Waldorf Astoria is minutes from Disney World, but boasts a classy and luxurious setting beside the Rees Jones-designed championship course.  (Nile Young Jr./Waldorf Astoria) Grand Cypress Resort features a traditional 27-hole course and a links-inspired 18-hole course, both designed by Jack Nicklaus.  (Courtesy of Grand Cypress Resort) Florida resort golf at Hawk's Landing Golf Club at the Marriott Orlando World Center. (Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor) Shingle Creek Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. has re-opened after a renovation that lasted most of 2016.  (Courtesy of Shingle Creek G.C.) Just outside Orlando, El Campeon at Mission Inn Resort delivers a unique and historic routing in a laid-back setting.  (Courtesy of Mission Inn Resort & Club) Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort Orlando is a Tom Fazio design near Disney World.  (Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Orlando)

Florida vacations: Which Orlando golf resort is right for your group?



ORLANDO, Fla. -- As a tourist destination, Orlando is predominantly known for its theme parks. Walt Disney World and Universal Resort Orlando help draw more than 60 million visitors annually.

There are other attractions, too, of course, like SeaWorld Orlando. And there's another aspect of Orlando that draws in plenty of business -- the 7 million-square-foot Orange County Convention Center, which hosts trade shows and conventions, not the least of which is the annual PGA Merchandise Show.

Truth is, there are many reasons to visit Orlando, whether it's with colleagues, families or buddies. The golf season is year-round.

With that said, golfers should certainly bring their clubs when visiting come to Orlando (or get a set of rentals), whether they're with the family or attending a trade show, because there's no shortage of terrific golf. Keeping that in mind, there's an Orlando area golf resort perfect for every situation, and none of these are second rate. Here's a rundown:

Grand Cypress Resort

(Six miles from Disney; splurge, ideal for families, couples, buddies trips) One of Orlando's most storied golf resorts, Grand Cypress has 45 holes designed by Jack Nicklaus, offering golf in completely contrasting styles. The North, South and East courses (nine holes) each are traditional Florida golf at its best, while the New Course is Nicklaus' tribute to St. Andrews with the first and 18th holes being replicas of the same holes on the Old Course. The Grand Cypress Villas have been recently updated with modern conveniences and comfort, or you can book at stay at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. In either case, there's a spa, fitness center and plenty of dining options.

Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney Resort

(At Disney World; splurge, ideal for couples, families) Located within the gates of Disney, it's Four Seasons all the way, with the best accommodations, dining and spa. There's also a first-class golf course, Tranquilo Golf Club, which originally opened in 1992 as Disney's Osprey Ridge Course. Originally designed by Tom Fazio and redesigned by Fazio himself in 2014, the certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary course is picturesque and playable with plenty of rolling fairways, a few elevated elevated tees, wonderful bunkering and live oaks. Of course if you stay at a Disney Resort or anywhere near Disney, you have easy access to the other Disney courses, which include the Palm Course, which was redesigned by Palmer Golf in 2013, and Lake Buena Visa and the Magnolia Course (renovated in 2015), which features the famous Mickey Mouse bunker on the par-3 sixth hole. All three Disney courses have been used in past PGA Tour events.

Waldorf Astoria

(At Disney; splurge, ideal for families, couples, business travelers) Nestled in a 482-acre nature preserve, this high-end Hilton property certainly ranks as one of the most tranquil settings within Disney World and offers luxurious accommodations, a terrific steak and seafood restaurant among its dining options, a full-service spa and the Rees Jones-designed championship golf course that takes advantage of the resort's surroundings. The clubhouse grill, which offers patio dining overlooking the course, is among the best golf course eating options in Orlando.

Rosen Shingle Creek

(Next to the Orange County Convention Center, four miles from Universal Resort Orlando and three miles from SeaWorld; splurge, ideal for business travelers, couples) If you're among the millions of working folks who come to a convention or trade show at the Orange County Convention Center each year, your best bet is the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel, which is located right behind the convention center on Universal Drive. This is as convenient as it gets for trade show attendees, plus you can get in a round of golf at the recently renovated Shingle Creek Golf Club, which is always in terrific shape, beautiful and enjoyable. The hotel is plush, too, offering more than a half-dozen excellent restaurants, a full-service spa, concierge floor, and you can even check your bags for your return flight before you leave if you wish.

Video: Matt Ginella on his favorite courses to play in Orlando



Omni Orlando ChampionsGate

(11 miles from Disney; splurge, ideal for families, couples, business travelers) Omni ChampionsGate is a straight shot on Interstate 4 from Disney, so if you're looking for a luxury resort with 36 holes of Greg Norman-designed golf, this is your ticket. Not only have both courses – the National and International – been redone recently with new greens and bunkering, but you also have the world headquarters for the David Leadbetter Academy at ChampionsGate, so this a great place to tune up or even overhaul your game if you're so inclined. The resort features exceptional dining, a comprehensive spa, terrific outdoor pools and even a lighted nine-hole par-3 course, perfect for unwinding after a day at the theme parks.

Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Resort & Lodge

(Four miles from Universal; splurge, ideal for couples, families, buddies trips) The home of the Arnold Palmer Invitational is a great spot no matter what you're doing in Orlando, but this classy private club with a 60-room lodge is perfect for golfers who plan to visit Universal Resort or the Orange County Convention Center. The smaller scale of the lodge, compared to Orlando's many mega-resorts, is very refreshing (particularly so at the club's quiet and uncrowded pool). Of course, it's not quite the same without the King there (it wasn't uncommon to see him on the range or in the clubhouse for breakfast), but his presence can still be felt. The attraction, of course, is the Championship Course, host of the PGA Tour's Arnold Palmer Invitational, but there is the nine-hole Charger Course as well.

Reunion Resort

(Six miles from Disney; splurge, ideal for families, couples, business travelers) Reunion Resort is a AAA Four Diamond resort located in Kissimmee. This 54-hole Salamander Resort offers one-, two- and three-bedroom villas, but the crown jewel is the 11-story Reunion Grande with its rooftop pool, terrific restaurants and spa. All three golf coruses at Reunion Resort -- the Watson, Nicklaus and Palmer Courses -- are championship tests and meticulously maintained. Each is also very different from each other and reflect each architect's personality. Play more than one if you can.

The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes

(Two miles from SeaWorld, 10 miles from Disney and Universal; splurge, ideal for couples, families, business travelers) You know what you're getting when you stay at the Ritz-Carlton – luxury at a high level with personalized service – and this one is no exception. Of the resort's nearly 600 guest rooms, there are 56 Club level rooms, 60 executive suites, two presidential suites and one Royal Suite. There's also a 40,000 square-foot spa, pool, fine dining and a Greg Norman-signature course, that's easy on the eyes and fun to play.

Orange Lake Resort

(Eight miles from Disney; value, ideal for families) Simply put, Orange Lake in Kissimmee is a massive timeshare vacation zone, all part of the Holiday Inn Club Vacations network. There are nearly 2,500 villas in four different villages, which were first developed in 1982. There are also seven pools, lazy rivers, three arcades, two fitness centers, mini-golf, nine restaurants and bars, and tennis, basketball and racquetball courts. And there's also golf, including two championship courses -- The Legends Course, a terrific Arnold Palmer layout and the Reserve Course, redesigned by Michael Dasher in 2005.

Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge

(11 miles from Disney; value, ideal for families, buddies trips) While Orange County National isn't a resort in the traditional sense, it does offer a small but recently upgraded lodge, which makes it a good spot for Orlando visitors looking for one of the best practice facilities in the country steps from their bed. Both championship courses at Orange County National – Crooked Cat (nearly 7,500 yards) and Panther Lake, have been perennial sites for PGA Tour School. And there's also the Tooth, a nice walking-only nine-hole executive course, perfect for an emergency nine or a warm-up.

Mission Inn Resort & Club

(45 miles from Disney, 38 miles from Universal; value, ideal for families, buddies trips, couples) It's not real close to the resorts, but if you're looking to get away from the tourists, Mission Inn boasts a quiet and historic setting northwest of Orlando. The Spanish-style clubhouse and accommodations combined with two golf courses on one of the hilliest properties in all over Florida combine for an entirely different kind of resort experience. The historic El Campeon Course, for example, has more than 85 feet of elevation change, so it's nothing like what you would play at other Orlando resorts. Las Colinas is a solid second course, and combined the two layouts earn two of the better "Value" ratings among area golfers.

Orlando Marriott World Center

(Two miles to Disney; 7 miles to convention center; value, business and family trips) When the Marriott Orlando World Center opened in 1986, it was one of the most impressive and ambitious hotels in the country. The 2,008-room, 28-story resort is still quite a fixture on the horizon on the road to Disney. With a vast amount of meeting space and six pool, kids adorned in resort-wear saunter past businessmen in common areas, but the property is huge enough to accommodate both.

The golf course onsite, Hawk's Landing, is a traditional Florida layout designed by Joe Lee that was recently renovated and is highlighted by great service.

Nov 20, 2017



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Mike Bailey

Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.