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|MetroWest Golf Club is a popular choice to tee it up near Universal Orlando. (Ed Schmidt/TravelGolf)|
While golfers flock to Florida for sun-splashed fairways, most tourists and non-golfing family members are attracted by the state's world-class theme parks.
Mickey, Donald and Shamu have a strong appeal to the rest of the family, but that doesn't mean you can't play golf on your visit.
Fortunately for the dedicated linkster, there is a lengthy menu of excellent golf courses to play just minutes from Florida's most popular theme parks.
This world-renowned complex, which encompassing four theme parks and two water parks, is a true vacation test of endurance.
A great way to rejuvenate is by playing some golf. Located within the 30,000-acre resort's boundaries are these options:
Disney's Lake Buena Vista Golf Course: A classic central Florida course that winds through pine forests, palmettos and lakes.
Disney's Palm Golf Course: A strong challenge with lakes, palm trees, sloping greens, nine water hazards and 94 bunkers.
Disney's Oak Trail Golf Course: A family-friendly nine-hole walking course with holes ranging from 132 to 517 yards from the back tees. It's ideal for junior golfers and novices.
Less than a 10-minute drive from the Magic Kingdom's front gates are two of the Orlando area's most popular daily-fee layouts. Celebration Golf Club, a design collaboration by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Robert Trent Jones Jr., in the Disney concept town of Celebration, is surrounded by natural wetlands.
Nearby is the Rees Jones-designed Falcon's Fire Golf Club, a lush layout known for its exceptional maintenance standards and private club-style service.
Grab a mug of Butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, visit Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure at this theme park complex in southwest Orlando, and then head to the golf course.
MetroWest, a RTJ Sr. design with un-Florida-like elevation changes, is only a five-minute drive from the theme park. The fairways are wide and inviting, and the greens are large and undulating.
Approximately a 20-minute drive, Windermere Country Club is tucked away in a beautifully landscaped residential area. Offering a private club-type experience, the Ward Northrup design has 13 holes bordered by lakes and 63 bunkers.
A 25-minute drive from Universal Orlando is Stoneybrook West, a golf community layout designed by Arthur Hills peppered with beautiful lakes and more than 1,500 palm trees.
After the obligatory visit to see Beluga whales, Bottlenose dolphins and Manatees at this marine-themed park, there are two excellent layouts less than five minutes away.
Marriott's Grande Pines Golf Club on International Drive is an innovatively designed course fashioned by architect Steve Smyers and Nick Faldo dominated by roller coaster-like fairways, multi-tiered greens and well placed bunkers.
On Universal Boulevard, Shingle Creek Golf Club, a feature amenity at a resort by the same name, is a David Harman design. Superbly maintained, the course is bordered by the backdrop of dense and pines along historic Shingle Creek.
This African-themed park with wildlife areas populated by animals like giraffe and zebra, roller coasters, live shows and shopping northeast of Tampa has two courses within a 10-minute drive of the front gate.
The Claw at USF, with its long, narrow fairways lined with moss-draped oaks, cypress and pines, is the home course for the University of South Florida golf teams. A par-71 layout, it features new Tif-Dwarf putting surfaces.
For an affordable and enjoyable muni experience, the historic Rogers Park Golf Course, which opened in 1952, is just the place. The Hillsborough River surrounds the course on three sides.
An amusement and zoological park in Ocala, Silver Springs has live animal exhibits, glass bottom boat rides, nature tours and big-name music concerts.
When it's time to tee up, two local favorites are Candler Hills Golf Club, a Gordon Lewis design with Palm Springs-style landscaping and five sets of tees, and Ocala Golf Club, recently renovated by Mike Beebe and featuring short-grass collection areas and white sand bunkers just minutes from the Silver Springs front gates.
Every kid loves Legos, right? You'll be a hero when you take your youngsters to this 150-acre interactive park in Winter Haven with 50 rides, shows and a water park.
Later, you can get the sticks out and head to courses like Cypresswood Golf & Country Club, a Ron Garl design that has no adjacent fairways with each hole hidden from the others, and Willowbrook Golf Course, an affordable option with lots of mature trees, water hazards and dogleg holes.
May 29, 2013
Ed Schmidt, publisher of The Golf Travel Guru Blog, is the author of two books on Florida golf and more than 2,500 articles and columns on golf resorts, courses and destinations around the world. Follow Ed on Twitter at @golftravelguy.
Finding a golf course to play in the Sarasota/Bradenton area 45 miles south of Tampa is easy. World-ranked beaches, European-style boutique shopping and al fresco dining, and a fantastic circus museum are just a few of the choices available for off-course entertainment.
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