International golf course at Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate gets significant refresher

ORLANDO, Fla. -- One of the best known golf courses in Orlando, the International Course at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, has just reopened after what officials are referring to as a revitalization.

On the surface, the golf course looks much the same, but new grasses, drainage and restoration of greens should help the course play firmer and faster, more like it was intended as an Australian coastal links design.

It's the International Course's first enhancement since opening 16 years ago. One of two championship courses at the resort, the par-72, 7,363-yard International Course, former home of the Father/Son Challenge (2003-08), closed in June and reopened to the public on Oct. 1.

The project included the complete restoration of 18 greens and all green-side bunker complexes to their original size, look and feel. Resurfacing the original Floradwarf turf greens, which were contaminated with paspalum encroachment, included the sprigging of Champion Bermuda and replacing the original paspalum turf green surrounds and par-3 tee surfaces with 419 Bermuda.

"The biggest thing we're excited about is we picked up an extra 42,000 square feet of grass on the greens," said Patrick Dill, director of golf for Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate. "There's a dramatically noticeable difference in the size of the greens. Most of the greens picked up two to three additional pin placements, and some greens as much as six."

Greens more consistent now

Dill said one reason they picked Champion Bermuda was that they could keep the green speeds consistent throughout the year. The breaks are subtle on the greens, he said, but they're hardly easy.

"There are a lot of pin positions that will look easy, but will be really tough just because of how the green falls off and slopes around," he said.

Greg Norman Golf Course Design was very hands-on throughout the project, which was done in a short amount of time. Sprigging on the course was done by July 4.

"We went 35 bushels per thousand square feet, which is a lot of sprigs," Dill said. "The intent was to get it to fill in fast, so we could open by October."

Crews also battled the weather, especially in the last few weeks. From mid-September to Oct. 1, the course received 15 inches of rain, and that was before the brush by Hurricane Matthew. In the end, though, or the beginning of the new era, the course was in remarkable shape considering how fast the work was done.

National Course at ChampionsGate is next

Work on the other 18-hole course at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, the National Course, is set to begin late next spring and will include much of the same work.

The course work comes in conjunction with significant renovations at the overall resort scheduled for spring 2017. That's when the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate will break ground on a $40 million expansion project that includes: 23,000 square feet of additional pool deck and recreational space; installation of Orlando's only resort wave pool; a new property villa building and a redesign of Trevi's Restaurant that will include an outdoor garden terrace and bar. The expansion will also include the addition of 100,000 square feet of event lawn and conference center space.

"We have poured a lot of energy and planning into the transformation of Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate and are proud to reveal expansion plans," said Robert Stanfield, general manager of Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate. "We are excited to begin this significant renovation project and further extend an unparalleled level of quality to our guests."

The resort is also home to the world headquarters of the Leadbetter Golf Academy, where guests of the resort or courses can improve their game by taking lessons from the staff of renown instructor David Leadbetter. His students include the LPGA's top-ranked player, Lydia Ko, as well as Michelle Wie, Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Ian Poulter, just to name a few.

Mike Bailey is a 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. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was 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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International golf course at Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate gets significant refresher