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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Golf In Mickey Mouse Land

For a family-oriented golf vaction, where else would you go but to Orlando, home of more kid-friendly attractions than anyplace on earth. You can do the whole Disney thing (and there are some fine courses in Mickey land), but a destination worth considering is one that’s sort of under the radar in Orlando—-but it shouldn’t be. It’s Championsgate, home to two world-class Greg Norman-designed courses, David Leadbetter’s Golf Academy, a magnificent Omni Resort Hotel, and just fifteen minutes away from the Magic Kingdom et al. There are multiple dining choices, too, including my favorite, David’s Club, an upscale sports bar/steakhouse.

But first things first—-golf at Championsgate. You’ll experience two completely different style courses, both of which are worth your time and attention. The International, which plays host to the Father-Son Challenge in December, carries one of the highest rating and slope of any course in Florida, a whopping 76.8/143 from the tips, which measures 7,363 yards. It’s no pushover from the blue tees, either, stretching 6,792. Norman designed a true links course, with wind-swept, treeless fairways, run-up approaches to hard, fast greens, and a plethora of pot bunkers in truly inconvenient locations.

The National is a (somewhat) kinder and gentler parkland layout. It’s a little shorter at 7,128, but much, much tighter. Spanish-moss-draped trees, thick stands of palmettos, and ball-swallowing waste areas frame nearly every hole—none of which play very straight.

Mom doesn’t have to entertain the kids while Dad plays golf at Championsgate, either. There’s the Omni Kids Club to keep them occupied while Mom joins Dad on the links or enjoys the spa. For whole-family fun, the Omni offers the 850-ft. Lazy River tube-float, a zero-entry family activity pool, lighted tennis and basketball courts, a sand volleyball court, and a really entertaining lighted nine-hole par-three golf course, with holes ranging from 55 to 85 yards. On second thought, who needs to fight the crowds at Sea World?

(888) 558-9301
Nearest airport: Orlando (30 minutes)
Golf package: $367 per night (for two persons double occupancy) includes room and breakfast, and as many rounds on both courses as you can play in one day. After dark, the lighted par-three course is included, too.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

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