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For your amusement: Five must-play Orlando golf courses

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Orange County National - Panther Lake - Hole 13
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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.

Here are five can't-miss Orlando golf courses for your next Florida golf vacation.

Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge

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: Panther Lake

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.

Grand Cypress Resort (North and South)

The original 27-hole Grand Cypress Resort course (with featured North/South nines) is an upscale, challenging Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course full of sharp doglegs, water and sand.

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

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.

Walt Disney World Resort: Palm

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.

More photos

Palm Golf Course - Walt Disney WorldBay Hill Club & Lodge - Hole 18Grand Cypress Resort - South Course - Hole 4

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 and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Orlando golf

    Mike O'Malley wrote on: Sep 2, 2009

    Agree with the previous poster, I live in Orlando, and wouldn't touch the Disney courses, here's a link to our better courses in town:


      • RE: Orlando golf

        Nigel Phillips wrote on: Dec 13, 2013

        I'm by fortunate to have played golf all around the world and would agree that Orlando is a great place to play. We we were there this October We played Magnolia and can't remember any of the holes (apart from the ears hunger par 3). Not a great indictment. Marriot Grande Pines was our favorite of the 12 we played, and went back a couple of times as both the course and service were first class.


      • RE: Orlando golf

        DaveLair wrote on: Sep 10, 2009

        BTW, here's a link to my website for the best courses in the area..


      • RE: Orlando golf

        DaveLair wrote on: Sep 10, 2009

        Nice Shameless Plug of your website...
        I can't believe anyone can say that Grand Cypress or freaking BAY HILL is NOT a must play.. are you crazy?
        The Disney Courses are good courses but I can see the point that these might not be the "Must-Plays" but anyone who lives in Orlando and actually plays the courses will tell you that this list is pretty accurate.


  • Orlando Golf courses to play

    Mark Brinker wrote on: Sep 2, 2009

    These are definitely not the top golf courses in Orlando, maybe OCN is on the list, but the others aren't. What they are though are advertisers to this website, which is why they're promoting them.


      • RE: Orlando Golf courses to play

        Hoyt Decker wrote on: Sep 4, 2009

        That so? Can you point to any of these alleged ads? I looked around after seeing your post and couldn't find a single one.


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