where the holes go, what pin is the correct pin for the hole you are playing (there are more double greens on this course than I have ever seen on one course). The condition of the course is fantastic. The fairways are huge and wide. TONS of bunkers all over the course. Many bunkers you can not even see from the tee box."
Personal memories at Grand Cypress
These changes to the resort hit home personally. I got engaged while staying at the villas in 2000. I remember going out to dinner at the Hyatt, where our waiter brought us celebratory drinks and dessert after finding out the big news. It was a nice touch.
The villas were comfortable and spacious and seemed to be popular. The resort website indicates the villas were ranked Trip Advisor's No. 1 hotel in Orlando since 2014. I'm guessing I'm not the only guest who is sad to see them go.
I'm okay with the 27 holes being remastered, even though the 27 holes by Nicklaus were well-respected by Golf Advisor reviewers. It rated among the top six courses in Florida and top 50 in the country by Golf Advisor users from 2016-2018. Yani Tseng won the only LPGA Tour event on property.
Although there's the nostalgia of keeping the tournament course, I think the resort owners made the right decision in keeping the New course, a more friendly and interesting layout. It was my favorite at Grand Cypress.