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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Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 10:55 pm

While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):

7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.

8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.

8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.

12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.

12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.

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Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?

By Randall MellAugust 20, 2018, 10:00 pm

We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.

Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.

I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.

That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.

In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.

My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.

Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.

It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.

So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?

We hope it isn’t his back.

Or his neck.

Or his knees.

Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.

Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.

Competitively, it’s all that matters.

Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.

We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?

The game soars to yet another level with that.

A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.

So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.

The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.

They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.

They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.

Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.

And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.

The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.

Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.

For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.

There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.

Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.

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Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work

By Grill Room TeamAugust 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.

"Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.

Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.

Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.

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Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 5:41 pm

Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.

Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.

A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.

The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.

"It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."

The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.

Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.

Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.