ORLANDO, Fla. -- Most golfers who take an Orlando vacation aren't going just for golf. When you consider Disney, Universal, Sea World and all the other attractions Central Florida has to offer, golf can sometimes get squeezed. If you need to cram 36 holes into one day, here are your best options for multi-course facilities that will satisfy your double-looping desire.
Grand Cypress Golf Club features 45 Jack Nicklaus-designed holes comprised of three 9-hole courses and the 18-hole New Course that pays tribute to the Old Course at St. Andrews.
Situated in an open meadow, you'll appreciate the generous fairways and lack of water at the New Course. The tee shot at No. 1 looks like an airport runway, with out-of-bounds bordering each side of an extremely wide fairway. If you can avoid the narrow burn short of the green, it can be a simple beginning to your 36-hole journey.
The first hole, along with 17 and 18, are meant to be exact copies of the same holes at the Old Course.
The nine-hole courses are named simply North, South and East, with the North-South combination being the original 18-hole course. It's relatively wide open, but sharply ledged fairways and tall mounds place a premium on accuracy. Like a lot of Florida golf courses, just because there aren't a lot of trees doesn't necessarily mean you can hit it anywhere.
The East nine is more wooded but is more forgiving around the greens.
Located in the southwest Orlando area, ChampionsGate is home to two 18-hole courses, National and International. Both are designed by Greg Norman, and each has a different style and difficulty.
With a mind-numbing course rating of 76.2 from the tips, ChampionsGate's International course is the tougher of the two tracks, but it's not the 7,300 yards that make this links-style course so difficult. The hard, fast conditions mean longer tee shots, but control into the greens is paramount.
The National course is slightly easier - but not much. Built amid a former orange grove, this 18 is more Americanized, evidenced by more trees and distinct sight lines to each hole.
Orange County National is isolated enough that you feel like you're away from the theme park madness, yet close enough that you could make it back in time for dinner with the kids at Downtown Disney.
Like Grand Cypress OCN features 45 holes, lead by the 18-hole Panther Lake and 18-hole Crooked Cat courses, which have similar design characteristics to one another.
Crooked Cat has more of a links feel to it, with wider landing areas and different shot options into each green. The Panther Lake course is where Tiger Woods was told by Frank, his talking headcover, to "get more forgiving irons - the Nike Pro-Combos" during a Nike commercial. (The driving range at OCN is where Tiger filmed his amazing golf ball juggling commercial, also for Nike Golf.)
If you're visiting in the winter months, be advised that Orange County National is the periodic host of PGA Tour Q-School, and the course shuts down around that time. That being said, you stand a good chance of being paired with an aspiring pro, as the Professional Golfers Career College is also on site.
Walt Disney World boasts four 18-hole golf courses and are an easy drive in between, especially given the resort's free taxi service for golfers between resorts and the golf courses. That said, the Palm and Magnolia, the two participating courses in the Children's Miracle Network Classic presented by Wal-Mart, both play at the same original club side-by-side and next to the Magic Kingdom if you're looking for the utmost convenience. Disney's Magnolia course is a long-bombers delight, playing up to nearly 7,500 yards and is filled with long par 4s and 5s, while the Palm course takes a page from south Florida, featuring thousands of palm trees and ponds lining its fairways.
If you've got the kids with you, this facility also features the 9-hole Oak Trail course, a walking-only course that plays a kid-friendly 2,913 yards.
February 5, 2010