Get your groove back at Orlando's most playable golf courses
ORLANDO, Fla. -- It's the middle of winter, you're planning a golf trip to Orlando, and you haven't hit a ball in weeks. You know you've probably got a few squirrelly shots in your repertoire, so tackling the toughest tracks in Florida might not be in your best interest - at least not right away.
Lucky for you, Orlando has plenty of playable golf courses and golf instruction venues that will help you get your game back on track. Even if you're a local and just looking for a challenge, there are plenty of choices.
Here are a few options ...
Disney's Lake Buena Vista course
As the shortest of the Disney golf courses at just over 6,800 yards, you don't have to hit it long at Lake Buena Vista. Designed by Joe Lee, the golf course does present several challenges, including the island green seventh. But by in large, it's a traditional country club layout. Although there's water on 11 holes, the fairways are wide and there are four sets of tees for every level of player. It's also right in the heart of Disney World, so if you hit a bad shot, just do what Mickey would do: Smile, giggle and then hit the next shot.
MetroWest Golf Club
While Metrowest Golf Club is no pushover, it isn't a beast either. Designer Robert Trent Jones did his best to make sure golfers use just about every club in the bag. No two par 3s are alike, and for that matter, no two holes are alike. It's a course that starts out relatively benign and seems to increase as the round continues. While there is plenty of water, sand and trees, if you have a game plan, you can navigate the golf course effectively. And the greens, which are always in good shape, are smooth, not too fast and not too undulating, meaning you can make a few birdies.
Waldorf Astoria Golf Club
Opened in 2009 and located adjacent to the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Orlando, the Rees Jones-designed Waldorf Astoria Golf Club winds through a large wetland preserve. From the back tees at more than 7,100 yards, it's a difficult test, but there are four other sets of tees, which make the course quite manageable. Best of all, the golf course is visually stunning, in excellent condition and interesting. There are no homes on the course, which has a traditional look with modern elements of design. And Jones created several risk-reward opportunities, which means if you're not feeling spry, there are always safe options.
When you think of playable golf courses, ChampionsGate might not come to mind. After all, both courses have plenty of difficult holes, especially from the back tees. But in truth, if you play either one of the Greg Norman-designed layouts from the proper tees, both are very player friendly. The International Course, in particular, has wide fairways and plenty of room to drive the ball. And the National Course at ChampionsGate gives the more forward tee player plenty of options. And if you do find you're having a little difficulty with your game, stop by the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, which is located at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate. The Orlando location of the Leadbetter Golf Academy serves as its headquarters and is equipped with top-notch teaching technology and practice facilities, not to mention Leadbetter's hand-picked staff of instructors.
Other playable Orlando golf courses
Dubsdread Golf Course, which opened in 1923, is Orlando's oldest public course and certainly old school golf. And that means there's nothing tricky about this Tom Bendelow design located just minutes from downtown Orlando. Renovated in 2008, the course once hosted the Orlando Golf Open when players like Sam Snead and Ben Hogan walked the fairways. The par-70 course is short (under 6,200 yards) with small greens, so course management is recommended. Off the tee, a few 3-woods and hybrids might be in order.
Located in Celebration, Celebration Golf Club is appropriately named. Everything about this Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. collaboration celebrates the game, including the playability of the course. With five sets of tees, the course, which has hosted numerous high profile events, is great for families. Play it up, and you take away the forced carries; play it back at just under 6,800 yards, and it's plenty challenging. Or as RTJ might say, "hard par/easy bogey."
Sure, there's plenty of water and bunkers at Grande Pines Golf Club, but there's also lots of fairway, large greens and five sets of tees on this resort-friendly golf course, which ranges from just over 5,000 yards to 7,000. If you need to work on your game, a nearby nine-hole course and extensive practice area are available.
-- Erik Peterson and Brandon Tucker contributed to this story.
November 22, 2010