Central Florida options: Orlando's golf scene isn't Mickey Mouse

Orlando is home to Disney World, Universal Studios and dozens of PGA Tour pros. The last is for many reasons, including the weather, the airport and the nearly 150 golf courses in the area. Orlando is also host to the annual PGA Merchandise Show, where thousands in the golf business come to see the latest and greatest in the business -- and play a little golf, of course.

So if you're planning a trip to Orlando to visit Mickey Mouse or are coming in for business, be sure to bring your clubs. In fact, Disney itself has four golf courses, three of which have been used for the PGA Tour. Here's a look at some of the must-play golf courses in the Orlando area.

Orlando's golf resorts

When you think of Orlando golf, you probably be think of Arnold Palmer and Bay Hill, home of the Bay Hill Invitational. You'll have to stay there to play there or get an invite, but it is possible to play at Arnie's place and on many days, you might even see the legend at the club somewhere.

One of my favorites is Grand Cypress, one of Orlando's best and most established resorts. Jack Nicklaus designed all 54 holes, including 27 that are traditional Florida golf that are great tests. However, Nicklaus' tribute to the Old Course, Grand Cypress' New Course, is as different as anything in Florida. Wide open with no rough and holes 1 and 18 emulating St. Andrews, the course is fun ride from beginning to end.

For more high-end golf, head over to Reunion Resort, which boasts three pristine golf courses designed by some of the game's biggest names -- Palmer, Nicklaus and Tom Watson. The resort is also home to Annika Sorenstam Golf Academy.

Or check out the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club, which is actually surrounded by the Walt Disney World Resort on three sides, but not part of the resort. Designed by Rees Jones, the golf course has plenty of water, sand and perfect turf combined for a most enjoyable test of golf.

Next door at Disney are the Palm Course and Magnolia Course, which host a PGA Tour event, but the gem in the bunch is the Tom Fazio-designed Osprey Ridge Course.

And next to the Orange County Convention Center is Shingle Creek Golf Club, laid out in the shadow of the huge Rosen Shingle Creek hotel and around the historic creek that attracted some of Florida's first settlers. Or you can check out the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grand Lakes, for one of the Greg Norman's better designs.

Speaking of the Great White Shark, if you head west toward Tampa, you can experience two more Norman designs at Omni ChampionsGate. The International Course, inspired by the links look at Royal Melbourne, hosts the annual Del Webb Father/Son Challenge. ChampionsGate's National Course has a more traditional Florida look. ChampionsGate is also headquarters for David Leadbetter Golf Academy.

Daily-fee golf in Orlando

If you don't want to book a resort package or simply want to take in some additional golf, Orlando has plenty of good daily fees as well.

One of the best is Orange County National, which has one of the largest driving ranges and practice facilities in the world. It's also home to the Crooked Cat and Panther Lake Courses, which have been perennial sites for PGA Tour School.

Another can't-miss is Celebration Golf Club, where Robert Trent Jones Sr. collaborated with son, Robert Trent Jones Jr., to create a terrific parkland course with plenty of undulation and interesting greens. Or check out one of Orlando's newer courses, Grand Pines, a Steve Smyers design that's graced more than one top-100 modern list.

Other good bets in the Orlando area include: Highlands Reserve, which sits atop one of the highest areas in Florida; Dubsdread G.C., a 1923 design located just minutes from downtown; Timacuan Country Club, which was just recently renovated with new Mini-Verde greens; Stoneybrook West; Hunter's Creek; and Eagle Creek Golf Club.

Mike Bailey is a former Golf Advisor senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. He has also been on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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Central Florida options: Orlando's golf scene isn't Mickey Mouse