Diversity of land, design dominates the Orlando golf scene

By Travel ArticlesJune 11, 2012, 5:14 pm

When a golfer say, 'I'm playing Orlando,' it can mean anything from teeing it up at a classic layout once played by Sam Snead to a resort course brimming with high-impact features to a hilly layout with roller coaster-like fairways.

Orlando has more topographical diversity than any other part of the Sunshine State. Utilizing acres of former orange groves and farmland, wetlands and sometimes wildly undulating terrain, designers like Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio and Greg Norman have fashioned an excellent lineup of courses in the theme park capital of the world.

The Orlando golf menu, please:

Exciting elevation

Hills in Orlando?

Yes. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the number of superb layouts boasting elevation changes.

One of my favorites is MetroWest Golf Club, which is located a few minutes from my home in southwest Orlando. On the back nine of this Robert Trent Jones Sr. design you can see the downtown Orlando skyline in the distance from the No. 13 tee box.

A venerable choice for those seeking diverse terrain is El Campeon at Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey-in-the-Hills, 35 miles from Orlando, where elevation changes of more than 85 feet have made this a fun and challenging course since its debut in 1926.

Nearby in Clermont, three thoroughly playable layouts with rolling hills and elevation changes are Legends Golf & Country Club, Palisades Country Club and Sanctuary Ridge Golf Club.

In the college town of Deland, home to Stetson University, 30 miles east of Orlando, the aptly named Victoria Hills Golf Club, a Ron Garl design, takes full advantage of its un-Florida like rolling terrain.

Old-school favorites

Orlando existed long before Walt Disney World arrived and it has the classic golf courses to prove it.

About a five-minute drive from downtown Orlando, Dubsdread Golf Course, which opened in 1924 and has hosted golf legends like Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Claude Harmon, is a classic layout dominated by mature oak trees and smallish greens. An extensive renovation and enhancement program in 2008 elevated Dubsdread's playability and challenge.

In east Orlando, Rio Pinar Country Club, previously a private golf club now offering public tee times, is a traditional favorite. Opened in 1957, this classic track hosted the PGA Tour's Citrus Open (which later morphed into the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill) and the LPGA Tour's Lady Citrus Open. Large trees with overhanging branches on some fairways demand accuracy off the tee on this engaging design.

Located about a 30-minute drive north of Orlando in Sanford, the 18-hole Mayfair Country Club, opened in 1927, is a 6,403-yard, par-72 course with fairways that are much wider than those typical of older course designs.

For those who relish walking, the options include Winter Park Country Club, a tree-laden, nine-hole course built in the early 1900s in the New England style village of Winter Park three miles north of downtown Orlando, and Winter Pines Golf Club, an economically priced 18-hole, par-67 layout opened in 1968 located two miles east of downtown Winter Park.

Resort designer gems

Golf course architects, perhaps inspired by Orlando's over-the-top creative theme parks and hotels, have designed courses at resort's oozing with 'wow' factor.

If you enjoy playing golf in Scotland or don't have the time, money or inclination to travel there, by all means play Jack Nicklaus' impressive tribute to the Old Course at St. Andrews, the New Course at Grand Cypress Resort. From double greens and stone bridges to gorse mounds and deep pot bunkers, it's a wonderful slice of Scotland in Orlando.

For another Scottish fix, play the International at ChampionsGate Golf Resort, a links-style experience fashioned by Greg Norman.

At Disney's Osprey Ridge Golf Course, Tom Fazio was at the top of his game providing challenge with large, elevated greens, 70 bunkers and tree-lined fairways.

Other high-profile designs include the Grand Lakes Course at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, a Greg Norman design known for it pristine setting and caddie program; Waldorf Astoria Golf Club, a Rees Jones design that weaves through a large wetland preserve; and Celebration Golf Club, a design by the father-son team of Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Sr. set in the Disney created village of Celebration.

Natural settings

For those seeking peace and quiet and a reprieve from Orlando's tourist crowds, Orlando has a good selection of courses in natural settings.

Located near Kissimmee, Harmony Golf Preserve, a Johnny Miller design, is a wonderland of southern pines, diverse plant life and natural lakes where you can occasionally see deer, sandhill cranes, ospreys and other animals.

In Davenport, about a 15-minute drive from the Walt Disney World area, the Mike Dasher designed Highlands Reserve Golf Club has pine trees, citrus trees and open fairways that strongly suggest gripping and ripping off the tee.

Nearby, Dasher also designed the Providence Golf Club, where fresh water creeks, wetlands and ancient hardwoods offer a nature park-like setting.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

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

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

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.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

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.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.