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|Orange County National, home to the Panther Lake course, is one of Florida's most impressive golf facilities. (Courtesy of Orange County National)|
Orlando, home to Walt Disney World, can make a case as America's golfing capital as well as its tourism capital. There is the sheer quantity of golf courses, not to mention Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods and many other pro golfers set up here, as well as the Golf Channel and Golfweek headquarters.
You get the feeling that for every time Tiger Woods captures a win on the 18th hole of Bay Hill, the golf course's legend grows. With six victories, the Bay Hill Invitational may belong to Tiger, but the course is owned by Arnold Palmer.
This is Palmer's winter home, and he's seen here often. Should you spot him, perhaps ask the King to wish you well on the demanding finishing stretch that Tiger makes look too easy.
This semi-private golf course is open only to guests of Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
Orange County National is a phenomenal golf facility, home to a circular driving range, short game areas, two championship courses and a nine-hole short course.
Orange County National's Panther Lake course will be a little more straightforward to the newcomer than the more mystifying Crooked Cat. Void of any real estate development, the quiet Panther Lake course has over 60 feet of elevation change around pine forests and wetlands. And it's just west of Disney World, so you can make an easy escape.
If you haven't played it since 2008, come back, because Nicklaus oversaw a renovation project that year that keeps this facility among the Orlando area's finest.
If you're looking for a taste of Scotland, check out Grand Cypress Resort's New Course, complete with burns, stone walls, double greens and pot bunkers as deep as 12 feet.
Southern Dunes Golf & Country Club in Haines City welcomes those who make the short drive south from Orlando with an uncharacteristic 100-plus feet of elevation change, coupled with more than 180 bunkers that make for a spectacular stage designed by Steve Smyers.
The golf course looks intimidating, sure, but five sets of tees, up to 7,227 yards, should suit any player.
Disney World's Magnolia golf course may host the PGA Tour pros over the weekend at the Children's Miracle Classic presented by Wal-Mart and may be home to the famous Mickey Mouse bunker, but for the non-tour player, Disney's Palm course is even more enjoyable. It's a touch shorter, but its many palm trees and loads of water hazards offer a south Florida vibe. Plus, it's farther removed from the nearby Magic Kingdom. As with all four Disney courses, it sports beautiful new TifEagle greens.
We'd be very tempted to favor Disney's Osprey Ridge course, a modern Tom Fazio design, as the best of the bunch at Disney. But it's being replaced with a Four Seasons Resort and new golf course in the near future.
September 2, 2009
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.
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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