After Disney and Universal: Where to play golf near Orlando's top theme parks
ORLANDO -- For every tall, fast, wet and wild thrill-ride theme park in Orlando, there's a golf course right in its backyard.
The vast majority of Orlando attractions, from I-Drive and the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando International Airport, Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, can be found south of downtown. The majority of the area's top golf courses are in this area as well, offering an easy escape from all the mayhem.
Here's a rundown of Orlando's top attractions and the golf courses you'll find nearby ...
Golf near Walt Disney World
Golf was in Walt Disney's plan since day one when he planned his mighty Orlando resort. The game was planned to be an integral part of the resort's activity roster for the entire family.
Disney's Palm course and Magnolia course opened up right across the street from the Magic Kingdom and Polynesian Village Resort in 1971, and Disney celebrated their 40th anniversary as PGA Tour stops in 2010. Also at this complex is the nine-hole Oak Trail course, a family- and walker-friendly option.
Two more 18-hole Disney golf courses are located elsewhere on property. The Lake Buena Vista Golf Course, another classic Florida design by Joe Lee, weaves through Old Key West Resort near Downtown Disney.
Osprey Ridge Golf Course, a Tom Fazio design, is the most secluded of the four Disney courses but still near everything, and closest to Epcot Center.
Going beyond the Disney foursome of courses, visit the new Waldorf Astoria Golf Club in Bonnet Creek. You can't even access the grounds without passing into through Disney property. The Waldorf Astoria Orlando resort even has complimentary shuttle service from its hotel (and the next door Hilton) to the Disney parks if you'd rather stay off property.
While the Disney golf courses offer an upscale experience, Waldorf Astoria G.C. takes it up a notch, with the best service and amenities of any golf club around, plus well maintained playing grounds and a tee sheet with plenty of room for foursomes to breathe. The Rees Jones-designed course is traditional in philosophy and sits on an entirely natural piece of land with no homes anywhere. It presents a PGA Tour-worthy test from the championship tees.
Golf near Sea World and Universal Studios
Northeast of Walt Disney World® Resort, Sea World is located a few exits north on I-4 and International Drive, and is between Disney and Universal Studios, which is further north towards downtown Orlando.
The nearest course to Sea World (and also very close to Disney) is Shingle Creek Golf Club. This resort course opened in 2003 and features generous fairways winding through waterways and large, fast greens. The golf course can be as tough as you want to make it with five sets of tees, playing up to 7,228 yards.
A few minutes to the west of Universal Studios, is the Bay Hill Club & Lodge Championship course (also about 15 minutes from Disney). This more exclusive property is as far from a theme park vibe as golf in Orlando offers. The 27-hole private Bay Hill Club & Lodge, owned by resident Arnold Palmer, allows access only to its members and those who stay at the on-site lodge, though resident tour pros tend to pass through to hone their game on one of the area's top tests when they're not on the road.
For daily-fee golf, head a few minutes north of Universal Studios to MetroWest Golf Club. The course opened in 1987 and was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Part of a residential community, MetroWest is known to locals as one of the area's top daily-fee courses with no resort element attached, partly because it boasts more elevation changes than just about any other course around. MetroWest G.C. boasts resort-like amenities including free valet parking, golf cart GPS systems, and locker rooms with shower facilities.