The Golfing Dads recently played Black Bear Golf Club.  This 18 hole course is located off SR 44A in Eustis, FL. Opened in 1995, the course was designed by P.B. Dye (Paul) who is the youngest son of Pete and Alice Dye. Online, this Par 72 golf course is listed as semi-private and claims to be home to a select number of PGA and LPGA tour players. Black Bear has hosted 7 US Amateur Public link events. As a result, we were anxious to play the golf course.

On our arrival, there was no employee waiting near the bag drop to help us with our bag/clubs. Most of the staff seemed to be organizing golf carts or performing maintenance. At the club house or on the course, there was no interaction with the outside staff. Inside, we found the pro shop friendly. In addition to gladly taking our money, they willingly engaged in conversation. Our one interaction with the restaurant staff was very good. In observing her prior to being served, she was equally friendly to all customers.

Black Bear has a HUGE practice area. Immediately outside the club house, there is a driving range that can accomodate 50+ golfers. On the day we played, the course placed astroturf mats on either side of the practice range. The mats were on top of concrete slabs. This allowed for only 3 players to hit balls at a time. To hit a driver, players had to go to the side of the slab. On a couple occasions, maintenance staff asked players to hit only from the mat when hitting a driver. This seemed unrerasonable. From conversations with the pro shop, they claimed they were trying to save the practice area for members. Taking their comments further, this seemd peculiar as there was a large practice range at the far end of the driving range. According to the pro shop, this areas is for members to use when Black Bear was hosting an outing. We found the putting green was very large and had several areas with undulations similar to what we’d experience on the golf course. There is even a sand trap where players can practice their sand shots. While yellow, we found range balls to be newer and in good shape. Overall, other than hitting off mats over a cement slab and being told we shouldn’t hit drivers off a tee in the grass, we felt the practice area was one of the best facilities in central Florida.

From the Championship tees, the course measures 7,018 yards. In addition to these tees, there are 4 other sets of tee boxes. They measure from 6,381 yards (Black tees) down to 4,768 yards (Red tees). Overall, tee boxes were in good shape and appeared to be moved frequently to prevent wearing. We did see several tee boxes that needed a “trim” as the grass was long. From appearances, it looked like the course was trying to regrow grass from usage during the year. Fairways were in good shape. We didn’t feel we had to roll the ball to get a good lie. During the round, we didn’t see areas of dead grass or lack of maintenance. The course is well bunkered and these bunkers seem strategically placed to catch an errant tee or fairway shotshot. Around some greens, there are hidden pot bunkers to catch shots. These pot bunkers are below the putting surface and players should avoid them as much as possible. Holes 15 and 18 have such bunkers and aren’t visible from the fairway. Areas around the greens were well maintained. Green size varied throughout the course. On the higher handicapped holes, the greens were smaller. On the lower handicapped holes, greens were bigger. Virtually all greens have subtle breaks and numerous undulations. The front portion of most greens seemed to face the hole, but there were several greens that had “humps” in the middle. Green speed was consistent between all the greens.

The first 4 holes are fairly benign. The 3rd hole is Par 3 that looks to have a small green from the tee box. Looks, however, are deceiving. With a mound in the middle of the green, putting from the back to the front of the green is difficult. We found Hole 5 to be interesting. Measuring 197 yards from the back tees, the shot needed is all carry. As with the 11th green, the 5th green is oblong in shape. With the pin in the back of the green, shots landing on the front of the green have to be hit with authority uphill. In our opinion, Hole 6 is missing something. Measuring 378 yards from the back tees, the fairway isn’t in the best of conditions. Because this hole is fairly flat, the green is small but in poor condition. Hole 9 requires a player to hit a good tee shot between 2 trees to land in the fairway. Once in the fairway. the 2nd shot is hit to a green above the level of the fairway. Guarding the green is a series of deep bunkers. Once on the green, there are several areas of undulations that require a good putt.

On the back side, Hole 11 measures 213 yards from the back tees. Green 11 was about 61 yards long and oblong in shape. The tee shot must be carried all the way onto the green. Anything short will end up requiring the player to hit a long chip to an undulated green. If a player gets a par or better, this will probably be a skin. Until getting to 17 tee, the remaining holes are fairly benign. Hole 17 is the number 3 handicap hole and well worth the rating. The tee shot is hit over a slight hill down to a low area. A player’s second shot is hit to a multi-level green that has a severe uphill slope from front to back. On the right side of the green is a low area that catches a lot of balls and necessitates putting uphill. The area behind the green is small and slopes down the the 18th tee. Hole 18 is the number 1 handicap hole and is the only hole with water. Depending on the tee box, players should try to hit far enough to be close to the water. This could leave a 2nd shot of about 150 yards but don’t be lulled into thinking the 2nd shot is easy. From the fairway, the green looks small (it’s oblong with drop off areas on all sides). Once on the green, players have to negotiate numerous undulations and low areas in order to have a putt at par. Any shot long, if not caught by the pot bunker, will be lost.

Dads Say So, play Black Bear. It requires players to use every clubs in the bag. Tee shots have to be hit well and placed in strategic spots to have a good 2nd shot to the green. Once on or near the green, attention and focus are important to secure a good score. For more information or to book a tee time, contact the course at blackbeargolfclub.com.

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