While Orlando may get most of its attention for its theme parks, it’s also one of Florida’s top golfing destinations. Not only does Orlando offer up exceptional year-round courses, it also hosts a number of professional golfing events each year.
While it’s true that Orlando offers up an abundance of family-friendly fun and entertainment, it’s also a major playground for adults, especially those who love to golf.
Not only do golfing snowbirds flock to Orlando every winter to escape the chill and snow up north, there are a number of famous golfers who have taken up residence or have been raised in and around the city.
Whether you’re looking to tee-off at one of the area’s historic, challenging, or simply downright beautiful courses or simply wish to be a spectator at a PGA event like the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, here are some of the top golf courses in Orlando you should check out.
Top Public and Private Golf Courses in Orlando
Golden Bear Club
Nestled within the stunning Keenes Pointe luxury home community of Windermere, The Golden Bear Club is an often overlooked hidden gem when it comes to private Orlando golf clubs.
This 18-hole, par 72 course is a somewhat challenging Jack Nicklaus Signature design, surrounded by the region’s Butler Chain of Lakes.
Unlike many of the area’s flatter courses, you’ll notice a bit of elevation here. There are also beautiful strands of oak and cypress trees. It’s hard to believe you’re just a short distance from downtown Orlando.
In addition to the golf course, you’ll find lighted tennis courts, pool, fitness center, bar & grill, and impressive clubhouse that overlooks the 9th and 18th holes.
Orange County National
Unlike most Florida golf courses, Orange County National’s public 18-hole Championship Panther Lake course is surrounded by nature and no homes.
It may be OCN’s most picturesque course, but not its only one. There is also another public 18-hole championship course called Crooked Cat and an executive 9-hole course called The Tooth for those golfers who may be short on time.
More of a links course than Panther Lake, Crooked Cat presents fewer trees and wider landing areas which higher handicaps will welcome. Both 18-hole courses are blessed with new Champions Bermuda Ultra Dwarf Turf Grass greens.
There is also an onsite lodge, allowing you to take advantage of stay and play package deals, as well as America’s largest driving range and practice facility.
Shingle Creek Golf Club
This “hotel golf course” is situated on the grounds of the AAA Four-Diamond Rosen Shingle Creek hotel. Both the course and hotel take their name from area’s Shingle Creek which is considered the headwaters of the Everglades.
Originally designed by David Harman, the course received a recent transformation by the Arnold Palmer Design Company. Any golfer who has played here in the past will really appreciate all the major changes that were made.
The par 72 course presents a bit of a challenge now from the back tees at roughly 7,200 yards. Greens fees include golf cart with GPS system, range balls, and valet parking.
The golf club is also home to the Brad Brewer Golf Academy, one of the nation’s finest golf teaching facilities, with swing analysis and updated short-game area.
Falcons Fire Golf Club
Regularly regarded as one of Orlando’s finest public golf courses, Falcons Fire Golf Club is a rather open and forgiving course.
The Rees Jones Signature designed course presents a 7,000-yard challenge from the back tees and is one of the area’s more affordable courses for what it offers.
Falcons Fire’s greens have been resurfaced with faster and smoother ultradwarf Bermuda grass, its pro shop has won several awards, and the club has been recognized as offering some of the nation’s top tournament facilities.
Bay Hill Club & Lodge
Famous for hosting the annual Arnold Palmer Invitational every March, the Bay Hill Club & Lodge offers up 27 holes of tour championship golf.
Spanning some 270 acres, this private course was not only owned by Arnold Palmer until his passing, but it also acted as his winter residence.
The original 18 holes are regarded as some of architect Dick Wilson’s finest. The best part about this private course is that registered guests staying at the lodge gain access to the course and club amenities.
This allows you to walk the very same fairways and greens in which Tiger Woods took home an impressive 8 PGA Tour victories during his professional career.
Image credit: Tour Pro Golf Clubs (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
Ritz-Carlton Golf Club
An environmental leader in golf, the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club is a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary that aims to preserve and enhance wildlife habitat while also protecting natural resources.
The 18-hole Greg Norman designed course will definitely test your ability with its many hazards, most notably its large number of sand traps. However, it is one of the area’s most picturesque courses which offers a true luxury experience.
While this luxury golf experience doesn’t come cheap, children up to 17 years of age play free with each paid adult round and there are weekly memberships with unlimited golf privileges available.
Also quite notable is the club’s optional comprehensive caddie programs like the Caddie Concierge Program which is the first of its kind in Central Florida.
Winter Park Golf Course
Of course not all great Orlando golfing has to be luxurious, expensive, or even 18 holes for that matter. The historic 9-hole Winter Park Golf Course is a public course which has long been a local favorite for its affordable rates and a quicker golf outing.
The course is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, having welcomed golfers for well over 100 years now. Despite it being just a par 35, 9-hole course, it still presents a challenge along its narrow tree-lined fairways.
It’s small greens can also prove difficult to stick. The takeaway here is that you need to be on top of your short game.
With over 6 dozen public courses and a range of exclusive private golf courses, Orlando has become one of the top golfing destinations in Florida if not the country.
With so many courses to choose from, I hope my top suggestions have given you somewhere to start when planning your next Orlando golfing getaway.
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