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Orlando Golf Courses
The International Association of Golf Tour Operators voted Orlando the "North American Golf Destination of the Year 2010" for good reason. There are more than 170 golf courses and 20 golf academies in the area. Sunny weather almost year-round doesn't hurt, and, though most of Florida is extremely flat, many of the courses feature hills that make them more challenging.
Resort hotels often let nonguests use their golf facilities. Some country clubs are affiliated with particular hotels, and their guests can play at preferred rates. Twilight discounts often apply after 2 pm in busy seasons and after 3 pm the rest of the year; the discount is usually half off the normal rate. Because golf is so incredibly popular, courses regularly raise rates.
In general, even public courses have dress codes, so call ahead for specifics and be sure to reserve tee times. Greens fees usually vary by season, and virtually all include mandatory cart rental, except for the few 9-hole walking courses.
GOLFPAC Travel. GOLFPAC Travel packages golf vacations and arranges tee times at nearly 80 Orlando courses. Rates vary based on hotel and course, and 60 to 90 days' advance notice is recommended to set up a vacation. 483 Montgomery Pl., Altamonte Springs, FL, 32714. 407/260–2288 or 800/327–0878. www.golfpactravel.com.
Walt Disney World
Disney has four championship courses, plus a 9-hole walking course. Any guest at a WDW hotel who checks in specifically to play golf gets free cab rides to the course.
Green Fees. Rates change frequently, so confirm when booking. Disney resort guests get a price break, and you should ask about twilight discount rates. If you plan to play only once, leave the gear at home—you can rent shoes, range balls, and clubs at any location.
Tee Times and Reservations. Tee times are available daily from dawn until dusk. You can book them up to 90 days in advance if you're staying at a WDW-owned hotel, 60 days ahead if you're staying elsewhere. You must cancel at least 24 hours out. For tee times and private lessons, call Disney's central World Golf reservations line. 407/939-4653
The Lake Buena Vista. The Lake Buena Vista course winds among Downtown Disney–area town houses and villas. Greens are narrow, and hitting straight is important because errant balls risk ending up in someone's bedroom. Be prepared for the famous island green on the 7th. Downtown Disney, Lake Buena Vista, FL, 32830. 18 holes, 6,819 yards, par 72.
The Magnolia. The Magnolia, played by the pros during a PGA tour event each fall, is long but forgiving, with extra-wide fairways. More than 1,500 magnolia trees line the course. Shades of Green, 1950 W. Magnolia-Palm Dr., Magic Kingdom Resort Area, Walt Disney World, FL, 32830. 18 holes, 7,190 yards, par 72.
Oak Trail. Oak Trail is designed by Ron Garl to be fun for the entire family. It's noted for its small, undulating greens. Shades of Green, 1950 W. Magnolia-Palm Dr., Magic Kingdom Resort Area, Walt Disney World, FL, 32830. 9 holes, 2,913 yards, par 36.
Osprey Ridge. Sculpted from some of the still-forested portions of the huge WDW acreage, Osprey Ridge was transformed into a relaxing tour in the hands of designer Tom Fazio. However, tees and greens as much as 20 feet above the fairways keep competitive players from getting too comfortable. Rental clubs require photo ID and a major credit card. At this writing the course was closed in the summer of 2013 and is expected to reopen in 2014 under the management of the new Four Seasons Resort Orlando. Osprey Ridge Golf Club, 3451 Golf View Dr., Magic Kingdom Resort Area, Walt Disney World, FL, 32830. 18 holes, 7,101 yards, par 72.
The Palm. The Palm has been confounding the pros participating in Disney's Golf Classic for years. It's not as long as the Magnolia, nor as wide, but it has nine water holes and 94 bunkers. Shades of Green, 1950 W. Magnolia-Palm Dr., Magic Kingdom Resort Area, Walt Disney World, FL, 32830. 18 holes, 6,957 yards, par 72.
Annika Academy. Named for world-renowned pro golfer Annika Sorenstam (its owner and chief golf guru), Annika Academy offers golf instruction, fitness training, and nutrition counseling. Some package prices are steep. Personalized instruction starts at $150; higher-level packages allow guests to play golf with Annika herself. At the Reunion Resort, which has three championship courses by Nicklaus, Palmer, and Watson, the academy has its own driving range and putting green. 7450 Sparkling Ct., Reunion, FL, 34747. 407/662-4653 or 888/266-4522. www.theannikaacademy.com..
Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge. The course is the site of the annual Arnold Palmer Invitational, and the 18th hole is considered one of the toughest on the PGA tour. Courses are open only to those who have been invited by a member or who book lodging at the club's 70-room hotel. But with double-occupancy rates for rooms overlooking the course running as low as $325 for a double room in summer, including two rounds of golf, many consider staying at the club an interesting prospect. 9000 Bay Hill Blvd., Orlando, FL, 32819. 407/876–2429 or 888/422–9445. www.bayhill.com. Greens fees included in resort package. 18 holes, 7,207 yards, par 72; 9 holes, 3,409 yards, par 36. Restaurant, spa, tennis, private lessons, club rental.
Barnett Park Golf Practice Facility. Besides having an attractive course, Barnett Park has a great asset: it's free. You just show up at the Orange County park to use the net-enclosed driving range (with 10 pads), the three chipping holes with grass and sand surroundings, and the small putting green. 4801 W. Colonial Dr., Orlando, FL, 32808. 407/836–6248. Free.
Celebration Golf Club. In addition to its great pedigree (it was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Sr.), Celebration Golf Club has the same thing going for it that the Disney-created town of Celebration has: it's 1 mile off the U.S. 192 strip and a 10-minute drive from Walt Disney World, yet it's lovely, wooded, and serene. 701 Golf Park Dr., Celebration, FL, 34747. 407/566–4653. www.celebrationgolf.com. Greens fees $49–$119, depending on time of year, time of day, and whether you're a Florida or Celebration resident; daily discount rates begin at noon. 18 holes, 6,783 yards, par 72. Restaurant, pro shop, private lessons, club rental.
ChampionsGate Golf Club. The two courses at ChampionsGate were designed by Greg Norman, and there's an onsite David Leadbetter Golf Academy. The 7,406-yard International has the feel of the best British Isles courses, whereas the 7,048-yard National course is designed in the style of the better domestic courses, with a number of par-3 holes with unusual bunkers. The club is less than 10 miles from Walt Disney World at Exit 58 on I–4. 1400 Masters Blvd., ChampionsGate, FL, 33896. 407/787–4653 ChampionsGate; 407/787–3330 Leadbetter Academy; 888/633–5323 Leadbetter Academy. www.championsgategolf.com. Greens fees $39–$139, depending on time of year and time of day. Golf lessons at Leadbetter Academy are $225 per hr and $1,750 per day for private lessons; group lessons are $325 for 3 hrs; a 3-day minischool is $975; a 3-day complete school is $2,400. International: 18 holes, 7,406 yards, par 72. National: 18 holes, 7,048 yards, par 72. Pro shop, restaurant, golf school, private lessons, club rental.
Falcon's Fire Golf Club. Designed by Rees Jones, Falcon's Fire has strategically placed fairway bunkers that demand accuracy off the tee. This club is just off the Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway and is convenient to the hotels in the so-called Maingate area. 3200 Seralago Blvd., Kissimmee, FL, 34746. 407/239–5445. www.falconsfire.com. Greens fees $59–$109, $39 after 3:30 pm in summer. 18 holes, 6,901 yards, par 72. Tee times 1-90 days in advance. Restaurant, private and group lessons, club rental, lockers, driving range, putting green.
Faldo Golf Institute by Marriott. A team effort of world-famous golf pro Nick Faldo and Marriott Corp, Faldo Golf Institute is an extensive-curriculum golf school and 9-hole golf course on the grounds of the corporation's biggest time-share complex, Marriott's Grande Vista. Here you can do anything from taking a one-hour, $119–$169 lesson with a Faldo-trained pro to immersing yourself in a three-day extravaganza ($999–$1,499) in which you learn more about golf technique than most nonfanatics would care to know. The Faldo Swing Studio offers high-tech teaching methods. The course, designed by Ron Garl, is geared to make you use every club in your bag—and perhaps a few you may elect to buy in the pro shop. You can also play the 18-hole course across the street at Marriott's Grande Pines Golf Club ($39–$124). Marriott Grande Vista, 12001 Avenida Verde, Orlando, FL, 32821. 407/903–6295 or 888/463–2536. www.gofaldo.com. 9 holes, 2,400 yards, par 32.
Grand Cypress Golf Resort. Fashioned after a Scottish glen, Grand Cypress comprises three 9s: the North, South, and East courses, and the 18-hole New Course. In addition, the Grand Cypress Academy of Golf, a 21-acre facility, has lessons and clinics. The North and South courses have fairways constructed on different levels, giving them added definition. The New Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, was inspired by the Old Course at St. Andrews, and has deep bunkers, double greens, a snaking burn, and even an old stone bridge. 1 N. Jacaranda, Orlando, FL, 32836. 407/239–1909 or 800/835–7377. www.grandcypress.com. Greens fees $125–$175. North: 9 holes, 3,521 yards, par 36. South: 9 holes, 3,472 yards, par 36. East: 9 holes, 3,434 yards, par 36. New: 18 holes, 6,773 yards, par 72. Tee times New Course 8–5; all others 7:30–5. Restaurant, club rental, shoe rental, locker room, driving range, putting green, free valet parking.
Hawk's Landing Golf Club at the Orlando World Center Marriott. Originally designed by Joe Lee, The 220-acre Hawks' Landing course includes 15 water holes, lots of sand, and exotic landscaping. Orlando World Center Marriott, 8701 World Center Dr., Orlando, FL, 32821. 407/238–8660 or 800/567–2623. www.golfhawkslanding.com. Greens fees $59–$144. 18 holes, 6,602 yards, par 71. Tee times 60 days in advance for public, 90 days in advance for World Center guests. Restaurants, private and group lessons, club and shoe rental.
Orange Lake Resort. About five minutes from Walt Disney World's main entrance, Orange Lake has two 18-hole courses (the Legends and the Reserve), two 9-hole courses (Crane's Bend, Legends Walk), and pro instruction at the McCord Golf Academy (rates start at $65). The Legends is a signature Arnold Palmer–designed championship course; the Reserve was designed by Mike Dasher and has unique land and water challenges. Crane's Bend is family-friendly. Legend's Walk is an executive walker's course open until 9 pm nightly, where children 15 and younger play free. The signature hole for the entire group of courses is the Island Oak, No. 13, a 432-yard, par-4 hole in the Pines section (the back 9) of the Legends Course. 8505 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy., Kissimmee, FL, 34747. 407/239–1050 or 888/640–6522. www.orangelakegolf.com. Greens fees $35–$110 for resort guests; $60–$140 nonguests. The Legends: 18 holes, 7,072 yards, par 72. The Reserve: 18 holes, 6,670 yards, par 71. Crane's Bend: 9 holes, 1,901 yards, par 30. Legend's Walk: 9 holes, 1,581 yards, par 30. Advance tee times preferred. Restaurant, private and group lessons, club rental, lighted driving range, putting green.
Rosen's Shingle Creek Golf Club. Rosen's Shingle Creek Golf Club, designed by David Harman, lies alongside a lovely creek, the headwaters of the Everglades. The course is challenging yet playable, with dense stands of oak and pine trees and interconnected waterways. The golf carts even have GPS yardage systems. Universal Studios and the Orange County Convention Center are within a few minutes' drive. 9939 Universal Blvd., Orlando, FL, 32819. 407/996–9933 or 866/996–9933. www.shinglecreekgolf.com. Greens fees $69–$135. 18 holes, 7,205 yards, par 72. Tee times 7–dusk. Restaurant, club rental, shoe rental, driving range, putting green.
Waldorf Astoria Golf Club. Rees Jones maintained natural elements while enhancing the land's existing contours when he designed Waldorf Astoria Golf Club. Majestic stands of pine and cypress line the fairways, and it winds through a scenic wetland preserve, with bunkers reminiscent of century-old hazards.It has a five-tee system for all playing levels. 14224 Bonnet Creek Resort La., Orlando, FL, 32821. 407/597–3782 or 888/924–6531. www.waldorfastoriagolfclub.com. $65–$195 (seasonal). 18 holes, 7,113 yards, par 72. Tee times 7:30–6. Restaurant, club rental, shoe rental, locker room, driving range, putting green, free valet parking.
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