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From great golf designers to amenity-loaded resorts: 10 reasons for a golf trip to Kissimmee, Florida

Ed SchmidtBy Ed Schmidt,
Falcon's Fire golf course - hole 18
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Falcon's Fire Golf Club, by Rees Jones, is one of the top daily-fee courses in Kissimmee. (Courtesy of Falcon's Fire G.C.)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Once a sleepy ranching and farming community, Kissimmee has evolved into a major tourist area since the arrival of Walt Disney World in the early 1970s.

The closest town to the Magic Kingdom, Kissimmee has capitalized on the popularity of a fun-loving mouse with luxury resorts, hotels and condos, golf courses, shopping complexes and attractions, making it a superb place for a golf getaway.

Here are 10 reasons to plan a golf vacation to Kissimmee.

1. Course designs by world-class architects

Some of golf's most influential golf course designers have converged on Kissimmee to create a collection of innovative layouts. The line-up includes marquee names like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Johnny Miller, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Rees Jones and Gary Koch, as well as highly respected designers such as Mike Dasher, Ron Garl and Lloyd Clifton.

2. Fabulous golf course menu

There are more than 20 golf courses in the Kissimmee area. Golfers can select from a variety of golf settings such as daily fee, resort and residential. Some popular daily-fee choices are Falcon's Fire Golf Club (Rees Jones), Harmony Golf Preserve (Johnny Miller), Kissimmee Bay Country Club (Lloyd Clifton), Mystic Dunes Golf Club (Gary Koch), Remington Golf Club (Lloyd Clifton), Stonegate Golf Club's Cypress Course. (Joe Lee) and Oaks Course (Ron Garl).

3. Reunion Resort

Golf is a lifestyle not just another amenity at Reunion Resort, a 2,300-acre, master-planned resort/residential community encompassing three courses, designed separately by golf icons: the Arnold Palmer Course, ">Jack Nicklaus Course and Tom Watson Course. The complex includes the Annika Academy, 320-room hotel and a five-acre private water park.

4. Orange Lake Resort

Two golf courses -- the Arnold Palmer-designed Legends and Mike Dasher-designed Reserve -- are featured amenities at Orange Lake Resort, which has an 80-acre lake and seven swimming pools and spas.

5. ChampionsGate Resort

Greg Norman designed two exceptional layouts at this sprawling resort complex with a 720-room Omni hotel. ChampionsGate Resort's International Course is a challenging test with grass-topped dunes, deep pot bunkers and spacious, undulating greens. The National Golf Club is less intimidating and fun to play for all skill levels.

6. Celebration

A master-planned town originally developed by the Walt Disney Company, Celebration is a quaint area with theme 1940s architecture exuding an All-American, Main Street ambiance. A daily-fee golf course, Celebration Golf Club, was integrated into the land plan. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Robert Trent Jones Jr., the course is surround by natural wetlands.

7. Close proximity to theme parks

Kissimmee is the perfect family golf vacation base camp because of its convenient location to theme parks. The front gate of the Magic Kingdom is only three miles away. Gatorland is 5 miles from Kissimmee, SeaWorld Orlando is 11 miles away, Universal Studios Orlando is 17 miles away and Legoland Florida is 37 miles away. If you want to tee up at Disney, the offerings include Pete Dye's Eagle Pines Course and the fun, family-oriented, nine-hole, par-36 Oak Trail Course.

8. Exciting outdoor activities

Once the final putt has been sunk for the day, the Kissimmee area has numerous opportunities to continue to enjoy outdoor recreation. The list of options includes zip lining, airboat rides, swamp buggy excursions, horseback riding, ATV tours, canoeing, kayaking, hot air ballooning and fishing. During the month of March, baseball fans can enjoy spring training games of the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros, who get ready for the Major League Baseball season in Kissimmee.

9. Classic car cruise

Every Saturday evening at the Old Town shopping complex, the Classic Car Cruise features a mix of pre-1974 hot rods, street rods and antique cars. Enhancing the experience is a 50s/60s rock-n-roll band cranking out tunes such as "Little Deuce Coupe" by The Beach Boys.

10. Dinner shows

You can combine your entertainment and dining at one attraction with the dinner/theatre shows in Kissimmee, which include a multi-course meal and high-impact shows featuring everything from jousting knights to dueling pirates. The shows include Capone's, Medieval Times and Pirate's Dinner Adventure.

More photos

International Course at ChampionsGate G.C. - 1stOrange Lake Resort - River Island lazy river

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.

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