Go low: How to score well on the International Course at ChampionsGate Golf Club

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The International Course at ChampionsGate Golf Club is heralded as a links-style layout. Some might disagree with that assessment, but it's definitely affected by the wind, there are plenty of bunkers and designer Greg Norman, as you might expect, gives you plenty of room to drive the golf ball.

18 Holes | Semi-Private/Resort | Par: 72 | 7363 yards
International Course at ChampionsGate Golf Club - No. 1
Right off the bat, you get a taste of the 160-plus bunkers on the International Course at ChampionsGate Golf Club.
International Course at ChampionsGate Golf Club - No. 1International Course at ChampionsGate Golf Club - No. 3International Course at ChampionsGate Golf Club - No. 6International Course at ChampionsGate Golf Club - No. 17International Course at ChampionsGate Golf Club - No. 18

Basically, length, trajectory and a little bit of strategy are the keys to playing well on the International Course at ChampionsGate Golf Club. Here is a rundown of how to play the holes for success if you happen to find yourself on this unique layout, which hosted the now-defunct Father-Son Challenge on the Champions Tour.

No. 1 – At 459 yards, you have to negotiate a lake off the tee and bunkers on the fairway left and around the green. A tee shot down the right side opens up the green. The best place to miss the green is long left. Anything right is a difficult up and down.

No. 2 – The key on this 209-yard par 3 is to take enough club to avoid the pot bunkers in front of the green. The right side of the green offers more margin for error.

No. 3 – This long par 5 (576 yards) requires three accurate shots for the vast majority of players. The tee shot needs to carry about 240 yards over a lake and into the fairway. The hole is littered with pot bunkers, so check your yardages carefully and choose clubs to avoid them on the way to the green of this dogleg left hole.

No. 4 – This is your first good opportunity to score. At only 369 yards, this par 4 also has a fairly wide fairway. A decent tee shot should put a wedge in your hand, giving you the green light to go for the pin.

No. 5 – This difficult and long par 3 (217 yards) has all the elements of danger -- a pond and four nasty pot bunkers. Three of them are on the left side, so favor the right side of the green to avoid most of them.

No. 6 – This is the first of three difficult golf holes that, if you can get through fairly unscathed, can set up the rest of the round. At 496 yards, this is a deep par 4, but that's the least of the hole's challenges. There's water on the tee shot and both sides of the hole, so you have to be accurate as well. This is the type of hole where golfers who find themselves with a really long approach shot might want to consider laying up with a wedge or 9-iron to avoid the big number.

No. 7 – Water looms off the tee to the right of the fairway and in front of the green, so a long, straight tee shot is the key to success on this 449-yard par 4. If you hit short right of the green, however, there is a landing area, so laying up to a possible pitch and a putt for par isn't a bad option if the approach shot is too long.

No. 8 – This 533-yard par 5 puts a premium on accuracy. There's water down the entire right side off the tee, but miss it left into sand dunes and bunkers, and you've got plenty of trouble as well. The tee shot plays over a lake, and the green is reachable in two by long hitters, but finding the center of the fairway is your No. 1 goal even if it means hitting a fairway wood or hybrid off the tee.

No. 9 – This 397-yard hole is another birdie opportunity before you make the turn. Find the fairway, and you should have a short iron into the green. Miss the green right, however, and you face a difficult uphill pitch to the hole.

International Course at ChampionsGate Golf Club: The back nine

No. 10 – From the back tee of this 423-yard par 4, you have to hit it over a large water hazard to find the fairway. Favor the right side and you have a better approach to a green that's protected by a large bunker and more water.

No. 11 – Another long par 5, this one 575 yards, features a fairway that slope right to left, so favor the right side off the tee as well as the second shot. But don't go too far right because there are a series of pot bunkers and native grass that can bring high numbers into the hole.

No. 12 – At just 344 yards from the tips, long hitters will be tempted to go for the green on this par 4. But only attempt it if you're driving the ball well; otherwise going through the fairway is a real hazard. Most players should consider a more conservative tee shot to put a wedge in their hands for the approach.

No. 13 – Another long par 4 at 451 yards, you'll want to aim your tee shot at an oak tree in the fairway to set up a good angle to the green. The landing area narrows the longer you go, and a large waste bunker left and pot bunkers to the right and in front of the green make the approach challenging.

No. 14 – The longest par 3 on the golf course at 231 yards means you'll have to hit something solid, but don't go long and left, which will lead a tricky chip or pitch downhill toward the wetlands.

No. 15 – Again, water off the tee of this 451-yard par 4 calls for a good driver, but make sure you miss the two pot bunkers in the middle of the fairway. The left side of the fairway of this dogleg left sets up the best angle to the green. Favor the right side of the green on the approach.

No. 16 – Long and straight is the order of the day for the tee shot on this 464-yard par 4. Wetlands front the green and the hole often plays into the wind, so take enough club, which in many cases may be all you have.

No. 17 – This picturesque little par 3 (145 yards) is a good opportunity for birdie. Stay below the hole for a good chance at making a deuce.

No. 18 – The landing areas on this 572-yard par 5, both off the tee and layup, are larger than they appear. Most players err on not taking enough club into this elevated green.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, 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 25 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 @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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