Play Orlando's top golf courses for the pros

By Travel ArticlesJune 13, 2012, 4:00 am

Orlando has long been a magnet for professional golfers and aspiring PGA Tour, Champions Tour, Nationwide Tour and LPGA Tour players who are drawn by the superb inventory of championship-level layouts and year-round temperate climate that affords tee times every day of the year.

Enhancing the appeal is that many of Orlando's layouts are utilized for professional tournaments, U.S. Open local qualifiers and collegiate championships.

If you're a low-handicapper looking for an in-your-face challenge or a player with serious game considering a run at professional golf, Orlando has a bevy of tournament-tested courses that'll put you through a thorough skills exam.

Simply put, if you want to see where your game really stands, head to Orlando.

Orlando's PGA Tour courses

Dozens of PGA Tour pros live in the Orlando area, so they don't have to travel far for the Arnold Palmer Invitational staged at Bay Hill Club & Lodge every March.

Guests at the resort's 70-room lodge are afforded play privileges on this private course designed by Dick Wilson and Arnold Palmer, which has Arnie's imprint everywhere. The exceptionally conditioned layout has six doglegs with water in play on 10 of the 18 holes.

Nearby in Lake Buena Vista, Disney's Magnolia Golf Course hosts the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic every November. The longest of Disney's four championship courses, the Joe Lee-designed Magnolia weaves through 175 acres of dense Florida wetlands dotted with 97 bunkers and fragrant blossoming magnolia trees.

Disney's other courses include the Palm Course (Joe Lee), Osprey Ridge Course (Tom Fazio), Lake Buena Vista Course (Joe Lee) and nine-hole Oak Trail walking course.

If you have member connections, private clubs Isleworth Country Club and Lake Nona Golf & Country Club -- which alternate as sites for the Tavistock Cup -- are phenomenal Tour-quality layouts. The Tavistock Cup is a high-profile event that pits PGA Tour teams against each other every March.

Orlando's U.S. Open qualifier sites

In 2012, the USGA utilized four courses in the Orlando area for U.S. Open Local Qualifying.

In Lake Mary, a 20-minute drive north of downtown Orlando, Timacuan Golf and Country Club, which opened in 1987, has two distinctly different nines. The front nine holes offer rolling fairways, while the back nine holes snake through wetlands and Spanish moss-draped oak trees.

Southwest Orlando is home to MetroWest Golf Club, a Marriott Golf-managed layout with wide fairways that entices big hitters to grip it and rip it, and Orange Tree Golf Club, a stern test of tight-tree lined fairways, undulating greens and three spectacular finishing holes known as 'The Loop.' Lose concentration on holes 16, 17 and 18, and you can easily turn a good round into a bad one.

For Donald Ross fans, the Lakes Wales Country Club in Lake Wales, 53 miles from Orlando, which was built in 1926, is a palm-studded layout with smallish greens and signature Ross bunkering.

Orlando's mini tour venues

Moonlight Tour, the highly successful, long-time mini tour with alumni such as Keegan Bradley, D.A. Points and Tripp Isenhour has staged its tournaments on Orlando-area golf courses since 1992.

Among those on the Moonlight rotation are Black Bear Golf Club, a links-style design by P.B. Dye in the town of Eustis; Falcon's Fire Golf Club, a Rees Jones design in Kissimmee near Walt Disney World; Forest Lake Golf Club, a layout in Ocoee with rolling fairways, natural lakes, lush tree growth and no homes bordering the course; and Ridgewood Lakes Golf Club in Davenport, known for its sugar-white sand bunkers and generous landing areas.

The female pros like Orlando, too. The Suncoast Ladies Series, a mini-tour based in central Florida, attracts impressive fields to its tournaments, which are staged predominantly on Orlando area courses. LPGA Tour players who've played the Suncoast this year include Maria Hjorth, Anna Nordqvist and Amy Yang.

Tournament sites for the Suncoast Ladies Series include Marriott's Grande Pines Golf Club, a Nick Faldo/Steve Smyers design on International Drive close to the attractions; Harmony Golf Preserve, a Troon Golf-managed course designed by Johnny Miller built on a 260-acre wildlife preserve; and Disney's Lake Buena Vista Golf Course, where the highlights include elevated bunkered greens, an island green at No. 7 and scenic views of boats navigating Disney's waterways.

College-tested layouts

College golf is an important part of the fabric of golf life in Orlando.

Rio Pinar Country Club in east Orlando, which has hosted PGA Tour and LPGA Tour events, serves as the home course for the University of Central Florida's men's and women's golf teams and Rollins College men's golf team.

Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey In The Hills is home to 2012 NCAA Division III Men's Golf Championships. The resort complex features the classic El Campeon Course built in 1917 and the Gary Koch-designed Las Colinas Course, which debuted in 1992.

Every October, Isleworth Country Club hosts the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational, one of the most prestigious tournaments of NCAA men's Division I.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.