APTA | Passenger Transport
July 20, 2009

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Plenty for Golf Resources for Participants to Enjoy; Nearly 200 Courses, 23 Academies, Top Tours, and Instructors

A golf getaway can mean different things to different people: a group of hard-core golfers may focus on a competitive program; a couple on a romantic getaway may desire just a touch of golf on the side; a family may require more instruction and flexibility; and a group of friends may just want the opportunity to see their idols up close.

With 176 golf courses and golf resorts, 23 golf academies, some of the world’s most prestigious tournaments, top-rated professional players and course architects, and even many of the world’s top golf shops, Orlando can confidently meet the needs of any type of traveling golf group.

Tough Competitions
Orlando is as renowned on the golf circuit as it is for its world-class theme parks. The area hosts more professional tour competitions than any other city.

PGA Tour stars including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, and many others compete every March in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge. The top professional players then return in October as the tour visits Walt Disney World for the Children’s Miracle Network Classic (formerly the FUNAI Classic and Walt Disney World Classic). The Del Webb Father-Son Challenge held each December at ChampionsGate is a popular stop for professionals like Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus.

Orlando also has hosted many LPGA Tour events over the years, including the LPGA Tournament of Champions at Grand Cypress. One of the tour’s most popular current tournaments, the Ginn OPEN, is played at Orlando’s Ginn Reunion Resort in April.

Golfing in Their Own Backyard
With so many pro golf tournaments, it’s no surprise that Orlando is also home to more pro tour players than any city in the world.

Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Chris DiMarco, Zach Johnson, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen, Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, and Mark O’Meara, among many others, hang their hats in the Orlando area.

The Business of Golf
Orlando is often called the “home of the golf industry” because it has attracted more than its share of golf businesses and organizations. They include The Golf Channel, Golfweek magazine, Meadowbrook, International Network of Golf, Golfpac Travel, Jamison Golf Group, and Rife Putters, to name a few.

The golf industry’s largest trade show, the PGA Merchandise Show, attracts 1,200 exhibitors and 50,000 attendees to Orlando every January.

Learning from the Best
Looking for high-profile instruction? Look no further than Orlando, which boasts 23 golf academies and places five resident teachers on Golf Digest’s Top 50 Instructors list and 10 on Golf Magazine’s Top 100. They include two top 10 teachers, David Leadbetter at ChampionsGate (No. 2) and Mike Bender at Timacuan Golf Club in Lake Mary (No. 10).

Other leading central Florida instructors are Brad Brewer at Shingle Creek, Todd Graves at Eagle Creek, Fred Griffin at Grand Cypress, Hawk’s Landing’s Bill Madonna, Brian Mogg at Keene’s Point, Patti McGowan of Knack4Golf, and Phil Ritson at Orange County National. Annika Sorenstam’s longtime coach, Henri Reis, is the featured instructor at the recently opened ANNIKA Academy at Ginn Reunion Resort.

Diverse Golf Course Options
With so many possibilities, golfers of all levels, interests, and budgets will find a fitting course in Orlando.

Many traveling golfers prefer the all-inclusive, self-contained golf resort experience. The Orlando area is home to Grand Cypress Resort, with 45 holes of outstanding Jack Nicklaus-designed golf and either villas or hotel rooms for accommodations; Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Resort, with a course designed by the golf legend himself; Mystic Dunes Resort & Golf Club, where Champions Tour player and NBC golf commentator Gary Koch designed the unique layout; and the neighboring ChampionsGate and Ginn Reunion Resort, both of which offer multiple golf courses and great hotels.

The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes, which opened in 2003, is nestled between a pristine nature reserve and a vast luxury resort complex that encompasses both the 1,000-room JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes and the 584-room The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, and features a course designed by Greg Norman.

The David Harman-designed Shingle Creek Golf Club at Rosen Shingle Creek, located just east of Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center, was among Golfweek’s “Top 40 New Courses for 2005.” The course serves as the centerpiece of a 230-acre resort.

Orange Lake Resort features vacation villas and 36 holes of great golf, including one Arnold Palmer design that recently underwent renovation. Mission Inn Resort is one of the region’s favorites, with two great courses in a tranquil setting.

Several golf-only facilities in Orlando have received high rankings and notable awards. The Ron Garl-designed Timacuan Golf Club was ranked 14th in the state by Florida Golf Reporter; its par-4 second hole was named Orlando’s second most difficult hole by Orlando Business Journal. Another Garl masterpiece, Eagle Creek Golf Club near Orlando International Airport, was named among Florida’s top 10 new courses of the decade by Travel & Leisure Magazine, and features the area’s only par-73 layout and a tremendous risk/reward par 5 finishing hole.

Casual Games
For visitors looking to enjoy Orlando’s famous theme parks along with a round or two of golf, Walt Disney World Resort awaits with four championship-caliber courses spaced over 775 acres of the 47-square-mile property. In addition to scenic course landscapes, Disney’s golf program offers a variety of instructional clinics, training opportunities and well-equipped pro shops, including leading-edge rental clubs.

Golf Trail
A new Orlando "Golf Trail" links nine premier golf facilities and six lodging properties along the I-4 corridor.

Challenging by Design
In addition to the Ron Garl courses, other legendary architects who have carved their signatures into Orlando’s golf landscape include Tom Fazio (Lake Nona, Legacy Club at Alaqua Lakes, Osprey Ridge); Rees Jones (Falcon’s Fire); Steve Smyers (Grande Pines and Southern Dunes, a Golfweek Top 100 in America); Robert Trent Jones Sr. & Jr (Celebration); Arthur Hills (Stoneybrook West); Johnny Miller (Harmony Preserve); Joe Lee (Disney, among others); and Clifton/Ezelle Group (too numerous to mention).

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