Bay Hill's 18th Hole (Photo courtesy of Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge)Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge
With the PGA Tour in town for the annual Arnold Palmer Invitational, and the impending 2023 spring break season about to commence, it's a good time to talk golf options in warm destinations.
One popular spot: Orlando, Florida. Consider this your quick primer on golf courses around the city and its surrounds, with help from a few PGA Professionals. Whether its spring break time or another point of the year, Orlando’s golf offering provides plenty of options for every type of player.
Here are five to consider:
Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge
While Bay Hill is occupied for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, it's an excellent spot the rest of the year for a visit. Here's a personal review from Brendon Elliott, PGA: “Arnie's Place” is one of my absolute favorite spots in golf. The atmosphere, the feelings that Bay Hill provides, the constant reminders of The King — there’s nothing like it. While everyone knows the 18 holes played during the Arnold Palmer Invitational (the Champion/Challenger Course) many don’t know that there is actually a third 9 at Bay Hill called the Charger. It’s a great emergency nine, and Mr. Palmer even made an ace on No. 2 in 1979. While the courses are exceptional, the history and customer service around the entire facility at Bay Hill take it to the next level and make it a must-play destination. I met Mr. Palmer on three occasions, the last of which was very early in the morning when he was walking his dog. Mr. Palmer had a big smile as he stuck out his hand and said, “Good morning! It’s a beautiful day! Thanks for coming out to Bay Hill!” I still get goosebumps telling that story. bayhill.com
Winter Park Golf Course (WP9)
Just north of Orlando is a course known to many locals as the WP9, or Winter Park Golf Course. This gem has been getting a great deal of worthwhile notoriety in recent years and rightfully as a golf throwback and a treat to play. Officially opened in 1914, Winter Park Golf Course is the second oldest course in Central Florida and its historic roots show: on Sept. 17, 1999, WP9 was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. In 2016, WP9 underwent major renovations by Rhebb & Johns Golf Design, turning it into one of the best short course experiences in the country. At 2,500 yards, the golf course is a 9-hole, par 35 that is in Winter Park’s town center and has two holes bordering active rail lines, which gives it a unique charm as players weave through the routing in usually just a few hours. To learn more about WP9 from the PGA Member’s perspective, check out this story by Brendon Elliott, PGA, here. cityofwinterpark.org
Walt Disney World Golf
Sometimes known as the “Happiest Place on Turf,” Walt Disney World Golf offers three championship courses — Magnolia, Palm and Lake Buena Vista Golf — and a family friendly 9-hole layout called Oak Trail. Host of the PGA Tour's Walt Disney World Golf Classic from 1971–2012, the championship golf courses at Walt Disney World are renowned for their fun designs, outstanding service, world-class amenities and exceptional playability. The Magnolia Course went through a “reimagination” that was finished recently, with No. 14-17 being reconstructed and all 18 holes receiving new greens. On Oak Trail, you can bring your whole family out for a unique golf experience everyone will enjoy. Certified by Audubon International as a Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuary and reimagined in 2018, Oak Trail, known for its wildlife, is full of rolling hills but walkable with pull carts and robo-caddies available. It offers the ideal way for families to enjoy a day of golf, fun, and fitness away from the theme parks. wdwgolf.com
Mission Inn Resort & Club
While there are a plethora of course in the Orlando area, there are also some worthy choices outside of the city. About 50 minutes northwest is Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey-in-the-Hills, with its award-winning El Campeón Course and equally formidable Las Colinas Course. Mission Inn used to be a site of orange groves, giving the courses a foundation of elevation changes, beautiful scenery and unique ambience. In addition to the 36 holes, there’s also the El Conquistador layout that golfers can try on the Las Colinas layout. It’s 3,063 yards making it ideal for youth golfers, beginners or those looking to try something new. Mission Inn also routinely offers some of the best stay and play packages and deals in the area, making it the ideal spot for a weekend getaway or buddies trip. missioninnresort.com.
Royal St. Cloud Golf Links
Royal St. Cloud is a half-hour south of Orlando, but may be one of the area’s finest public offerings with its resort feel and conditioning for an exceptional price. It is one of, if not the only, facilities that offers a “same rate for everyone . . . everyday,” no matter where they are from. In fact, there’s no green fee over $59 all day, which allows you to tackle all three 9-hole layouts — the Red, White and Blue — that Royal St. Cloud offers without taking a big bite out of your wallet. The facility also offers a wonderful practice facility and a unique “links-style” feel on each of the 27 holes, making it stand out even more. royalstcloudgolflinks.com.
Brendon Elliott, PGA, contributed to this piece, which was originally published on Nov. 3, 2022.