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Golf in Orlando – Designed By Legends, Legendary By Design


The grass actually is always greener on the 168 challenging golf courses in Orlando. From links-style layouts reminiscent of golf’s birthplace, Scotland, to lake-strewn narrow designs that require accuracy and ingenuity, Orlando’s golf courses provide something for each type of golfer, whether the seasoned professional or the Sunday hacker. With an array of world-renowned golf academies, PGA TOUR tournaments, Edwin Watts merchandise outlets, the Golf Channel, Golfweek magazine, PGA Merchandise Show and practice facilities, the destination is a virtual golfer’s haven.


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When stepping onto many of the area’s courses, visitors find that the holes have been touched by golf legends. The game’s greatest, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Tom Watson, have played a part in building world-class layouts in Orlando. Some of history’s best golf course architects, such as Robert Trent Jones Sr., Robert Trent Jones Jr., Joe Lee, Rees Jones, Pete Dye and Tom Fazio, have also created many of the area’s most challenging and rewarding golf course designs. Depending on the day and the score, golfers either curse or praise these golf luminaries for their testing, yet aesthetically pleasing courses.


PGA superstars Vijay Singh, John Daly and Tiger Woods regularly battle it out at Orlando’s two annual tournaments, the Bay Hill Invitational presented by MasterCard in March and the FUNAI Classic at Walt Disney World Resort in October.   Additionally, Orlando has the Father/Son Challenge and the LPGA Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open.  Orlando is also home to The Golf Channel, the annual PGA Merchandise Show—attracting nearly 50,000 industry professionals each year—and PGA TOUR pros including Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo, Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, Ernie Els and Mark O’Meara, as well as other veterans like Lee Janzen, Scott Hoch, Chris DiMarco and Jim Thorpe.                                  


Known for his guidance of PGA professionals, David Leadbetter, voted the second-best instructor in the nation by Golf Digest in 2004, has made Orlando the world headquarters of David Leadbetter’s Golf Academy at ChampionsGate. In addition, Orlando boasts 18 nationally ranked instruction schools including the Fred Griffin Grand Cypress Academy of Golf, voted one of the top 25 golf schools in America by Golf Magazine, as well as the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy at Bay Hill; The Faldo Golf Institute by Marriott; Gary Irby’s Maximum Performance Golf Academy; Celebration Golf Academy at the Celebration Golf Club; Mission Inn Golf Academy and Bird Golf Academy at Mission Inn Resort & Club; Phil Ritson’s Orange County National Golf Center; Rick McCord’s Orange Lake Resort and Club; and the Graves Golf Academy at Eagle Creek Golf Club.


If visitors are looking to enjoy Orlando’s famous theme parks with a round or two of golf, Walt Disney World Resort awaits them with five championship-caliber courses.  With a total of 99 holes on 775 acres (310 hectares) of the 47-square-mile (122-square-kilometer) property, Walt Disney World Resort is one of the largest single golf resorts in the country.  In addition to its scenic course landscapes, Disney’s golf program offers a variety of instructional clinics, training opportunities and well-equipped pro shops, including leading-edge rental clubs.


Some of the area’s newest golf course layouts include the courses at Reunion Resort & Club of Orlando, located 25 minutes south of Orlando, featuring three championship courses by Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.  Watson’s 7,257-yard (6,636-meter) Independence course and Palmer’s 6,930-yard (6,303-meter) Legacy course opened in 2004, while the Nicklaus design is slated for play in 2006.


The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Grande Lakes Orlando, which opened in 2003, is nestled between a pristine nature reserve and a vast luxury resort complex that encompasses the 1,000-room JW Marriott Orlando, and the 584-room Ritz-Carlton Orlando. The championship Greg Norman-designed course has received rave reviews for its layout and attention to detail, and features a Caddie Concierge program that provides a knowledgeable professional attendant who offers course strategy, golf club cleaning, ball location, and golf course education.  


The David Harman-designed Shingle Creek Golf Club, located just east of Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center, opened in 2004.  The course serves as the centerpiece recreation amenity for Rosen’s Shingle Creek Resort, a 230-acre (93-hectares) resort scheduled to open in fall 2006. Nearby on International Drive, Marriott’s Grande Pines Golf Club is a recent addition to the Orlando golf lineup and provides a formidable challenge to the most skillful of golfers.  The 730-room Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate opened in October 2004 and features two Greg Norman-designed courses—the links-style International and the traditional Florida-style National layout.

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