The best courses you can play in Orlando
Other states might boast a better resume in terms of the quality of golf courses, but Florida fully embraces golf more than any other state. With more than 1,450 courses (including nine-holers), Florida has no shortage of options, which can be overwhelming when trying to nail down an itinerary.
Of all the worthy destinations across the state, Orlando may be the most convenient, with so many quality public courses near each other and the airport. Especially for East Coasters, it’s an easy weekend getaway.
To help you plan your next golf trip to Central Florida, we’ve compiled the best courses you can play in Orlando. You may recognize some of these tracks from hosting PGA Tour and LPGA Tour events. Others may not be in the limelight but shouldn’t be overlooked when booking tee times for your next trip. (Note: Streamsong is about 90 minutes from Orlando, and if you're willing to do the drive, that would be our first choice. But these options below are focused on Orlando golf.)
One more general Orlando golf tip for you: Make sure to leave yourself some extra time if you’re driving anywhere near DisneyWorld. Many golfers have been late for their tee time, not thinking about the hoards of Mickey Mouse-crazed minivans they would sit behind on I-4.
Scroll on to read more about the best public golf courses in Orlando. Click around and explore our new, searchable Places to Play hub, complete with course reviews from our panelists.
From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten:
I've always been fascinated by the design of Bay Hill, Arnold Palmer's home course for over 45 years (although Tiger Woods owns it, competitively-speaking, as he's won there eight times.) For one thing, it's rather hilly, a rarity in Florida (although not in the Orlando market) and dotted with sinkhole ponds incorporated in the design in dramatic ways.
I always thought the wrap-around-a-lake par-5 sixth was Dick Wilson's version of Robert Trent Jones's decade-older 13th at The Dunes Club at Myrtle Beach. Each of the two rivals had claimed the other was always stealing his ideas. But the hole I like best at Bay Hill is the par-4 eighth, a lovely dogleg-right with a diagonal green perched above a small circular pond. Okay, I admit that it reminds me of the sixth at Hazeltine National, another Trent Jones product, but I don't think Wilson picked Trent's pocket on this one, as both courses were built about the same time, in the early 1960s.
Haines City, FL
Winter Garden, FL
Howey In The Hills, FL
Conveniently located next to Disney World, Waldorf Astoria is a challenging Rees Jones-designed layout. Unlike many resort courses which are forgiving off the tee, Waldorf Astoria’s landing areas are demanding, with water, trees and native brush lining many fairways. Jones incorporated design features from the Golden Age of architecture, notably at par-3 seventh, where the Biarritz green has a significant dip in the middle.
Lake Buena Vista, FL
Winter Garden, FL
Tiger Woods captured his second career PGA Tour title at the Magnolia course in 1996, edging Payne Stewart by one shot. He would add another win at Disney’s signature course in 1999. The Magnolia layout features wide fairways guarded by water, which lurks on 11 of the 18 holes. Though the fairways are generally wide, if you miss them, you may be blocked out by the magnolia trees that line many holes. Note: Currently, 14 holes are open at the Magnolia course, as the other holes are being renovated. The course is offering a 33% discount off greens fees.