From pedigrees by well-known designers to clubhouses that operate more like spas, these fashionable courses are the theme parks of the fairway set. Tee times at these pricey greens fill quickly because the courses have national reputations. Count on paying about $10 per hole. Most of the big courses will now arrange to ship your personal clubs to the course in time for your visit, if you like.
Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge
Designer: Arnold Palmer, who owned it and built the golf school. This guests-only resort course rambles for 270 acres over lakelands and regularly receives the most accolades from experts. Palmer renovated the main course just before his 2016 death.
9000 Bay Hill Blvd., Orlando. 888/422-9445. www.bayhill.com. 27 holes.
ChampionsGate Golf Resort
Designer: Greg Norman. Headquarters of the David Leadbetter Golf Academy (www.leadbetter.com; 407/787-3330), this resort and handsome high-rise hotel is 10 minutes south of Disney.
1400 Masters Blvd., ChampionsGate. 407/390-6664. www.championsgategolf.com. 36 holes.
Mystic Dunes Golf Club
Designer: Gary Koch. Located 2 miles south of Disney, Mystic Dunes has steadily won Golf Digest praise for its distinct character. Elevation changes up to 80 feet over the course of play and the grounds retain their mature oaks and wetlands.
7600 Mystic Dunes Lane, Celebration. 407/787-5678. www.mysticdunesgolf.com. 18 holes.
Reunion Resort & Club
Designers: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson—three world-class designers’ courses, all a 10-minute drive south of Disney. There’s also on-site golf instruction with a staff of 11 teachers.
7593 Gathering Dr., Kissimmee. 407/396-3199. www.reunionresortgolf.com. 54 holes.
The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes
Designer: Greg Norman. Golf instruction at this very well-maintained facility is overseen by former PGA Tour player Larry Rinker. Family packages are available. Golf Digest calls its variety “a fun test.”
4040 Central Florida Pkwy., Orlando. 407/393-4900. www.grandelakes.com. 18 holes.
Shingle Creek Golf Club
Designer: Thad Layton, Arnold Palmer Design Company. A proud, Orlando-centered resort, Shingle Creek is home to a school overseen by Brad Brewer (www.bradbrewer.com). The course was recently renovated.
9939 Universal Blvd., Orlando. 407/996-9933. www.shinglecreekgolf.com. 18 holes.
Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort Orlando
Disney’s former Osprey Ridge course, an Audubon sanctuary 2 miles east of the Magic Kingdom, was redesigned by its creator Tom Fazio in late 2014. Each hole has four sets of tees to appeal to all skill levels, and there’s a fancy new 16-acre practice facility for drives, chipping, and putting training.
3451 Golf View Dr., Lake Buena Vista. 407/313-7777. www.fourseasons.com/orlando/golf. 18 holes.
Villas of Grand Cypress
Designer: Jack Nicklaus. These links, right next to Disney in Lake Buena Vista, are currently being overhauled and the course is scheduled to reopen in 2023 as part of the Evermore Resort.
One North Jacaranda, Orlando. www.evermoreresort.com. 45 holes.
Walt Disney World Golf Courses
Disney has been closing courses or parceling them to other resorts, but there are currently four left, including the Lake Buena Vista (once a PGA tour host), the recently refurbished Palm, and the Magnolia (the one with the sand bunker shaped like Mickey). Oak Trail (9 holes) is the better choice for family outings. They’re all run by Arnold Palmer’s company. Greens fees include golf carts, when available, and kids 17 and under get half-off full tee time rates at the 18-hole courses. All courses opened with the resort in 1971, when golf was more important to Disney, and if truth be told, their maintenance is spotty. At Oak Trail, there’s a 9-hole course dedicated to FootGolf, which is scored just like golf except you kick soccer balls instead of swinging clubs ($17–$25, about 2 hr.).
Walt Disney World. 407/938-4653. www.golfwdw.com. 63 holes.
More Affordable Courses
Unlike the aforementioned courses, these don’t have big marketing budgets and they don’t always come attached to celebrity names, but they nevertheless are high-quality courses you can enjoy at sensible prices.
Celebration Golf Course
In the Disney-built town next door to the Disney-built world, English master designer Robert Trent Jones, Sr., and his son pocked their well-groomed course with water hazards on 17 of its 18 holes.
701 Golf Park Dr., Celebration. 407/566-4653. www.celebrationgolf.com. 18 holes.
El Campeón Championship Course
One of GolfAdvisor.com’s choices for the top 25 courses in the country, El Campeón’s 18 holes date back to 1917, making it one of the oldest courses in the American South. Elevation changes about 85 feet.
10400 County Road 48, Howey-in-the-Hills. www.missioninnresort.com. 352/268-9574. 18 holes.
Falcon’s Fire Golf Club
Decently maintained and fairly priced (in the mid-$40s for prime tee times), this Rees-Jones-designed public course a few minutes east of Disney can be crowded, but holes are straightforward and a beverage cart makes the rounds.
3200 Seralago Blvd., Kissimmee. www.falconsfire.com. 407/239-5445. 18 holes.
Hawk’s Landing Golf Club
Because it's part of the Orlando World Center Marriott resort on World Center Drive by Disney, it crawls with convention-goers who keep prices high. Water is in play on 15 of the 18 holes, and the par-71 course carries a slope rating of 131.
8701 World Center Dr., Orlando. 800/567-2623. www.golfhawkslanding.com. 18 holes.
Highlands Reserve Golf Club
This highly praised public course, with a fair mix of challenges and cakewalks, is a strong value, charging a top rate of $39, and its twilight rates kick in as early as noon. It’s about 10 minutes southwest of Disney.
500 Highlands Reserve Blvd., Davenport. 863/420-1724. www.highlandsreserve-golf.com. 18 holes.
Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge
At this wide-open complex (922 acres, unspoiled by houses—atypical around here), holes have five sets of tees, allowing you to choose a game that ranges between 7,300 yards and a little over 5,000. Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella put it on top of his list of must-do Orlando courses. It’s just north of Walt Disney World and it’s cheapest early in the week.
16301 Phil Ritson Way, Winter Garden. 407/656-2626. www.ocngolf.com. 45 holes.
Royal St. Cloud Golf Links
Aiming to recall Scotland’s great links—there’s even a stone bridge that looks like it was built during the days of William Wallace, not in 2001—this affordable club, 25 miles east of Disney, has fairways that are noted for being wide, well groomed, and firm, and planners promise you’ll use “every club in the bag.”
5310 Michigan Ave., St. Cloud. 407/891-7010. www.royalstcloudgolflinks.com. 27 holes.
Timacuan Golf and Country Club
There are five sets of tees, adapting this exceptionally well-groomed course from 7,000 to 5,000 yards, and unusually, designers were careful to leave its handsome Old Florida features (undulating fairways, Spanish moss, wetlands) mostly intact. Only 3 holes are riddled with water, which might make it easier for kids. Lake Mary is 10 miles north of downtown.
550 Timacuan Blvd., Lake Mary. 407/321-0010. www.golftimacuan.com. 18 holes.
There are five sets of tees, adapting this exceptionally well-groomed course from 7,000 to 5,000 yards, and unusually, designers were careful to leave its handsome Old Florida features (undulating fairways, Spanish moss, wetlands) mostly intact. Only 3 holes are riddled with water, which might make it easier for kids.
Congo River Adventure Golf (www.congoriver.com; 5901 International Dr., Orlando; 407/248-9181; and 4777 W. Hwy. 192, Kissimmee; 407/396-6900; for both, 18 holes for $15 adults, $13 kids; daily Sun–Thurs 10am–11pm; Fri–Sat 10am–midnight): One of the best options, these challenging courses wind through man-made mountains speared with airplane wreckage—and there are live alligators in the pools!
Disney’s Winter Summerland (outside Blizzard Beach, Walt Disney World; 407/939-7529; $14 adults, $12 kids; daily 10am–10pm): Surprisingly, not the most elaborate courses in Orlando, but you can combine them with Blizzard Beach without moving your car. Two cute 18-hole courses are themed around Christmas; the Winter side, piled with fake snow, has more bells and whistles (love that steaming campfire and that squirting snowman). Both Winter and Summerland beat the other Disney minigolf location, Disney’s Fantasia Gardens (same rates), which is located by the Swan/ Dolphin/ Reserve hotel trio. Its two courses, Fairways and Gardens, are themed to the movie Fantasia. The Fairways course has challenging shots; Gardens is sillier.
Hollywood Drive-In Golf (CityWalk Orlando, 6000 Universal Blvd., Orlando; www.hollywooddriveingolf.com; 407/802-4848; 18 holes: $18 adults, $16 kids 3–9; for 36 holes add $15 adults, $13 kids; daily 9am–2am): The coolest 36 holes in town, CityWalk’s “haunted & sci-fi double feature” is kitted out, hilarious, and always surprising. Spinning vortices! Corkscrew ball elevators! At night, the lighting effects are impeccable. You can even download its own scorecard app and putt an eyeball.
Pirate’s Cove (8501 International Dr., Orlando; www.piratescove.net; 407/352-7378; $15 adults, $13 kids; daily 9am–11pm): Navigate wooden ships—one is life-size—and falls of bluish water. Choose Captain’s Adventure or Blackbeard’s Challenge.
Topgolf Orlando (9295 Universal Blvd., Orlando; www.topgolf.com; 407/218-7714; $5 membership fee; $30/hr. until noon, $40/hr. noon–5pm, $50/hr. 5pm–close; Sat–Sun extra $5/hr., Tues half-price; Mon–Thurs 10am–11pm, Fri–Sat 10am–1am, Sun 10am–11pm): More than 100 bays on a multi-level driving range, gussied up with colored targets, food, and a bar. Balls contain microchips for instant scoring. Classier and exponentially more expensive than putt-putt, it’s one of dozens of Topgolf’s worldwide locations.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.