Best Golf Courses In Orlando
Orlando is not only home to world-class theme parks including Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios; it may very well be the capital of golf in the United States. As the headquarters of Golf Channel and the annual PGA Merchandise Show—one of the industry’s largest events—hosted at the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando is one of the best destination choices for all things golf. Many of the top PGA TOUR pros, and more than a few aspiring mini-tour golfers, call the area home thanks to Orlando’s abundance of tournament-quality layouts and private clubs. The best golf courses in Orlando can offer something for any level of golfer.
Arnold Palmer, a longtime Orlando resident, left his mark on the area’s golf scene like no one else. He won a PGA TOUR event at Rio Pinar Country Club (pictured above), then called the Florida Citrus Open, and later assumed ownership of the Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Over the years he made it a revered invitational stop on the PGA TOUR. And while many PGA TOUR pros followed Arnold to Bay Hill or to some of the other best golf courses in Orlando (like ultra-private Lake Nona or Isleworth), there is a seriously deep roster of high-end resort courses and excellent daily-fee facilities that qualify as some of the best courses in Orlando and the state. If you’re bringing the family along on a Florida vacation, staying at a luxury golf resort like the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes or Waldorf Astoria Orlando are viable options with top-shelf golf on site.
Bay Hill isn’t the only PGA TOUR host among the ranks of Orlando golf courses. Walt Disney World’s side-by-side Magnolia and Palm golf courses were longstanding hosts from the time Disney World opened until 2012. One of the most remarkable golf facilities in the country and a favorite among mini-tour and Q-school golfers is Orange County National, which has two championship courses, a 9-hole short course and a marvelous 360-degree driving range, as well as ample practice greens, a large clubhouse and even some rooms onsite for stay-and-play packages.
Deeper links to golf history can be found in central Florida if you know where to look. The 9-hole Winter Park Country Club, a family favorite, dates back to 1914 and recently received a facelift. And the municipal Dubsdread Golf Course is a convenient and character-laden option near downtown Orlando. But the supreme historic experience is El Campeon at Mission Inn Resort & Club, which dates back over 100 years and is not only an NCAA championship site, but features rare elevation changes and considered one the best golf courses in Orlando.
Best Golf Courses In Orlando (Public)
The best golf courses in Orlando that are resort-based or open to the public can stack up with any city in the southeast. Many of the very best golf course architects have done some of their finest work in Florida, specifically around Orange County. Expect to find plenty of water hazards—lined with wooden bulkheads—and numerous bunkers to navigate when playing one of these top courses. Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. collaborated on Celebration Golf Club, and Jack Nicklaus contributed 45 holes to the Grand Cypress Resort’s New Course and original North-South-East course. Rees Jones delivered a memorable layout near Disney at Waldorf Astoria Golf Club, and Tom Fazio’s Tranquilo at Four Seasons is a luxurious resort experience that nevertheless offers play without a membership. Hawk’s Landing is located near Disney at the Marriott World Center and was one of the first major golf resorts to open in the early 1980s. One of the newest bucket-list experiences in the area is Streamsong Resort, which is located just a 90-minute drive southwest of Orlando, and is also similarly accessible from Tampa.
More resort experiences include multi-course Orange Lake, plus 36-hole Omni Championsgate, located south of Disney just off the I-4 corridor. The closest resort course to the convention center for business travelers is Shingle Creek Golf Club, which received a total redesign in 2017.
Best Value Golf Courses In Orlando
Plenty of affordable and value courses can be enjoyed if you get a bit farther away from the tourist corridors. Semi-private and public courses like Ron Garl-designed Eagle Creek Golf Club, Falcon’s Fire (Kissimmee), Bella Collina (which sports an incredible Tuscan-themed clubhouse), and Ventura Country Club all vie for both local and visitor tee times.
Orlando’s MCO airport has direct flights to major cities all over the world thanks to the millions of tourists who descend on central Florida each year (over 45 million room nights are available at area hotels each year).