Snowbirds can thaw out on Orlando's most player friendly golf courses

By Travel ArticlesMarch 5, 2013, 6:56 pm

Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco celebrated the Baltimore Ravens' championship with a parade at Disney World, but I don't know if he played golf after visiting the Magic Kingdom.

If he did, he probably would have wanted a course that was not only in excellent shape but also kind to errant shots.

Although Flacco was at the top of his sport after his Super Bowl performance, his golf game would undoubtedly have some rust due to the Baltimore winter as well as his hectic schedule.

Certainly, the Orlando area can satisfy the desires of all golfers, especially snowbirds or vacationers escaping their winters or hectic schedules. With that in mind, here are some golf courses in the Orlando area that are not only extremely playable but also offer superior layouts, conditioning, service and amenities.

Celebration Golf Club

In a town developed by The Walt Disney Company, Celebration Golf Club is the collaborative effort of Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Robert Trent Jones Jr.

Set amid pines, oaks, magnolias and wetlands, the Joneses have created a lush, scenic playground dedicated to 'celebrating golf at every level.'

As the elder Jones said, 'With the beauty of the course, the design ... everyone will have fun because it can be enjoyed here on many levels.'

Each hole has its own name, starting with 'Shirley Temple,' the relatively easy first. The par-5 fourth is, 'Will ye or won't ye' go for it in two. The backside includes 'The Houdini,' the tricky par-3 16th, and the closing hole is, 'Keeping up with the Joneses.' Golf Digest has recognized Celebration Golf Club as one of the best-designed golf courses in Florida.

Falcon's Fire Golf Club

Managed by Marriott, Falcon's Fire Golf Club also keeps up with the Joneses -- Rees Jones in this case.

This stylish championship layout is a favorite with residents and tourists. The course is always in impeccable condition with generous fairways and true, fast greens.

'Falcon's Fire is golfer friendly,' Head Professional Austin Swanger said. 'It won't beat you up. The course sets up fairly open off the tee and is a fair test from beginning to end.'

The front nine is golfer friendly and should build a player's confidence. Starting with the long par-4 12th, however, the course brings out its talons, and the remaining six holes are excellent tests of shot placement and putting accuracy.

Harmony Golf Preserve

Located outside the hustle and bustle of Orlando, the motto at Harmony Golf Preserve is, 'Nature calls you home.' That reflects both on Harmony's certification as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary and its commitment to protecting the environment.

Built on 260 acres of wildlife preserve, this Johnny Miller design wends its way away from home sites and into the verdant natural landscape. Besides keeping his eye on the golf ball, a player will also see turkeys, otters, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, deer, ospreys, hawks, bass and turtles in their habitats.

Operated by Troon Golf, the Harmony Golf Preserve combines a welcoming staff with a world-class layout. Each hole is distinctive and requires vision and strategy.

'We have a unique layout,' said Todd Van Meer, the head golf professional at Harmony Golf Preserve. 'It's pleasing to play and is a reasonable test for all golfers. Plus, we have awesome wildlife.'

Orange Lake Resort

Orange Lake Resort, home to Holiday Inn Club Vacations, sports The Legends Course and The Reserve Course.

Arnold Palmer designed The Legends, and it is acknowledged as one of Orlando's best golf courses. Palmer treats the golfer to two markedly different nines. The Links has wide open fairways and deceptively contoured greens, similar to traditional Scottish courses. The Pines returns the golfer to North Carolina with its blend of huge pines and oaks, twisting fairways and water hazards. Multiple tee boxes guarantee a course length that all skill levels can enjoy.

Palmer also designed Legends Walk, a delightful nine-hole, par-3 walking course that is entirely lighted for night play.

The Reserve, originally designed by famed architect Joe Lee and then renovated in 2005 by Mike Dasher, emphasizes the relationship between the course and its environment, the surrounding wetlands rich in native flora and fauna. The shortest of all six courses at 6,500 yards and a par 71, The Reserve doesn't need length to impress the golfer, who still has to negotiate the prevalent sand and water and then has to read the rolling greens.

Providence Golf Club

Dasher took his skills down the road to create Providence Golf Club, one of Orlando's best-kept golf secrets.

Upscale from the bag drop on, the links-style course opened in 2007 to critical acclaim. Dasher wrote, 'I would characterize Providence as a hybrid course, part prairie style, part old Florida, and part parkland. All in all, the variety of style and tree canopy throughout the course creates an ever-changing pallet that will provide for memorable holes as well as strategic golf.'

Thirteen of the holes venture into undeveloped, natural territory and through creeks, towering hardwoods and wetlands. So, what Dasher really means is that the golfer gets another unusual but immensely satisfying experience.

As should be expected with exemplary clubs, all of these golf courses have outstanding clubhouses and amenities, such as extensive practice facilities, grill rooms and/or dining rooms, locker rooms, private lessons and/or golf academies and beverage carts.

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Garwood (64) leads Dick's Sporting Goods Open

By Associated PressAugust 17, 2018, 9:53 pm

ENDICOTT, N.Y. - Doug Garwood birdied the final three holes for an 8-under 64 and the first-round lead Friday in the Dick's Sporting Goods Open.

The 55-year-old Garwood had nine birdies and a bogey, playing his final nine holes - the front nine at En-Joie Golf Club - in 6-under 31.

''Drove it well, hit the irons well, pitched well, putted well, thought well,'' Garwood said. ''I got to a point I was just making birdies and I kind of lost track of how it was going,'' Garwood said. ''That's always a good thing.''

He won the 2016 SAS Championship for his lone PGA Tour Champions title.


Full-field scores from the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open


"I haven't been playing great this year, but I've been working hard on my game and things I've been working on are paying off,'' Garwood said. ''My golf, I take it a shot at a time, don't think about too far in advance because you really can't control, you know, the 13th hole tomorrow. It's just about the tee shot on No. 1.''

Michael Bradley and Marco Dawson shot 65, Woody Austin and Clark Dennis followed at 66, and Bob Estes and Tom Gillis were at 67.

''It was a good day,'' Bradley said. ''I've traditionally not driven the ball well here and you've got to drive the ball good here to shoot a good score. I drove the ball well and made a few putts, so that was that.''

Kenny Perry, the 3M Championship winner two weeks ago in Minnesota, had a 68. Bernard Langer and Miguel Angel Jimenez each shot 70. Langer won the 2014 tournament. Jimenez is coming off a victory at St. Andrews in the British Senior Open.

Defending champion Scott McCarron had a 72. Kevin Sutherland also had a 72. He shot the only 59 in PGA Tour Champions history in the 2014 event. John Daly, the winner of the PGA Tour's 1992 B.C. Open at En-Joie, opened with a 73.

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Kaymer: Don't deserve Ryder Cup spot even with win

By Randall MellAugust 17, 2018, 9:50 pm

Martin Kaymer is one of the most decorated Europeans of this generation, and one of the most thoughtfully honest as well, as he is demonstrating yet again at this week’s Nordea Masters.

Kaymer, a two-time major championship winner, has helped the Euros win three of the last four Ryder Cups. He won the singles match that clinched Europe’s historic comeback win at Medinah in 2012.

But with his run into contention Friday in Sweden, Kaymer told Sky Sports TV he didn’t believe that even a victory would make him worthy of playing for captain Thomas Bjorn’s Ryder Cup team in Paris next month.

“Do you think I deserve to be on the game after the way I've been playing, and with just one win in Sweden?” he said. “Is that enough? I don't think so.”

Kaymer shot a 3-under 67 at the Nordea Masters, leaving him tied for seventh, five shots off the lead and in position to make a run at his 12th European Tour title. He is hoping to capitalize on the opportunity in a season that has left him unsatisfied. He missed three of his previous four cuts coming to Sweden and has just two top-10 finishes this year.

Kaymer made some thoughtful observations about the nature of golf’s challenges in the same week that LPGA star Lexi Thompson opened up about a personal struggle to build a life about more than golf.

At 33, Kaymer said he feels as if he’s still just beginning to understand the game’s effect on him. Here is what he shared with reporters about that on the eve of the Nordea Masters:

“I'm on the seventh hole, hopefully. You need some time to get to know and place yourself in the world of golf.


Full-field scores from the Nordea Masters


“In the beginning you can't know, you have zero experience. Then you play around the world and measure your game with the best in the world. Then you see good results and in my case underestimate yourself a little.

“All of a sudden you win a major. You play a vital role in Ryder Cups. You win your second major. Then you need to adjust, because it's sometimes overwhelming and not understandable. It cannot only be talent, you need to ask yourself how you actually got here.

“That realization took me a long time. That's why I would say I'm on the seventh hole, maybe seventh green.

“It's just understanding who you are, what you do, what kind of life you live. For example, when you try to have a relationship with anyone -- it doesn't matter what kind of relationship -- people see you not for who you are as a person but as the athlete, what you have, what kind of success you had.

“I never understood that, because I don't want to be treated that way, but I also understood by now that is who I am, because I am that athlete. I am the guy who makes a lot of money.

“I never wanted to be seen that way, because I was raised different, and I wanted to be normal. But you are not normal when you do what I did. It took me a long time to understand, but now I can handle it better.”

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S.H. Park eyes Indy title, LPGA awards after 'best round of year'

By Randall MellAugust 17, 2018, 9:20 pm

Sung Hyun Park’s hot finish Friday gives her more than a chance to win the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

It gives her a chance to keep Ariya Jutanugarn from running away with the LPGA’s most important awards and honors heading into the final third of the season.

Park’s 9-under 63 left her tied for the lead with Lizette Salas (69) at 13 under overall in the rain-suspended second round at Brickyard Crossing Golf Course in Indianapolis.

“My best round of the year,” Park said through a translator.

Jutanugarn, the Rolex world No. 1, put up a 65 and sits four behind the leaders.

Park is No. 4 in the world rankings and feeling good about her weekend chances.

“I’m going to do really well,” she said. “I feel really good about my game.”

Jutanugarn has won an LPGA best three times this season, including the U.S. Women’s Open. She is dominating, statistically. She leads the tour in money winnings ($2,161,185), Rolex Player of the Year points, scoring average (69.44), putts per greens in regulation (1.72) and birdies (327).


Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


Park is looking to equal Jutanugarn’s victory total for the season. Park won the Volunteers of America Texas Classic and also a major this year, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Park could overtake Jutanugarn as Rolex world No. 1 with a victory, depending on what Jutanugarn does this weekend.

Park shared Rolex Player of the Year honors with So Yeon Ryu last season, with Jutanugarn winning the award the year before.

Notably, Jutanugarn is giving her driver a rare appearance this week, putting it in her bag in both the first and second rounds at the friendly confines of Brickyard Crossing.

“I like the way [the holes] set up, because I’m ab le to hit driver a few holes,” Jutanugarn said. “I missed some, but I hit a few pretty good ones, too.”

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Podcast: Welcome our guest - Tiger Tracker

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 17, 2018, 7:47 pm

Host Will Gray calls him “The man, the myth, the legend.”

GCTiger Tracker, aka “TT,” makes his highly anticipated first guest appearance in a Golf Channel podcast, pontificating on everything from Tiger Woods’ run at the PGA Championship at Bellerive to the overall nature of Tiger’s comeback and what breakthroughs may lie ahead.

Tiger Tracker, Golf Channel’s mystery man, continues to rigorously protect his identity as the foremost Twitter tracker of all things Tiger, but he does open up on his intense relationship with his growing legion of followers and his “trigger finger” when it comes to blocking those unworthy of his insight.

“I’m more of a lover than a hater of Tiger Woods, but I’m a tracker,” TT tells Gray. “I call it like I see it.”

Tracker goes deep on what he sees as his role in continuing to document Tiger’s comeback, including a sense of kinship in this journey.

“I had 142,000 followers on the Monday of the Bahamas [late last year], and as we speak now, 296,000, more than double in that short span,” Tracker says. “That shows you what he’s been able to do, what we’ve been able to do together. Let’s be honest about that.”

Listen in below: