LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Tom Fazio's Osprey Ridge golf course at Disney World has earned plenty of accolades since its opening in 1992. It's a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary golf course and has received four and half stars from Golf Digest.
But there is another award it's worthy of: The most peaceful escape in all of Disney.
Spend a morning on Osprey Ridge, and you'd never guess there were thundering roller coasters filled with screaming park-goers minutes away.
Many golfers may also label it the standout among the Disney foursome of golf courses.
While the remaining three courses are traditional Florida layouts built by Joe Lee around the park's inception in 1971-72, Osprey Ridge combines an unbeatable, secluded atmosphere with trademark Fazio design flash. The architect moved over 1 million cubic yards of dirt, creating elevated tees, greens and mounding along the fairways.
"Some of the factors that excited us about the project were the vegetation, the water areas and the wetlands, which became part of the background and framing for the holes," said Fazio of the property.
Osprey Ridge begins subtly, with a short, straight par-4 opener before gradually gaining steam.
After the second hole, a wooden bridge takes you through wetlands all the way to No. 16. The par-3 third hole features a downhill shot from an elevated tee - the kind of drop that is few and far between on courses this south in Florida.
The finishing stretch will most certainly leave a lasting impression. The par-5 16th may be the most exciting hole at Osprey Ridge. A wide fairway invites you to swing for the fences from the tee, and a good drive puts you in position to go for the elevated green guarded in front by water in two shots. But the green isn't very deep, and there is little room to run a shot up. Plus, bunkers loom around every nook of the green.
A good score on the 16th is crucial, because the par-3 17th is the most intimidating of the par 3s here, with disaster looming all around the green. It requires a long iron from the tee to a green that is multi-tiered with water encroaching at the front and to the left.
Like each of Disney's finishing holes, the 18th is a long, 440-plus yard par 4. It doglegs around water to one of the deepest greens on the golf course, so be sure you consult your GPS for the pin position.
Disney's Osprey Ridge course: The verdict
Osprey Ridge is the only modern course of the bunch at Disney and was designed on the most secluded property. It doesn't seem like the course could ever logistically host the PGA Tour event held on the Palm and Magnolia courses each year, but for daily play, Osprey Ridge might be the most memorable course at Disney.
You won't hear a steady stream of "Choo! Choo!" like on the Magnolia, which sits in the Magic Kingdom's back yard, and you won't play through any resort complexes like at Lake Buena Vista.
Fazio's use of the bulldozers gives golfers an entirely different feeling from the more traditional Florida courses nearby. Greens are much more undulating and often feature numerous tiers. Fazio was also sure to contour the course to hide cart paths from plain view on the tee boxes, which adds to the aesthetics.
Resort guests receive a slight discount and free transportation to and from their property. Like all Disney courses, Osprey Ridge features GPS in its golf carts.