Orange Lake Resort prospers into a sprawling golf destination next to Mickey Mouse in Kissimmee

By Travel ArticlesJanuary 28, 2013, 5:00 am

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The buildings overwhelm any first impressions at Orange Lake Resort.

There are condos. And villas. And high-rises. Others look like typical Florida homes.

In all, 2,478 villas comprise this massive timeshare vacation zone, all a part of the Holiday Inn Club Vacations network. First-timers can get lost trying to find their specific unit in the four distinct villages that have been developed since 1982.

Nature might not take center stage upon the drive to the accommodations, but don't fret, it's there. Tucked into the resort's 1,450 acres are four golf courses -- two championship 18-hole loops and two nine-hole executive courses -- and an 80-acre lake with a beach and water sports. There are also seven pools, lazy rivers, three arcades, two fitness centers, putt-putt golf, nine restaurants and bars, and tennis, basketball and racquetball courts, and an array of activities, too.

'My favorite vacation is to come down here and never leave the resort,' said Mike Minnich, a Virginia resident who has been part of the timeshare program since 1989. 'You don't have any trouble finding stuff to do.'

Many families stay at Orange Lake Resort for easy access to nearby Walt Disney World. It's more affordable to stay at Orange Lake than Disney, and the full kitchens help keep food costs down. Savvy travelers save even more by not renting a car, relying instead on shuttles to the airport and Disney and around the resort.

David Hitchcock, of New Brunswick, Canada, and 16 family members spent a week on property over the Christmas holiday. He said his grandchildren 'haven't even mentioned the theme parks.'

'They just hit the pools all day,' he said.

Golf at Orange Lake Resort

Golf is the backbone of Orange Lake Resort's recreation. The Legends Course, by Arnold Palmer, is one of Orlando's better resort tracks. It starts off slow, allowing snow birds to shake off their winter rust. Palmer then turns up the volume with a back nine of heroic shots.

The fairways remain wide and gently rolling throughout the 7,072-yard design, which opened in 1998. It's the rock-ledge ponds on eight of the final 10 holes that make scoring so tough. Even long drives are wasted if irons end up rinsed in water.

The par-71 Reserve Course, redesigned by Michael Dasher in 2005, plays much shorter at 6,505 yards. Ponds do add character to several holes, notably the tee shot on the par-5 fourth hole, the par-3 fifth hole and the approach at No. 16, a demanding par 4. Hitchcock said the Reserve isn't as well maintained as The Legends, although Minnich regularly chooses The Reserve for its value and the playability factor.

'It's usually a little quieter. There are not as many people,' Minnich said. 'The Legends can be a bear. This is more relaxed.'

Crane's Bend, a 1,901-yard, executive, par-30 course with six par 3s and three par 4s, actually boasts one of the best holes on property, an island green par 3. Legends Walk, a 1,581-yard nine-hole walking course, is lighted for night-time play. Both are perfect for families, juniors and beginners.

My wife and daughter don't play golf, but they had a blast playing alongside my son and I at night on Legends Walk. Hitchcock and his grandsons played in a five-some without the hassles of a conventional course.

'The kids enjoyed it,' he said. 'One grandson had new clubs. Another one, who is 8, had never been on a course before. They all scored well with some creative scoring.'

Restaurants at Orange Lake Resort

Orange Lake Resort isn't like most major hotels with a signature high-end dining experience. All of the nine restaurants and bars on property offer a relaxed, family friendly vibe. The River Island Grilling Company serves the best food.

My family ate at the Legacy Sports Bar and Grille inside The Legends' clubhouse. TVs were everywhere (check if there is trivia or live music the night you visit), and the food was perfectly good for all ages. The Tradewinds Bar & Grill, next to an incredible lazy river and pool complex in the River Island village, looked fun and inviting for appetizers and cocktails. The Paisan Pizzeria is located in the North village, and Anchors specializes in fast foods such as chicken fingers and hamburgers.

'The eating spots are great,' Hitchcock said. 'I've come down since 2002, so I've eaten at all the food places. They are all good and with good prices.'

Minnich marvels at all the development outside of Orange Lake Resort in recent years that complements the resort -- the Publix and the restaurants such as Bahama Breeze, Logan's Roadhouse, Miller's Ale House and more.

'The thing (about staying here) is the variety,' he said. 'You can do anything. Just sunbathe for a week. You do not need a car here. Just the convenience is great.'

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee: