Plenty of great golf and much more at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. - It's the view from the top of the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate that tells most. Look around to see what this golf resort is all about.

National Course at ChampionsGate G.C.
The Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate is surrounded by 36 holes of Greg Norman-designed golf.
National Course at ChampionsGate G.C.Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate - poolOmni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGateOmni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate - ZenChampionsGate Golf Club - short course

On three sides, there's golf. Thirty-six holes of Greg Norman-designed golf provide the dominant image - the International course and National course. The David Leadbetter Golf Academy is headquartered nearby. And beyond the pools and lazy river - just in case you've not enjoyed enough during the day - sits another nine holes of lighted, par-3 golf.

But the Omni Orlando Resort goes way beyond golf. Non-golfing guests enjoy all the offerings of a first-class resort - a full-service spa, elegant dining, recreational facilities and a well-appointed hotel.

Not the usual Disney home base

Any trip to Orlando begs one question: How far to the theme parks?

In this case, the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate is only minutes from Walt Disney World. It's a little farther to SeaWorld and Universal Studios Orlando, but a visit to Pirates of the Caribbean won't rank as your top goal if you stay at ChampionsGate; there's plenty to do on the resort property.

A typical day at the Omni Orlando Resort includes a morning tee time, afternoon massage, dip in the pool and/or hot tubs, terrific meal, nine holes on the lighted par 3 and a nightcap in the hotel bar. Day No. 2 might begin with a session at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, which is actually closer to the hotel than the golf courses. After straightening your swing, try a round on the golf course you've not played - a continuous shuttle services the hotel and the golf clubhouse - a trip down the lazy river, dinner at one of the four restaurants on property, and, well, you get the idea.

There's little time for side trips, unless, of course, you plan it. And to be fair, the Omni Orlando Resort offers complimentary transportation to the Disney theme parks and attractions. So they're not out of the question.

Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate: Rooms, restaurants and spa

The expansive, elegant, marbled-floor lobby opens to 15 acres of formal and family pools, private cabanas and Jacuzzis.

The 720 rooms and suites, all well appointed, include high-definition television, wireless Internet, ergonomic work stations and very comfortable beds. The resort also offers two- and three-bedroom villas, nice for foursomes or families.

Additionally, the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate presents a full array of spa services. Packages combine popular treatments like facials, deep-tissue massages, pedicures and manicures.

Among the resort's best features are its restaurants. Zen, an upscale Pan-Asian experience, offers a truly peaceful setting. Set apart by silk screens in a serene atmosphere, guests can order the Zen Experience, an all-you-can-eat option (for less than $50) that isn't exactly buffet. Order from the menu, which features a terrific assortment of appetizers and sushi, and it's prepared fresh by the chef and brought to your table.

Trevi's serves Mediterranean-style dishes in an Italian garden atmosphere. After dinner, you can actually walk through the herb garden where much of the spices and herbs are harvested for meals. And David's Club is a great place to watch a game at night. I visited during Monday Night Football and enjoyed a generous and tasty serving of clam chowder.

The resort has a deli, a poolside bar and restaurant and a lobby bar, which is a great place to unwind at the end of the day. Guests also enjoy a good selection of food and spirits at the clubhouse grill, located between the two golf courses.

Speaking of golf: ChampionsGate Golf Club

The two championship-level courses at ChampionsGate Golf Club couldn't be more different. They are both designed by Greg Norman; however, the International is more reminiscent of wind-swept links golf with its 160 bunkers, wetlands and constant winds.

You'll find a few more trees on the National course, which plays like a typical American layout. A couple of good risk-reward par 4s, which, from the proper tees, might provide an opportunity to drive. But the danger of finding trees, water or sand will lead most players to lay up to a wedge shot.

If you're really ambitious and you've got the funds, book a lesson with the guru himself, David Leadbetter. He has worked with countless top tour professionals, including Ernie Els, Nick Price, Nick Faldo and Charles Howell III, just to name a few.

Of course, you'll probably have to book that appointment months in advance. For a more affordable option, go with one of his excellent instructors. Leadbetter trained them all, and they have most of the Leadbetter resources has at their disposal - indoor and outdoor teaching bays, the latest video and swing-analysis equipment. Unsurpassed practice facilities include a covered range, short-game area, practice greens and bunkers.

Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate: The verdict

While Orlando features many great golf options, a golf trip confined to the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate provides plenty to digest in just a few days. The two golf courses offer diversity, as do the dining and entertainment options at the resort.

Particularly impressive, the lighted, par-3 Champions 9 course behind the vast network of pools, hot tubs and lazy river can serve as a great warm-up or a relaxing finish to the day. One only needs a club or two - resort-provided, if necessary - a drink and perhaps a good cigar to complete a quick round.

The resort carries a certain feeling of elegance, though I liked that it's not over the top. You're not forced to valet park, yet there's always someone ready to help if you need it.

A 70,000-square foot area of flexible meeting and event space, in addition to plenty of functional outdoor space, makes the resort a great choice for corporate and association conferences.

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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