Hundreds of thousands of people every year come to Orlando to visit one of its many theme parks. About as many come to the city with other destinations and goals in mind – to catch an Orlando Magic home game, to visit Orlando’s museums, or to play a few rounds of golf on the best Orlando golf courses.
There are several golf courses scattered throughout Orlando, many of them worth a special trip by the golf-tourist who wants to play a challenging, 18-hole course, or by the golfing family that wants a pleasant family outing on a 9-hole course amid beautiful scenery.
Note that if you want to golf while you’re in Orlando, regardless of the course involved, you will need to make advance reservations for tee times. Typically, golfers will be placed into foursomes to ensure that the maximum number of golfers get to enjoy a course on any given day. In addition, each course will have a dress code for both men and women so keep that in mind also.
Four of Orlando’s most attractive golf courses are located within Walt Disney World. There’s no need to be a guest at a Disney resort to play these courses.
Walt Disney World Golf Courses
Of the four courses, three are located on the grounds of the Grand Floridian resort within the Magic Kingdom theme park. (The Armed Forces-only Disney resort Shades of Green is located between the Palm and Magnolia courses.)
Simply follow the signs on Interstate 4 or Route 192 to the Magic Kingdom Park, get into the far-right lane as you come to the Magic Kingdom toll plaza, and then continue to follow the signs for whichever golf course you desire – the Palm, the Magnolia or the Oak Trail. The Oak Trail is a 9-hole course.
The Lake Buena Vista Golf Course is located in Disney Springs (formerly, until 2015, called Downtown Disney), within the grounds of the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. Disney Springs is not a theme park that you have to pay to enter– it offers hundreds of shops, restaurants, and plenty of entertainment in addition to several resorts.
For the Lake Buena Vista Golf course, take Interstate 4 to exit #68, and then head north on Route 535. Turn left onto Hotel Plaza Boulevard. Continue to follow the signs to the golf course.
Now that we’ve set the scene, here are the 10 Best Orlando Golf Courses Near Orlando’s Top Attractions:
- Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Golf Course (18 holes)
Designed by architect Joe Lee and rated 4 stars by Golf Digest, the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course is situated within the grounds of the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. It is a world class 18-hole golf course and also a Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuary. The PGA, the LPGA, and the USGA have held events here.
The course has elevated, bunkered greens, which prompt golfers to make accurate approach shots. The 7th hole is famous for its island green. The course is beautifully situated and golfers will walk past villas, forests of pine and palmettos, and lakes.
- Disney’s Palm Golf Course (18 holes)
The 18-hole Palm Golf Course, located at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in the Magic Kingdom, presents lovely scenery to the golfer – including lakes that harbor alligators which should not be approached!
The course, rated 4 stars by Golf Digest, has 9 holes with water hazards! The Palm course was redesigned by Arnold Palmer Course Design in 2013 and its 59 bunkers are newly designed.
- Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course (18 holes)
The Magnolia Golf Course was named, appropriate enough, for the many magnolia trees that dot the course. This is the longest of the four Disney courses, and the most challenging – golfers will enjoy the 11 water hazards out of its 18 holes, and navigating between 97 bunkers!
This course is also a Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuary (certified by Audubon International) and is rated 4 stars by Golf Digest, having been thoroughly renovated in 2015.
- Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course (9 holes)
For a family-friendly golf outing, the 9 holes of Oak Trail can’t be beat. This is a walking-only course – no golf carts allowed. It’s a Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuary so adults and kids alike will enjoy walking the course, which has junior tees for the young golfer. The holes range from 132 yards to 517 yards.
In 2014, Disney sold its Osprey Ridge golf course to the Four Seasons, who renamed it and redesigned it as the Tranquilo Golf Club. The resort is located just two miles from Disney Springs.
This course is one of Florida’s most renowned courses, with a 4-and-a-half-star rating from Golf Digest.
The links-style, 18-hole course has over 70 bunkers, “strategically” placed to be most challenging, nine water holes, and fairways flanked by forests. Like its Disney fellows, this course is a protected wildlife and wetlands preserve. Tranquilo also offers a 7-hole option for those guests who don’t have a lot of time to play the entire course.
The course was originally designed by Tom Fazio, who put his seal of approval on the recent upgrades that occurred when the Four Seasons took over the course.
The Hawks Landing Golf Club is on the grounds of the Orlando World Center Marriot Resort, at 8701 World Center Dr. It’s an 18-hole championship course, designed by Robert Cupp Jr. The course incorporates lush scenery, and an abundance of native birds and wildlife. Golf critics have called it the best “resort” golf course in Florida.
If you like to combine “the biggest” with your golf tour experiences, check out the World Center Marriott Resort, which is the largest Marriott resort in the world. Even if you’re not staying there you’ll enjoy strolling through its opulent lobby.
The entrance to Walt Disney World is just a mile and a half away from this resort.
The Shingle Creek Golf Club is situated about 13 minutes away from both SeaWorld and Universal Studios, and only a mile away from the Orange County Convention Center. It’s located at 9939 Universal Boulevard, adjacent to the AAA Four-Diamond Rosen Shingle Creek resort.
The 18-hole Shingle Creek course, named for the creek that winds through the course, had the distinction of being the “Best Golf Course in Orlando” in 2015, by Golf Orlando Florida. Not content to rest on its laurels, it was redesigned in 2016 by Arnold Palmer Golf Design. The course is noted for “undulating” fairways – giving golfers quite a few strategies to get onto the greens.
For those interested in the history of golf, the DubsDread Golf Course, a municipal course owned by the city of Orlando, has been a fixture in Orlando since 1924. It was given the name DubsDread because “dub” was the nickname for novice golfers.
The course was renovated in 2008 to reflect modern sensibilities – improving the environmental impact and also improving course drainage and playability. However, you’ll still be walking on the fairways that Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Babe Didrickson walked, back when the Orlando Open was held here.
DubsDread is noted for its narrow fairways and “postage stamp” style greens with plenty of bunkers to make it even more challenging. While there, check out their GolfBoards instead of golf carts!
DubsDread, managed by Billy Casper Golf, is 5 miles east of downtown.
- and 10. ChampionsGate Golf
Golf Digest awarded the golf resort ChampionsGate a four-and-a-half-star rating. It’s one of the Top 50 Golf Resorts in the world according to Golf World Magazine.
ChampionsGate, located at 8575 White Shark Boulevard in ChampionsGate villas, is only a few minutes away from Disney World. It offers two courses, the National and the International, which round out our top ten of best golf courses near Orlando attractions.
The National Course, designed by Greg Norman, is a “classic American parkland-style” course design with 18 holes set across 200 acres of woodlands and wetlands, as well as what were once orange groves. The water hazards are scenic, the doglegs are fiendish, and the greens are small. The National Course is noted for its hole 15, an intimidating par 3 shot over wetlands where over 15,000 balls a year are lost.
The International Course, also designed by Norman, is a links course that was renovated in 2016. Some fairway bunkers were removed for better sightlines, and the Floradwarf turf was replaced with Champion Bermuda. The course still features “18 of the most dramatic and challenging holes in the state.”
For More Information
http://www.floridahistoricgolftrail.com/golf-trail/ (features information on over a dozen historic golf courses in Florida).