Bay Hill Club & Lodge hosts the PGA Tour's annual Orlando stop. (Courtesy of Bay Hill Club & Lodge) Jack Nicklaus designed all 45 holes at Grand Cypress Resort. (Courtesy of Grand Cypress Resort) Victoria Hills Golf Clubs in nearby Deland is a Ron Garl-designed gem. (Courtesy of Victoria Hills G.C.) Guests of the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Orlando resort can enjoy Waldorf Astoria Golf Club, a top-flight Rees Jones design. (Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria G.C.)

Top 10 reasons for a golf trip to Orlando, Florida

There are countless reasons to visit Orlando.

The no. 1 tourist destination in the world -- thanks in large part to Walt Disney World Resort -- makes life easy for visitors with a variety of resorts, theme parks, restaurants and golf courses that cater to all ages, tastes and budgets.

Here are the top 10 reasons golfers should put Orlando on their wish list for 2014:

10. Nightlife: This kid-friendly destination has Mom and Dad covered, too. The CityWalk at Universal Orlando Resort will open eight new dining venues in 2014 after a nationwide search for unique culinary concepts. Downtown Disney has started construction of Disney Springs, a new collection of shops, restaurants and entertainment options. Basketball fans can check out an Orlando Magic game.

9. Climate: True, central Florida's weather can be fickle, but for 80 percent of the country, its weather will be warmer and more golf friendly than theirs.

8. New hotels: It's amazing how a destination with so much already can continue to expand. The 444-room Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Disney will open this summer and will offer play on Tom Fazio's Osprey Ridge golf course, along with a spa, three restaurants and an elaborate pool area. Universal will welcome its fourth and largest on-site hotel with the 1,800-room Cabana Bay Beach Resort, home to a 10-lane bowling alley and two massive pools with sand beaches, a lazy river, water slide and more. Golfers can also make a day trip to play 36 holes at Streamsong Resort and stay in its new main lodge about 85 miles south of the city.

7. Head for the hills: Of the daily-fee courses ringing the city, the best might be Victoria Hills Golf Club in nearby Deland. Ron Garl's excellent design features more changes in elevation than most area courses, and with all its oaks, pines and lakes, it looks like North Carolina.

6. New attractions: Continuing the theme of what's new for 2014, check out the Orlando Ballet or a Broadway show at the new $429 million Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts located in downtown Orlando. The new I-Drive Indoor Kart Racing includes a half-mile track for the electric-powered go-karts, bowling lanes and an arcade.

5. Go to school: The world headquarters of the David Ledbetter Golf Academy can be found at ChampionsGate Golf Club. The coach to the LPGA Tour's Michelle Wie and Lydia Ko personally designed the four-acre practice area with two putting greens, two chipping greens and a pitching area with 12 target bunkers. The ANNIKA Academy by LPGA legend Annika Sorestam runs the instruction programs at Reunion Resort.

4. Luxury golf: Orlando isn't all theme parks and chain restaurants. The Waldorf Astoria G.C., and its Rees Jones course -- and the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, and its Greg Norman course -- offer luxurious accommodations, course conditioning and service.

3. Resorts for golf binges: The 54-hole Reunion Resort and the 45-hole Grand Cypress Resort allow golfers the chance to park their cars and never leave. The Reunion is the only resort in the world with courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson. Nicklaus designed the 45 holes at Grand Cypress. The unique New Course at Grand Cypress celebrates links golf with pot bunkers and meandering burns.

2. Family fun: Even if you're a regular at Disney, Universal, Legoland and SeaWorld, there's much new to see. The new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Coaster is the final piece of the New Fantasyland at Disney's Magic Kingdom. The Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade is an all-new daytime parade featuring characters and music from popular Disney films. Orlando's tallest and steepest free-fall water slide, Ihu's Breakway Falls, is coming to Aquatica, SeaWorld's Waterpark. The year of 2013 was one of the largest expansion periods ever at the parks. Launched last fall were "Antarctica: Empire of the Penguins" at SeaWorld; "Transformers: The Ride -- 3D" and "Springfield, the home to 'The Simpsons,'" at Universal Orlando Resort; "Princess Fairytale Hall" at the Magic Kingdom; the "Space Shuttle Atlantis" exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and "The World of Chima" at Legoland.

1. Golf with The King: Get the royal treatment at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, home to the King himself, Arnold Palmer. Bay Hill, the host of the PGA Tour's annual Orlando stop, is filled with history and risk-reward holes. The chance to say hello to Palmer in person is worth the price of admission alone.

Feb 18, 2014

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Jason Scott Deegan

Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.