When golf is not enough Off-the-course Orlando
ORLANDO, Fla. – If there ever was a destination where golf is not enough, it’s Orlando. Between rounds at such PGA Tour staples as Bay Hill Club or Disney’s Magnolia, golfers can be entertained by everything from rollercoasters to spaceships. Here's a rundown of the best off-the-course activities.
Despite nearly 100 golf courses in Orlando, there’s no mistaking the elephant in the room: theme parks. With Disney, Universal and Sea World the area has plenty of variety, so whether your Orlando golf vacation is shared with family or friends, you’ll find a theme park that fits.
For golfers traveling with family, Disney’s Magic Kingdom is a sure bet. It doesn’t have the best rides in Orlando, but if you’re traveling with adolescent children let’s face it – Magic Kingdom is their Augusta National.
Beyond Magic Kingdom Disney has Hollywood Studios, EPCOT and Animal Kingdom, all of which have enough rides and attractions to keep you engaged for an entire day. If you’re trying to pack multiple Disney parks into one day, consider the park-hopper pass which allows you the freedom to enjoy all of the Disney parks.
Sea World is another great spot for kids, with its mix of educational and entertaining exhibits. The stingray-themed Manta is arguably the best rollercoaster in town, and the Aquatica water park makes for a well-rounded Sea World experience.
While Sea World has the best single coaster, Universal has the best overall collection. The Incredible Hulk, Dragon Challenge and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit rollercoasters are all as thrilling as they are unique.
Though it doesn’t have much in the way of rides, Disney’s EPCOT is a fun off-the-course activity, particularly World Showcase, a giant area divided into 11 countries, each featuring restaurants and exhibits from that nation.
Universal City Walk is similar to EPCOT in that it’s another fun place to wander around. It offers bars and restaurants galore, including NBA City Café, Margaritaville and Pat O’Brien’s. Music fans will appreciate Hard Rock Café, which in addition to being a good restaurant, hosts dozens of top concerts throughout the year.
Disney’s version of Universal City Walk is Downtown Disney, a boardwalk full of restaurants, shops – even a five story arcade. There’s also a Cirque du Soleil and House of Blues.
When it comes to sports passion Orlando is a far cry from Boston or Chicago, but among major golf destinations, The City Beautiful definitely holds its own.
If you’re an NBA fan visiting between October and June you should check the Orlando Magic schedule to see if the team is in town. Not only are Dwight Howard and the Magic one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference, but the team plays in the brand new Amway Center, which has all the bells and whistles of a new sports arena – including a bar that overlooks the court.
The arena is on Interstate-4 in downtown Orlando. Tickets are fairly easy to come by, whether through Ticketmaster, StubHub or good ol’ fashioned ticket scalpers.
Sports fans looking for something closer to Disney should consider ESPN Wide World of Sports, a massive sports complex that hosts more than 200 events each year. The Atlanta Braves host spring training here, and the college basketball Old Spice Invitational takes place each Thanksgiving. Check ahead though, because unless there’s an event going on there’s not much to do.
If you have a passion for college sports check out University of Central Florida football and basketball. Despite having the nation’s highest undergrad enrollment in the 2009-10 academic year, it’s known as a commuter school so tickets to either sport are easy to find. And what’s more? Both teams have been impressive of late, with football winning the 2010 C-USA Championship and basketball fresh off a 6-0 start to their season, including a win over No. 16 Florida.
Though Orlando isn’t winning any awards for its natural beauty, there are still a few fun sightseeing activities you won’t find in most places.
One activity you won’t find at most other golf destinations is a helicopter tour. There are a few different companies, an inventory of which can be found with a simple Google search. Flying into the Orlando International Airport gives you a glimpse of the countless lakes dotting the Florida landscape, but getting a birds-eye-view of downtown Orlando, EPCOT, Universal and more is a unique experience.
If helicopters aren’t your thing, there’s also a helium balloon company in Celebration, Fla. that charters flights on a daily basis.
On the subject of flying, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Kennedy Space Center – even though it’s about an hour east of town. The Visitor’s Center is geared mainly toward kids, but if your travel schedule coincides with a shuttle launch it turns into a must-see no matter how old you are.
Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?
Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.
Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.
Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.
Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.
Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.
Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.
Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.
Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.
Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.
Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.
Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.