Driving to the private golf community of Bella Collina, our GPS took us through the quaint town of Montverde, FL, home of the Montverde Academy, one of the country’s most prestigious private college prep schools. We soon came to the gates of Bella Collina, a 1,900-acre private golf and lakefront community owned by Dwight C. Schar and DCS Investment Holdings. Mr. Schar is a co-owner of the Washington Redskins football team and founding chairman of NVR Inc., one of America’s largest homebuilders. The property was purchased from disgraced real-estate developer Bobby Ginn.
Since purchasing Bella Collina, Mr. Schar and DCS Investment Holdings have invested more than $200 million on the infrastructure and amenities. As big a footprint as the community has, there are less than 1,000 homesites within the guarded gates. This Tuscan-inspired luxury community offers new home sites, luxury estate homes and upscale condo residences, all in a breathtaking setting that overlooks Lake Apopka and Lake Siena. Residents have access to just about every amenity imaginable: a private spring-fed lake, a Sir Nick Faldo-designed championship golf course, Har-Tru tennis courts, fitness center, resort-style pool complex, spa and salon and multiple dining venues. Bella Collina is about 30 minutes from Walt Disney World theme parks and a mere 90 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico beaches.
As you pass through the gates and wind your way up the hill to Bella Collina’s 75,000-square-foot clubhouse – affectionately dubbed “The Castle – you get the idea that you’re in for something special. The clubhouse can be seen from just about anywhere on the golf course and is comprised of six buildings which include a restaurant, spa and fitness center as well as a wine cellar and humidor. It’s a page right out of the architectural digests of Tuscany with its plazas, fountains and terraces with features such as barrel tile ceilings and intricate custom woodwork and stonework.
If you’re here to play golf, you will quickly realize that Bella Collina is not your typical golf experience. In fact, the 18-hole championship golf course at Bella Collina is like nothing else you will see in the state. The course was designed by PGA TOUR Hall of Famer Nick Faldo and plays a whopping 7,617 yards from the “Faldo” tees, although I have to wonder if Sir Nick actually plays these tees when he visits. From these tees the course carries a rating of 76.8 and a slope of 136. We played the course from the “Combo Tees” (Member/Club) which play 6,307 yards (70.8/120) and still offers a great test of golf. Six sets of tees offer lengths that will appeal to every golfer regardless of skill. Pick the set that best suit your game and you’re bound to have a memorable time!
Faldo has done a fantastic job of utilizing the area’s rolling terrain to create a masterpiece that is as visually stunning as it is fun to play. Trust me, your shot making ability will be challenged as will your thought process. Bella Collina is surrounded by the beautiful vineyards of Central Florida and features dramatic elevation changes which are evident as you stand on the first tee and look down the fairway. Although most fairways are wide open and water only comes into play on one hole, don’t think Bella Collina is without its fair share of hazards. Between the massive bunkering in the fairways and around the greens and the waste bunkers that are everywhere, a good sand game is a necessity if you plan on scoring well. Your success will hinge on good approach shots, many of which play uphill and require at least one extra club. Greens are well undulated and, in most cases, well protected. Missed greens will leave difficult chip shots from the swales and mounds that surround them and can make a par that much tougher. There are a few forced carries but nothing that will overwhelm the average player.
Bella Collina also boasts a world-class practice facility including a full-length driving range with multiple target greens, a short-game area that is second to none, practice bunkers and practice greens. The pro shop is stocked with a lot of the latest golf gear and apparel from the industry’s top manufacturers. The men’s and women’s locker rooms are some of the most lavish facilities I have ever seen; the whirlpool/hot tub and steam room areas are in a class by themselves.
There are two restaurants in the Clubhouse as well as several dining venues. The 19th Hole is casual and laid back and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. It’s the restaurant the public has access to. The talented culinary team creates seasonal dishes and adds some interesting twists to classic dishes. The 19th Hole is the perfect place to grab a quick bite before your round or stop by afterwards and enjoy your favorite beverage. For members and their guests, there’s the private, member’s only restaurant Cucina.
Many residents at Bella Collina live an active lifestyle and take advantage of Florida’s year-round sunshine. In addition to an award winning golf course and impressive tennis complex, scenic walking and biking trails meander throughout the property and make for a great low-impact workout. There’s also a resort-style aquatic center with two 75-foot lap lanes, sun deck, whirlpool spa and a covered terrace with bar and grill/ There’s also a 3,000-square-foot fitness center equipped with the latest cardio equipment, free weights and strength-training machines as well as a luxurious full-service spa and hair salon which not only offers a full slate of services for members and residents, but is open to the public on a limited basis.
Just in case you haven’t figured it out, Bella Collina is the perfect place to host your next event. Whether it’s a corporate golf outing or the wedding of your dreams, the experienced tournament and event staff will take care of everything down to the last detail. On the golf side, they are there to help with everything from pre-planning details to a professional scoreboard and scoring; they’ll leave it to you to hand out the prizes! Food and drink issues will be handled as well and you won’t find a better laid out or conditioned course in all of Florida.
When it comes to weddings and their planning, Bella Collina has the experienced staff to handle it all, down to the last detail. They are one of the top ceremony and reception venues in all of Central Florida. Whether it’s an intimate guest list of 50 or a gala celebration of 300, Bella Collina’s staff will pair an exquisite dining experience with the service and attention you desire. Because they pride themselves in exclusivity, only one wedding per night is booked. Their culinary team and event staff will work with you to make sure the menu and room layout are planned just right.
If your purpose in coming to Florida is a golf vacation, look no further than Bella Collina. Thanks to the community’s latest real estate addition – Siena at Bella Collina, a 100-unit luxury condo development –golfers have the ability to stay – and play – at Bella Collina. Golf packages include access to many of the communities otherwise private amenities including the lakefront pool and fitness center and the walking trails, tennis facilities, full-service spa, 19th Hole restaurant, and the golf course. Inside these luxurious two and three-bedroom condos you’ll find an owners suite with private bath, a formal dining room with seating for six, a fully equipped kitchen and comfortable living room furniture with Wi-Fi and cable TV. Fresh linens and towels are also provided. Some units have a den, which is perfect for couples traveling with children. Now you can experience a golf getaway like no other.
Bella Collina is a community where families and friends build lasting memories in a new era of country club living. It’s a club that wants to cater to future generations. The club members of today are looking for a lifestyle that is family-oriented in nature, therefore they need an entire suite of amenities that cater to everyone in the family.
You need not be a Bella Collina resident to become a member of one of Florida’s most impressive golf properties. Currently, they are offering perhaps the most affordable membership program I’ve ever seen, especially for a course and facility of this caliber.
Their new membership referral program is tailored to golfers and is designed for you and three friends, however just two make take advantage of it. The new Friends and Family program is a golf only membership and includes unlimited cart fees, golf course and range access, dining at both the 19th Hole and Cucina Restaurants, access to the pool, spa, locker room and inclusion in member events. There is a $200 application fee and dues run as low as $350/month for a foursome. Other family members may be added for $100 each.
As you can see, Bella Collina is a great place to join and indulge your recreational side. And now with the opening of Siena, it’s a great place for a golf vacation on one of the state’s most unique golf courses. If you’re headed to the Orlando area on a family or golf vacation, take some time and arrange a visit to Bella Collina. For more information, visit www.bellacollina.com.