Destination Spotlight: Orlando
Orlando, Florida is often referred to as the “family vacation destination,” and for plenty of good reasons. With multiple theme parks—including Universal Studios, Disney World, and Sea World just to name a few—plus a host of other attractions not far away (such as the Kennedy Space Center, LEGOLAND Florida Resort, Bok Tower Gardens, and more), you can find a lot of ways to enjoy your visit to the Orlando area. Whether you’re planning a three-day getaway or a week-long stay, you and your family or friends will probably close out your trip with a list of reasons to plan another trip to Orlando soon.
While you’re scheduling your trip, make sure you leave time for golf. It’s no wonder so many pro golfers and golf lovers alike call the Florida area home; after all, central Florida alone has a huge number of golf courses, many of which are regionally and nationally recognized as some of the top places to play golf.
A Touch of History
Nestled in the heart of nearby Winter Park and surrounded by beautiful trees and historic homes is Winter Park Golf Course. A wonderful 9-hole walking course, Winter Park Golf Course is the second oldest golf course in Orlando, having been established in 1914. Juniors, seniors, and even experienced golfers love the course for its history and the unique challenges offered – including undulating greens and approach shots that can make or break your scorecard. Big names from golf’s golden era, including Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, have played here, offering a direct link to the game’s storied past.
Another historic track, located just minutes from downtown Orlando, is Dubsdread Golf Course. The original design dates back to 1923, with a 2008 update that retained all of the charm and difficulty that make this golf course a local Orlando favorite. Slim fairways and well-placed bunkers will make you work for it on several holes, as will water hazards that threaten to cost you a stroke or two if your shot gets away from you. Handle your approaches well, though, and the manicured greens and pin placement give you a chance to a satisfying finish on each of the 18 holes.
Footsteps of the King
Those aren’t the only examples of history and golf intersecting in the Orlando area, of course. One of the biggest names in the history of the game, Arnold Palmer, made the beautiful and renowned Bay Hill Club & Lodge his home and base of operations in 1975. Then, in 1979, Arnie collaborated with the PGA Tour to host one of their major events at the course, and thus was born the Arnold Palmer Invitational (initially called the Bay Hill Invitational). Members of the club and guests staying at the resort are able to play these 27-holes of championship golf course and, prior to his passing in 2016, there was a good chance they’d get to see The King himself testing out clubs or inspecting the course and watching golfers take their best shots.
Swinging with the Shark
Passion for the game and incredible weather have led golf courses in Orlando find different ways of incorporating inspiration, designs, and experiences from around the world to create the best golf experience. That includes something you might not expect to find in central Florida – links-style golf. But links-style golf is exactly the inspiration behind Greg Norman’s design for the ChampionsGate International course at Omni Orlando Resort, often referenced as one of the best golf courses in Orlando. “The Shark” worked hard to give this course teeth, combining deep grasses in the rough with bunkers galore and extensive use of water throughout. Manage to play here on a breezy day and you’ll have all the makings of a truly links-golf experience … although likely with more sunshine and higher temps. And at just under 7,400 yards from the back tees, you will probably get a chance to test nearly every club in your bag and every trick in your book. The experience is well worth the challenge, and each well-placed shot will have you chomping at the bit for your next opportunity to play here.