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.

Watch: Koepka holes out from off the green at 16

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 5:36 am

Brooks Koepka faced a stiff challenge from Gary Woodland on Sunday in South Korea, but eventually it came time to end the suspense.

Having clung to a slim lead for much of the back nine, Koepka looked as though he was going to have to scramble just to save par when he missed the green at 16. 

Instead, caddie Ricky Elliott was able to leave Koepka's putter in the bag.

That holeout combined with a bogey from Woodland at 17 put Koepka ahead by three, allowing him to walk to victory and to the top of the world rankings.

Getty Images

Koepka wins CJ Cup, ascends to world No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 5:07 am

Brooks Koepka eagled the 72nd hole Sunday to cap off a final-round 64, win the CJ Cup and supplant Dustin Johnson as the new No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here's how Koepka took over the golf world Sunday in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-21), Gary Woodland (-17), Ryan Palmer (-15), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-15), Jason Day (-12), Scott Piercy (-12)

What it means: This is Koepka's fifth career PGA Tour victory but only his second in a non-major, following his maiden win back at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Up four to start the day, Koepka saw his lead evaporate as Woodland rocketed up the leaderboard and kept pace with him for much of the back nine. But every time Sunday's result appeared in doubt, Koepka reclaimed his lead in dramatic fashion. He nearly aced the par-3 13th to go ahead by two and later holed out for birdie at the par-4 16th to go up three with two to play. He finished par-eagle at 17 and 18 to shoot a back-nine 29 and close out his third victory in the last five months. With the win, Koepka ascends to the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.

Round of the day: Ryan Palmer set a Nine Bridges course record when he birdied his final seven holes in a row en route to a bogey-free round of 10-under 62 and a solo third-place finish.

Best of the rest: Woodland played his first 16 holes in 9 under par to storm from five back and catch Koepka atop the leaderboard. But his furious Sunday charge finally came to an end when he failed to get up and down for par from the back bunker at 17. He carded his 11th birdie of the round at the 18th hole to sign for 63 and finish solo second.

Biggest disappointment: In retrospect, Woodland called it correctly on Saturday when he said: "You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can. You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number." Woodland put as much pressure on Koepka as he could. He went out and posted that number. Koepka never blinked.

Shot of the day: Koepka's holeout at the par-3 16th, which put him ahead by three, unofficially ending the proceedings:

Quote of the day: "To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid. I don't think this one is going to sink in." - Koepka

Getty Images

Watch: Koepka nearly aces par-3 13th Sunday

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 4:24 am

Just when it looked like he was facing a legitimate challenge Sunday, Brooks Koepka responded with a near-ace.

Up four to start the final round, Koepka saw his lead disappear as Gary Woodland raced up the leaderboard to tie him at 13 under and then 14 under.

Unfazed, the three-time major winner birdied the par-5 12th to regain his outright lead and then followed up with this tee shot at the 218-yard, par-3 13th.

And just like that, the tap-in birdie put Koepka back ahead by two with five to play.

Getty Images

Haas nearly shoots age in taking Champions playoff opener lead

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 10:05 pm

RICHMOND, Va.  -- Jay Haas shot a 7-under 65 - missing his age by a stroke - to take a two-shot lead Saturday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Trying to become the oldest winner in tour history, the 64-year-old Haas birdied the par-5 16th and 18th holes to get to 11-under 133 on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''I've been out here too long to know that I can learn to expect anything,'' Haas said. ''While I'm hopeful every day and I've been playing OK, the last couple weeks have not been very good, but this week has been much better. I love this golf course and it looks good to my eye. Most of the holes look like I'm going to hit a good shot, so I enjoy playing here.''

Mike Fetchick set the age record of 63 years to the day in the 1985 Hilton Head event. Haas is second on the list, taking the 2016 Toshiba Classic at 62 years, 10 months, 7 days for his 18th senior title.

''That's a good way to say I'm old, 'experience,''' Haas said. ''I think I'm very nervous most of the time when I play and today was no exception, but I continued to hit good shots and, hopefully, I can put one foot in front of the other, one shot at a time, do what I tell my son to do every time, you know? See if I can put some of those adages to work tomorrow.''


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


Stephen Ames and Scott Dunlap were tied for second after the round that started in light rain. Ames had a 67, and Dunlap shot 68.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer had a 66 to join Billy Mayfair (67) and Woody Austin (68) at 9 under. Langer won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the season points lead. The 61-year-old German star has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, was tied for 23rd at 4 under after a 71.