Often you’ve gasped at a Tiger Woods golf shot, but a visit to his residential enclave, Isleworth, would be no less jaw-dropping. The complex is so posh that when Sotheby’s installed an exhibit of sculpture masterpieces (by Auguste Rodin, Salvador Dali and others) along Isleworth’s thoroughfares, a visitor’s eyes still swerved to scope out the next mansion.
Woods, Mark O’Meara and Isleworth’s other resident stars were a happy group once their golf course reopened in 2003. A complete Steve Smyers renovation of the original Palmer-Seay layout set in surprisingly brawny terrain along Lake Butler has given the local sticks all they can handle. By adding contour, dimension and tougher bunkers to greensites and landing areas, Smyers upped the slope rating to 142 and broadened the shotmaking possibilities.
The result is a course that keeps rekindling your urge to attack it—even after your bold tactics on the previous hole notably backfired. Flawless wall-to-wall conditioning only adds to the experience. In less stressful times, Woods could be seen motoring merrily down to the Isleworth practice tee, in his private golf cart with its eye-catching “spinner” wheel covers.
Although most of those who read this will not have access to it, Smyers’ renovation of Tiger’s home club outside Orlando is worth celebrating. The architect initially worked on the course in the early 1990’s, rebuilding the greens and bunkers, and returned this time to revamp the entire course, gouging land from certain fairway sections and adding it to others to create vertical dimensions that didn’t previously exist.
The renovation included adding length (to 7,544 yards from the “Tiger” tees) and re-envisioning the green complexes (most were elevated, angled, and re-bunkered). The effect of the work, according to one report attributed to Woods, is that the plays several strokes more difficult. Joe Lewis, whose name nearly always appears in print beside the phrase, British-billionaire-currency-trader, did well to bring Smyers back for the remake.
No luck scoring an invite to this leafy hideaway? You can always glimpse it on TV during the annual Tavistock Cup, two days of fun and games for 24 tour-pro members of Isleworth and sister club Lake Nona across town. Of late, the Lake Nona contingent has held the upper hand in the annual early-spring funfest. The 2010 edition of the rivalry was secured by the Nona boys–including stars like Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Ian Poulter–who played their way to a 17-13 victory. Lake Nona, defending its Tavistock title from 2009, defeated the Isleworth side despite having to make a grueling 20-minute trip across town to Windermere.