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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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''


Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.