Located in the heart of Central Florida, Rio Pinar Country Club has a long history of being a good test of golf. Designed by Mark Mahannah and Lloyd Clifton in 1957, the golf course has recently undergone $3 million of renovations that were designed to improve the quality of the course.
The PGA made tour stops at this course from 1966 through 1978 and LPGA from 1979 through 1982. Winners of these events are a Who’s Who of golf. They include Arnold Palmer, Julius Boros, Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin, Jane Blalock, Beth Daniel, and Patty Sheehan. As a result of all these facts, The Golfing Dads were anxious to play this links style golf course.
The driving range is HUGE. If all the spots were available and in use, there looked to be space for 75 golfers. The range had distance markers from 100 yards to 250 yards. Quality of the area we hit from on the driving range was an issue. Grass was sparse or non-existent. It was hard to simulate course conditions when warming up due to the poor grass conditions. There was a chipping area that included a sand trap. This area was well maintained and gave players a chance to hit shots like what they would experience on the course. Although relatively small, the putting green consistency was like the course greens.
Rio Pinar has 5 sets of tee boxes. Black tees are set at 7,001 yards. Gold and Blue tees are set at 6,645 and 6,259 yards respectively. Finally, White tees are set at 5,510 yards and Red tees are set at 5,346 yards. Although a Par 72 course, the Black tees plays to a rating of 73.9 (Slope 130) and Gold tees play to 72.2 (Slope 127).
On the front side, Par 5 holes are 569 and 568 yards respectively. Conversely, on the back 9, the Par 5 holes are 508 and 510. Three of the 4 Par 3 holes measure over 200 yards from the back tee. One of the best aspects of this course is the layout. Every hole plays by itself with no bail out areas in other fairways.
The front 9 is heavily tree lined and looks narrow (in reality, it isn’t). Holes on the back 9 are tree lined but not as visually tight looking as the front 9. If an errant shot goes into the trees, players are penalized and might lose a shot or two to par.
Our experience on the tee boxes was mixed. We found many tee areas that were over used and grass to be non-existent. These areas were hard too. From our observations, maintenance staff hadn’t moved the tee boxes in the last few weeks. Fairways were in good condition for winter golf in Florida. We didn’t have to roll our ball to get good grass. The rough was cut short and, as expected, was dormant. We didn’t experience any bad lies when in the rough. Areas around the greens were well maintained and in good condition. Some of the fringe areas around the bunkers could use some work as the grass seemed almost overgrown.
- The first hole is a Par 5 that measures 569 yards from the back tees. Two good shots put a player in position to shoot to a green that basically is sloped front to back. Guarding the front of the green are bunkers. Maybe 30 yards in front of the green is a water hazard that shouldn’t come into play.
- Hole 2 is a good golf hole. The tee shot requires players to stay center or left of center to have a shot to the green. Trees guard the right side of the fairway and extend out pretty far. The 2nd shot is hit to a green guarded on the left by trees and a bunker. Second green is quite large and well undulated.
- Hole 3 is a straight Par 4 but don’t let looks fool you. Even with a well-placed tee shot, the 2nd shot is hit to a green that seems to slope from the middle out. Hole 5 is the number 1 handicapped hole and looks very benign. For some reason, it seems to play longer than 411 yards. The fairway pinches in a little but shouldn’t affect a tee shot. Hitting the green seems to be the hardest part of the hole as it slopes from front to back.
- Hole 6 measures 429 yards and seems it should be rated harder than number 5 handicap hole. The fairway pinches in on the left side and a large bunker catches shots to the right. It seems the ball doesn’t carry on this hole as hitting the green is difficult. Short shots hit and don’t roll forward. Shots on either side of the green hit and roll or bounce away from the green.
- Hole 9 requires a good tee shot on the 429 yard hole. Once in the fairway, players are faced with a 2nd shot that is all carry as the front of this green is elevated.
- Hole 10 is another Par 5 that measures 508 yards from the Black tees. With a good tee shot, longer hitters can go for the green in 2 but beware of a pond just short of the right hand side of the green. Bunkers guard the left side and right front of this green.
- Hole 12 is a pretty Par 3 that measures only 164 yards from the back tee. There is a large body of water between the tee box and green. Once on the green, there is a lot of slope and undulations that make putting more difficult.
- Hole 14 is another good hole that necessitates shot placement off the tee as the left side of the fairway is guarded by a few trees and water. Once in the fairway, players hit to green that has a ridge in the middle.
- Hole 15 is a 510 yard Par 5 that is reachable for long hitters. There is water in front of the green and a bunker just in front of the green.
- Hole 16 is another pretty par 3 that plays 220 yards from the tips. Set in a tree lined area, the hole is straight and has an elongated green.
- Hole 18 is a 426 yard Par 4 that has some tree issues on the left side. Get past the trees and a player has an open shot to a very receptive green.
We found the greens to be fast but true. They have lots of undulations and slope that make putting a challenge. The greens that are longer front to back seem less undulated but no less difficult. We felt the greens were one of the better aspects of the course. Greens could, however, use some TLC as we saw numerous ball marks that needed repair.
Dad’s Say So, if you are in Orlando and looking for a great day of golf, book your round at Rio Pinar. The layout is outstanding with every hole right in front of the player. Due to the tree lined fairways, we didn’t hear anyone have to yell “Fore” due to an errant shot from another fairway. You need to really concentrate on every shot to avoid going in the woods. We found the fairways good and the greens quick but fair. For more information, or to book a tee time, contact the golf course at www.riopinar.com.