Send BAWB to the Parks-Golfing around Orlando

With over 200 golf courses in the eleven counties making up the Central Florida area, finding the best is no easy task.  Many of these courses are considered some of the finest in the country according to Golf Digest.

Naturally, my foray began with the Disney courses. For those of you who are interested in official rankings, Golf Digest gives Disney’s Palm, Magnolia, and Lake Buena Vista Golf courses a 4 out of 5 star rating, with Osprey Ridge  earning 4 ½ stars. In October these courses host the final PGA tournament of the season, most recently sponsored by the Children’s Miracle Network.

Some of the world’s best golfers, including Tiger Woods and golf legend Payne Stewart, have played the Disney courses.  Because of the depth of today’s players, both the Palm and Magnolia were redesigned to make them more challenging.

Since leaving the snow and ice of Massachusetts and relocating to Florida in 2000, I’ve played all of the Disney courses with the exception of the Oak Trail 9 hole walking course. Visually, the courses are works of art and are meticulously maintained year round.

One thing you catch onto quickly, you’re not in the theme parks anymore. Those aren’t animatronics, they’re real wild turkeys, raccoons, hawks, sand hill cranes, scrub jays, gopher tortoises, deer and Bald Eagles that you might get a glimpse of. And since you’re in Florida, there are gators. While recently playing a round at Magnolia, I spotted a six foot alligator keeping a watchful eye on a turkey.

Some of the things that I noted during that round at Magnolia

In comparing the three Disney courses, I like Osprey Ridge the best. It’s easy to see why it earned the highest ranking of the Disney courses. You can’t beat spending a few hours in its a natural setting while playing a challenging round of golf.

Here’s a link to a more detailed view of each Disney golf course, how to book tee times and rates:

As you see, pricing for the Disney courses falls in the $159.00 range, which I think is a bit on the high side. (Keep in mind that these rates include a GPS equipped golf cart.) Still, if you want to play a pro course, it’s worth the cost to experience top tier golfing.

Fortunately, there are discounts. Let me give you a tip for saving some money. If you book a “Twilight Special”, you can play a round of golf at close to 40 - 50% off the daytime greens fee. Depending on the time of year, the starts are at either 2 pm or 3 pm. Now, there’s a reason they call it “Twilight.” When we teed off at 2pm at Magnolia, we could barely see where the balls had headed by the time we reached the 18th hole. (Bring night vision goggles.)

If you’re a Disney Vacation Club member, look into the DVC Golf Membership Card. For $50, you get reduced greens fees for yourself and up to three guests. There are some restrictions for this annual membership, but the savings are substantial. Take a look at the DVC member site for details.

Disney also has a similar package for Florida residents. This offer is Disney's Annual Golf Membership, which is also good for one calendar year. There’s also a Disney Annual Passholder discount and a Disney Golf Classic Club. For details, look here:

Here’s a great tip for guests staying at a Disney Resort. When you book a round at a Disney golf course, you’ll get complimentary taxi service to the golf course.

There are also a  number of really nice courses close by with similar ratings (and prices) as the Disney courses. Here are some of the best:

Falcon's Fire Golf Club in Kissimmee, Florida

Falcon's Fire Golf Club in Kissimmee is a semi-private golf course that is well maintained. It's a very open course, with wide fairways that allow you plenty of room for your drives. This course is one of Florida’s best and you can book tee time online. The course is located a few miles outside of Disney World and is easily reached by car.
Course facts:
Water is in play on at least 10 of the courses holes
A real Falcon's nest is located near the 15th green.
The 7th hole is a whopping 500 plus yards
You will find 15 bunkers on hole #13 which why they call it “Bunker Hill.

Celebration Golf Club in Celebration Florida –
I never personally played this course, but I frequently pass by and it’s easy to see that it is very well maintained.  Greens fees run $144.15 weekdays and $155.15 weekends.
* Rated 4 and a half Stars by Golf Digest "Best Places to Play" 2004-2007
* Voted in the top 25 Best Family Golf Resorts by Women Magazine 2007
* Host site to the Golf Channel's Drive, Chip & Putt National Championship 2006-2008

Orange County National Country Club
Winter Garden, FL
Orange County National features 36 championship holes: Panther Lake and Crooked Cat. The courses have two of the best layouts in the state of Florida. The PGA Tour has chosen these courses for the PGA Tour Q-School Finals. The practice range is rated as one of the best in America according to Golfer Magazine. Please note there is a very strict cancellation policy at these two golf courses.

Panther Lake Course Awards
* 4 1/2 Stars "Best Places to Play" - Golf Digest, 2000 - 2007
* PGA Tour Q-School Finals - 2003 & 2005

Crooked Cat Course
Crooked Cat is a "links" style course with a great course design.
Crooked Cat Course Awards
* 4 1/2 Stars "Best Places to Play" - Golf Digest, 2000 - 2007
* PGA Tour Q-School Finals - 2003 & 2005
* "Best Public Course" - Orlando Magazine, 2004

Rounds played between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008 includes pre round range balls, bottled water on carts, GPS yardage and scoring systems in the cart

Orange Lake Legends Golf Course:
Kissimmee, FL
This 4 star rated 18-hole championship course is what Golf Digest says is the best kept secret in Central Florida.  

Orange Lake Reserve Course:
Kissimmee, FL
This course has been ranked by Golf Magazine as one of the top 50 places to play in Florida. The Reserve at Orange Lake highlights the local areas wetlands, and is home to a variety of wildlife.

ChampionsGate International Course:
ChampionsGate, FL
ChampionsGate is just 15 minutes from Disney World. The International course is one of the highest rated courses in Florida.

Here is a link to the local golf courses:

If you’re staying at the Hard Rock Hotel, the Portofino Bay Hotel or the Royal Pacific Hotel, you can take advantage of the Golf Universal Orlando program. There are four courses that participate:

Metro West Golf Club
Mystic Dunes Golf Club
Panther Lake at Orange County National Golf Center
Crooked Cat at Orange County National Golf Center

To make a tee time or get more information, call (407) 503-3097 or email [email protected] .

I’m from Clermont. While it’s not around the corner from Disney World, there are some great courses found in Lake County if you’re willing to drive about a half an hour.
These courses are the ones that I head to when I have out of town guests:

Kings Ridge South Course:
Clermont, FL
This course has a very hilly terrain and gives a golfer a real challenge.

King's Ridge North Course:
Clermont FL
This is a par 57, par 3 golf course. It makes for a good afternoon of golf that allows you to get in those second 18 holes. It’s a short "executive" style course which usually can be finished in less than four hours.

Legends Golf and Country Club:
Clermont, FL
This course is the one that my friends always ask to play when they’re in town. The course offers spectacular views from one of the highest elevations in central Florida. The Legends golf course is less than a half hour drive from Walt Disney World.

The links in this article also include discounts at many of the golf courses. I’ve also found that it pays to ask if there are special offers when booking tee times. There have been times when there were discounts that I wasn’t aware of.

If you know of any tips about golfing in Central Florida, drop us a line at [email protected]


Discrepancies or Corrections? Please let us know.