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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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 17, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods teed off at 12:15PM ET alongside Justin Rose for Round 3 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.