As a seasoned player drives off one of the Par 5 holes at Royal St. Cloud Golf Links, it’s clear that you don’t need as much lift as other courses might require. On holes where the fairway is long, straight, and firm, a well-struck ball will roll a good distance before settling to a stop. Deep bunkers, low terrain, and tall stands of rough combine with forgiving water hazards and open spaces to create a classic links-style course.
“Here in Orlando, there are a lot of great golf courses all throughout the area,” said Jimmy Bell, a golf pro at the PGA TOUR Superstore. “Royal St. Cloud is one of my favorites.”
Bell, who has lived in Central Florida most of his life, has played practically every course in town, from the highly exclusive to the more easily accessible.
“Most people who play a lot of golf in this area are familiar with the beautiful, big-name courses,” he said. “Some of them, though, can be a little expensive. While I enjoy playing those courses whenever I can, there are some outstanding courses that will give you a great day of golf, but people don’t always know about them, and they don't cost as much to play.”
Royal St. Cloud Golf Links
5310 Michigan Ave., St. Cloud FL 34769, 407-891-7010
With three nine-hole courses, Royal St. Cloud offers flexibility in that you can play 18 holes by combining two of the three tracks, or just choose one of them and play nine holes. The amenities include a lighted driving range, upscale golf shop, and a locker room with private showers.
According to Bell, though, the most attractive feature at Royal St. Cloud is the course itself, which is reminiscent of the historic courses in Scotland, where the sport was born.
“I’ve been to Scotland,” he said. “In fact, I had the opportunity to spend a month and a half there and play a lot of golf. Royal St. Cloud is the closest you'll ever get to a Scottish course in Central Florida, especially the Red Course. Even the bridges on the cart path are constructed from rough looking stones, which makes it look like it was built a hundred years ago.”
He added that one of the main reasons he recommends this course often is that it's also a great value.
“Depending on the season, day of the week, and time of day, you can play 18 holes there for less than $40, which is an amazing value for the amount of fun the course is to play.”
Forest Lake Golf Club
10521 Clarcona-Ocoee Rd., Apopka FL 32703, 407-654-4653
Most golfers in the Orlando area know what it means when a course is described as having an “old-Florida feel.” It describes characteristics that Florida locals tend to prefer – low rolling hills, a variety of trees accentuated with Spanish moss, an occasional palm tree, and pristine natural water hazards. Its 18 holes are laid out over 229 acres of sandy loam soils, which provides outstanding drainage.
“Forest Lake is spread out really well, which means you don't always see the next hole from the hole you’re playing,” Bell said. “It's also nice that there are only a few holes that are close to houses. it's a very affordable course that doesn't, in any way, feel cheap.”
One of the main reasons Bell recommends this course is that it's simply a lot of fun to play. There are plenty of elevation changes that create interesting challenges for the experienced player while not being too difficult for more casual golfers. Also, the water hazards and bunkers are well placed and there are four truly memorable Par 3s.
“I really like the tradition at Forest Lake,” he added. “It's been around for a while and they've done a great job by not changing it too much over the years. So, there are a lot of golfers who have been playing it since they were kids, and now get to play there with their own kids and even grandkids.”
Grande Vista Golf Club
12001 Avenida Verde, Orlando FL 32821, 407-238-7677
Located on the head waters of the Florida Everglades ecosystem, the 9-hole course at Grande Vista Golf Club winds through 160 acres of tall oaks and cypress trees, creating a golf experience that is both challenging and picturesque. It's an intimate setting buffeted by tropical landscaping that is always well maintained.
“Grand Vista always seems to be in perfect shape,” Bell said, “The putting greens especially are fantastic, which players always appreciate because they can rely on how the ball is going to roll.”
In addition to the quality of the course, Bell added that the quality of the amenities is remarkable. That includes a large driving range and practice areas for putting and chipping. Plus, it features a really nice clubhouse that players always enjoy.
“I always have a great time when I play at Grande Vista,” he said. “The way the water and landscaping are laid out makes it enough of a challenge that it’s a lot of fun to play.”
PGA TOUR Superstore
The PGA TOUR Superstore, located on Turkey Lake Rd. north of Sand Lake Rd. in Orlando, is a 50,000-square-foot facility that offers an extensive variety of products, technology, equipment, and apparel for golfers. Shoppers can choose from all the best-known brands in clubs, such as Ping, Titleist, Callaway, TaylorMade, and Mizuno, with clubs available for men and women. When purchasing a set of golf clubs, an option that will truly help your score is a custom club fitting with one of our certified experts. This process takes into account the player’s height, strength, and style of play, which is analyzed by certified club-fitting experts using the latest available technology.
The PGA TOUR Superstore also carries the latest in golf technology, including laser and GPS range finders, electronic swing analyzers, simulators, and more, as well as a wide variety of golf bags and premium-quality balls. Additionally, there is an outstanding selection of men's and women's apparel, ranging from name-brand shirts and pants to hats, visors, gloves, and more. Shoppers will also find a variety of both spiked and spikeless shoes for men and women. Brands include Adidas, Nike, FootJoy, Ecco, G/Fore, and Skechers, and experts are on hand to ensure a comfortable fit.
Finally, while the PGA golf superstore caters mostly to golfers, there is also a tennis center that offers a wide range of products and services. Players can choose high-quality racquets from such trusted brands as Wilson, Head, and Penn, with racquet-fitting services available. A variety of gear and apparel is also available. The PGA TOUR Superstore is located at 7603 Turkey Lake Rd. in Orlando and is open daily, although hours may vary. Call 407-581-7540 or visit pgatoursuperstore.com for more information.
- Players Club Plus - Players Club Plus members receive unlimited free 30-minute sessions in the Practice Center, as well as free standard ground shipping on online orders. Includes valuable discounts on club repair and other services.
- Golf Lessons - Whether it's for a novice player just getting started or an experienced golfer who wants to improve, lessons with golf pro Jimmy Bell will definitely improve your game.
- High-Tech Gadgets - The most useful technology for most golfers is the kind that measures the distance to the green. The two main options for rangefinders are laser and GPS, both of which are available at the PGA TOUR Superstore.
- The oldest course in Central Florida is the Dubsdread Golf Course, which was established in 1924.
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- One of the longest holes in the Orlando area is the 625-yard Par 5 at Sweetwater Golf & Country Club, which has earned the nickname, “The Loch Ness Monster.”
- The course at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, home of the legendary Arnold Palmer Invitational, was owned by late golf legend Arnold Palmer and still bears his name.
- Now headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, The Golf Channel was based in Orlando until 2020.