Ritz-Carlton's Grande Lakes Orlando has it all: Soaring golf, soaring food and a soaring zip-line course

By Travel ArticlesJanuary 25, 2013, 5:00 am

ORLANDO, Fla. -- This was a mistake.

Of all the extracurricular activities your correspondent could have chosen -- golf, fly fishing, an East Indian lime scalp and body massage -- the zip-line course at Grande Lakes Orlando seemed, at least at the time, to be the most compelling option.

That was before we scaled the three-story climbing wall and came face-to-face with the gravity of the situation, not to mention gravity.

'Stand up and clip onto the green line. Everything will be okay,' the 20-something guide with the angelic face instructs.


'It's fine, stand up and clip onto the green line. Everything will be okay,' she repeats, a little more sternly this time.


And so it went, for some 15 minutes before reason -- and not one but two safety harnesses -- beat back the flight instinct, and we cautiously navigated the rest of the course.

Next time, just go to the practice range and work on your wedge game.

Therein is the dichotomy of Grande Lakes -- a sprawling property less than 20 minutes from Orlando International Airport and three miles, as the duck flies, from Sea World.

Ritz-Carlton guests, at least as a general rule, are not adrenaline junkies, but between the zip lines and Greg Norman-designed golf course and eco-tours, the Grande Lakes property has created a reason to avoid the contrived magic of Disney and the sprawl of International Drive.

Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes

As a golf destination, the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes has been -- at least until the recent PNC Father/Son Challenge exposed the manicured layout to a national television audience -- a hidden gem. Some would even say the course was a vastly underrated option in the congested Orlando golf scene.

No? Pop quiz: Name Orlando's best golf option for a quick, 24-hour drop in? Most would opt for Bay Hill, Disney or maybe ChampionsGate, a 36-hole complex that, until this year, had hosted the Father/Son. All are fine options, but an argument could be made that Grande Lakes should be in a category by itself.

Although Grande Lakes seems to have been adrift in central Florida's golf clutter, few, if any, area courses can beat the Ritz-Carlton's proximity to the theme parks and downtown or provide the level of service that guests enjoy.

Until recently, tee times at the Ritz-Carlton came with a 'caddie concierge' (a looper by any other name). Although caddies have become optional (we highly recommend one, every round is better with a bag man), the experience remains second-to-none in the area, and the golf course is one of the most playable Norman layouts we've ever encountered, deftly weaving just enough risk-reward amid the confines of resort-comfort golf.

Grande Lakes also features the more family friendly J.W. Marriott, complete with a lazy river and one of central Florida's best eateries, Primo. Full disclosure, I am not a 'foodie,' but my better half certainly qualifies, and she was duly impressed with the breads, which are made daily on property, and the garden adjacent the J.W. Marriott that provides many of the vegetables and spices used in Primo's signature dishes.

And, of course, there are the Ritz-Carlton staples: miles of manicured gardens, impeccable customer service, an extensive spa and, for the more adventurous, the zip-line course.

Just remember, don't look down and always listen to the 20-something barking orders. Turns out everything will be okay.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Zip-line course photo courtesy of pulseofcentralflorida.com.

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Koepka (63): Two wrist dislocations in two months

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 8:19 pm

Brook Koepka's journey back from a wrist injury that kept him out four months hasn't been totally smooth sailing, even if his play has suggested otherwise.

Koepka on Friday fired a 7-under 63 to move up the leaderboard into a tie for third, three shots behind leader Justin Rose through the end of the morning wave at the Fort Worth Invitational.

After a slow start Thursday saw him play his first 13 holes 3 over, Koepka is 10 under with 11 birdies in his last 23 holes at Colonial.

"It doesn't matter to me. I could care less. I'm still going to try as hard as I can," Koepka said. "I don't care how many over or how many under I am. Still going to fight through it."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Just like he's been fighting his wrist the last two months or so. Koepka reinjured his wrist the Wednesday of The Players when he was practicing on the range and had to halt mid-swing after a golf cart drove in front of him. He nonetheless managed to finish T-11.

And that's not the only issue he's had with that wrist during his return.

"We had a bone pop out of place. I didn't tell anybody, but, yeah, they popped it back in," Koepka admitted Friday. "Luckily enough we kind of popped it back into place right away so it wasn't stiff and I didn't have too, too many problems

"Yeah. I mean, I've dislocated my wrist twice in the last two months. You know, different spots, but, I mean, it's fun. I'll be all right."

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Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Web.com Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Web.com Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

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Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below:

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Bubba gets to drive dream car: K.I.T.T. from 'Knight Rider'

By Grill Room TeamMay 25, 2018, 4:42 pm

Bubba Watson is a known car aficionado.

He purchased the original General Lee from the 1980’s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” – later saying he was going to paint over the Confederate flag on the vehicle’s roof.

He also auctioned off his 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk custom roadster and raised $410,000 for Birdies for the Brave.

He showed off images of his off-road Jeep two years ago.

And he even bought a car dealership near his hometown of Milton, Fla.

While recently appearing on the TV show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” the former “Tonight Show” host surprised Watson with another one of his dream cars: K.I.T.T.

The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was made famous in the ‘80s action show “Knight Rider.”

Though, Bubba didn’t get to keep this one, he did get to drive it.

Bubba Watson gets behind the wheel of his dream car—the KITT from Knight Rider from CNBC.