The top golf courses in Orlando
It’s no secret that Orlando offers lush, redolent scenery along the amusement park alleyway known as Interstate 4. That some enterprising course designers have sculpted some breathtaking fairways and putting greens from the Central Florida wilderness shouldn’t come as a surprise, either.
But for the golfing traveller, deciding where to tee up in Orlando can be a rough process. Over a hundred years of landscape development has produced dozens of top-flight local courses as varied in style and difficulty as they are plentiful. Giving every option a fair shot might sound a bit daunting, so we’ve selected the top golf courses in Orlando to try on your next rip.
Novice and intermediate players need not venture far off I-4 for tee time with historic Dubsdread, a short drive from downtown Orlando. PGA titans Sam Snead and Ben Hogan once walked Dubsdread’s narrow fairways and bunkered greens when the Orlando Golf Open called the course home. Dubsdread’s seen numerous updates since its 1924 debut, but the moss-draped oaks have kept the course looking good since day one. A nice bonus: the club taproom fields a seriously tasty hamburger, having won “Best Burger” in Orlando twelve times in the past 20 years.
Speaking of local, the picturesque Shingle Creek Golf Club might play host to the University of Central Florida’s collegiate golfing squads, but you don’t need to be a golf savant to shoot these large, undulating greens. A 70,000 square foot driving range, three tough putting greens, and stately Florida cypress trees pack tournament quality facilities and alluring Florida wilderness into the perfect course for the touring out-of-towner.
If Shingle Creek’s level of play is the ticket but the club is too far-flung to snag a round, there’s always Southern Dunes Golf and Country Club, a mere 15 miles from the Walt Disney World Resort. The course is punch-drunk on bunkers (over 180 sand traps across the front and back nine), wild elevation changes (a 100-foot span in places) and is wickedly fun to play. Stop by “Tavern on the Dunes” sports bar – located off the 18th hole – after a round to watch the tournament du jour or grab some delicious tapas-style grub.
Built atop a historic dairy farm site, Ventura Country Club fields a vigorous course. Winding through natural Florida wetlands and riddled with ponds, lakes and other hazards to bogey into, Ventura also features an on-site aquatic centre, so you can jump “in the drink” after losing balls to ponds and lakes aplenty. Located just outside Orlando International Airport, Ventura is one of the top golf courses in Orlando for business travellers.
Lake Nona Golf and Country Club, however, will not be outdone in extracurriculars, especially nautical fun-and-sun. It’s all in the name: three crystal-clear lakes bunker the club’s fairways – a real beauty engineered by designer Tom Fazio – with boaters and anglers coasting across the serene waterscape. A boat ramp and dock beckon just beyond the 18th-hole (for those desperate to dip a toe in), while dedicated golfers can perfect their swing at Lake Nona’s golf practice centre and driving range.
Orange County National
Maybe a multi-course, one-stop-golf complex dazzles more than a Florida sports smorgasbord? Orange Country National presents a three-course bouquet, a potential 36-hole marathon comprised of two full-sized courses and one junior course. “Panther Lake” is the more punishing 18-hole foray: tight, narrow, and rimmed by copses of brush and gorgeous trees, it will test even the most avid player’s accuracy. “Crooked Cat” is more pliant on the front nine, gifting golfers wider lanes and space to gamble before ramping up the difficulty on the back side.
But foot for foot, none of these top golf courses in Orlando offer more fairway than MetroWest Golf Club. The city’s largest public course sits a few minutes’ drive from Universal Resorts. Mixing Lake Nona’s watery vistas with Southern Dune’s drastic elevation swings, MetroWest dishes up some impressive scenery and challenges along its wide, undulating fairways. If chips and putts aren’t swinging quite right, golf guru Tom Creavy – one of Golf Digest’s top-ranked instructors under 40 – is the club’s resident instructor, so there’s expert help on hand.
Finally, the picturesque El Campeon at Mission Inn brings Orlando history, golfing heritage and gorgeous Florida nature together – it just so happens that the course is spectacular, too. The course-side inn, built on old orange grove plots, was renovated in 1969 in the Spanish Colonial style, giving the club a presence unlike any in town. Pine and magnolia trees stand majestic between greens and fairways, home to osprey and other Orlando birdlife. And if a few lessons are required, Mission Inn’s three onsite golf schools have the goods to get any swing looking tip-top.
Written by Scott Horn