By Rebecca Strauss
In Orlando, golf is practically religion. The area has long attracted serious aficionados and casual golfers alike, who are drawn to the yearlong sunny skies and plethora of courses that dot this Central Florida resort town.
This year, golfers (and those who love them) have a new must-attend event to add to their calendar for 2019: the inaugural Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions is taking place at the Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando from Jan. 17 to 20.
The inaugural event celebrates the start of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) 2019 season, which promises yet another year of world-class competition. The LPGA Orlando event will be the first televised event of the season, airing on Golf Channel on Thursday and Friday and then moving to NBC for the weekend.
Between tournament play, spectators attending the event needn’t worry about running out of golf-related diversions in Orlando. You’ll find everything from top-notch Orlando golf resorts, to a gigantic, climate-controlled driving range, to some of the world’s best mini-golf. Here are a few picks for the best tees around town, as well as more information about the Tournament of Champions.
First Inaugural Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions
This official LPGA event will feature winners from the last two LPGA seasons, and there’s a $1.2 million purse at stake, so competition will be fierce. The pros will play 72 holes, joined on the course by 45 celebrities who are competing for a $500,000 purse of their own.
In the evenings, spectators who are also Diamond Resorts members are invited to attend a series of exclusive events and concerts hosted at Mystic Dunes Resort & Golf Club, Diamond’s flagship property in Orlando.
“We are thrilled to sponsor the prestigious Tournament of Champions and are excited for this opportunity to continue furthering our relationship with the LPGA and their fantastic field of players,” said Mike Flaskey, Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Resorts, in a recent press release. “Diamond Resorts is known for delivering incredible vacation experiences and this tournament will be like none other, with unmatched hospitality, a unique playing format and a week of exciting events and concerts.”
Don’t forget to snag advance tickets online here. Those interested in attending this year’s event can also enter a sweepstakes with a Grand Prize of tickets to next year’s tournament, too. Get more information about how to enter by visiting Diamond Resorts online.
Top-Notch Tees for Orlando Golf
Similar to en vogue bowling venues where you can combine great food and a few frames, Topgolf Orlando hit the scene just off tourist hub International Drive in October of 2017.
This driving range/arcade/restaurant/bar features 102 climate-controlled driving bays spread across three floors. Guests aim for targets (using microchipped balls) anywhere from 20 to 215 yards away and, best of all, the system keeps score for you. That frees up plenty of time to enjoy a full menu including burgers, flatbreads, sliders and salads.
If you’ll be coming to town to catch the tournament or any of the golf-related activities mentioned here, book a stay at Mystic Dunes Resort & Golf Club, the host resort for the tournament. This newly renovated Diamond Resorts property includes a refreshed par-72 course that’s been lauded by industry publications like Golf Digest magazine. Course amenities also feature a 60,000-square-foot practice facility with a driving range, chipping and putting greens and practice bunkers. Need to pick up a new outfit for the green? Check out Mystic Dunes’ extensive Pro Shop, which offers the latest in golf fashion, accessories and equipment for men and women.
The course is open to the public for tee times, and the resort is in a central location, close to anything and everything you’ll want to see and do around town.
Best Mini Golf in Orlando
When it comes to miniature golf, Orlando is a Mecca. A short distance from Mystic Dunes, Orlando offers abundant options — so many that a search for “mini golf Orlando” yields a Top 10 list on Yelp that doesn’t even cover all the city’s courses. With so many to choose from, we whittled it down to three, any of which will improve your short game and entertain at the same time.
For a dose of winter just how Floridians like it, check out Winter Summerland Mini Golf. As the story goes, Santa discovered “snow” in Florida one Christmas Eve, and decided to build a vacation spot for his hard-working elves. There are two 18-hole courses to choose from — a sand course called “Summer,” and a snow course called “Winter.” Spoiler alert: you probably won’t need a winter coat.
There’s also Hollywood Drive-In Golf, located at CityWalk Orlando. Inspired by the horror flicks of the 1950s, two courses — “The Haunting of Ghostly Greens” and “Invaders from Planet Putt” — feature 18 holes where guests putt through movie-style scenes accompanied by little green men and the like.
Finally, International Drive is home to classic Orlando mini golf entry Pirate’s Cove, where you and your mateys can make your way through two 18-hole courses surrounded by pirate-themed decor like sunken treasure ships and pirate dungeons.
Brunch and a Birdie
Historic Tap Room at Dubsdread is a favorite local hot spot for brunch. The restaurant sits on an 18-hole golf course surrounded by live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and is in the midst of the snug bungalows of the College Park neighborhood.
You can dine al fresco on the wide, wooden deck if the weather is nice, or head inside to the old-school, wood-paneled bar and restaurant, which offers brunch faves like chicken and waffles and biscuits and gravy.
Par in the Park
Some of the best golf in Orlando is off the beaten path. There are a few ways to alterna-golf in the area. Although you’re still close to the hustle and bustle, you’ll feel miles away at popular Bill Frederick Park, which sits on 183 bucolic acres next to Turkey Lake.
The park features three well-known disc golf courses — The Woods, the Turkeynator and Turkey Lake — each with 18 holes/baskets in mostly flat and lightly wooded terrain. If you’re still not ready to return to the tourist traffic, there are also boat rentals, a fishing pier and a nature trail.
Orlando is truly a golfer’s paradise. Don’t forget to snag your tickets to the Tournament of Champions as part of your golf getaway itinerary. We can’t wait to see you on the sidelines this January.
About the Contributor
Rebecca Strauss has been a travel writer and editor since 2008, focusing on scuba-diving travel content. She’s written for outlets such as Marriott, USA Today, Caribbean Travel + Life and Sport Diver magazines.