The International Course at ChampionsGate in Orlando: World-class Greg Norman golf
ORLANDO, Fla. – When they opened in 2000, the National Course and International Course at ChampionsGate carried the highest slope rating of any course in central Florida. Designed by Greg Norman and characterized by wide-open links-style layouts, sweeping bunkers, desert-like waste areas and oasis of green, both tracks are solid, muscular layouts.
The longer of the pair, The International, at 7,363 yards, is marked by more than 150 pot bunkers and vast areas of sand, actually part of the course’s water collections and cleansing system. Designated by blue stakes, land in these and you are allowed to play your ball as it lies or drop outside the retention areas without penalty.
Greens display a fair amount of undulation, but are not excessively tiered and roll fairly and fast while mounded dunes covered by native grasses flank the fairways and water comes into play on several holes. A tricky risk and reward test, no. 7, a par 4, requires you to avoid the water on your right on your drive hitting as close as you dare to a pond edge then cross over to the green on your second shot – or play it safe and hit to the fairway on the right.
Driving down no. 10 you are flirting with water along the right side and on your second shot you’re hitting up to green tucked a tad to the right curling around water, steeps banks and sand. Your instinct is to favor the left side but the hole will be easier to navigate if you land closer to the right.
Some of the par 3s require a solid poke such as no. 14 playing 231 to 181 yards and the finishing hole is a beauty, a par 5 playing around water to right and stretching 572 from the tips. With close-cropped, hard=packed fairways you get extra roll evoking a British links courses.
Piper’s Grille is a must-stop, before and after your round. It’s so good, you don’t need to be a golfer to relish eating here. Indeed many come just for the food. Named after the lone Piper that walks between the National and International at sunset, Piper’s Grille overlooks fairways, greens, wetlands and wildlife.
With an incredibly good kitchen golfers can lick their chops as they peruse the menu featuring creative breakfast fare like eggs, bacon and cheese sandwiched between crispy hash brown patties and lunch “Clubs” like the Bacon Club with maple braised pork belly, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and jalapeno-cheddar mayonnaise on sourdough bread.
For your cart order a Bloody Mary “tackle box” containing cheese, shrimp, jerked beef, celery, pickles, tobacco and more or order a water infused with various fruits. Very cool.
ChampionsGate is part of the Omni Hotels & Resorts group and is home base for the David Leadbetter Golf Academy.
For more info, check out championsgategolf.com.
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