Located near a handful of glittery lakes, Sanctuary Ridge Golf Club provides a sporting oasis of natural splendor for budding or fully bloomed course crusaders. Duos of friends or resigned enemies can toss golf-ball tenderizers into the back of the rental cart and cruise all 7,005 yards of the 18-hole course, which boasts five tees of varying distances to challenge players of all ilk. Considerable elevation changes throughout the par 71 golf garden keeps guests on their tippy toes, and no fairway runs up against a parallel fairway, except in the parallel universe, which is full of parallel fairways and people that understand the New Yorker comic strips. As golfers traverse the pastoral playgrounds, they will also come up against sinister sand traps and roughs, as well as Blacks Lake, which feasts on a strict golf-ball diet.
If one were flying over the driving range at Orange County National Golf Center, they might think it's a crop circle. Rather than a conventional line of hitting bays, the range's driving stalls form a complete circle around a massive target zone. The practice facility serves as the training ground for Transition Golf Academy, and while it may turn a full 360 degrees, the academy's instructors are committed to honing a golf swing that produces arrow-straight shots.
Transition Golf Academy teaches the BPT golf swing, a simple, repeatable motion that is reliable on the course or while crushing drives at battalions of invading golf carts. Instructors help clubbers perfect their swing and gain distance and accuracy by also incorporating video analysis to provide clear, visual feedback. Golfers of all abilities can see improvement with the help of these instructors.
Since 1986, Windermere has welcomed sultans of swing to relax and hone their skills with friends and family in a sophisticated, yet relaxed country-club atmosphere. The course recently finished a complete cosmetic makeover, renovating the greens, bunkers, driving range, and clubhouse with fresh bermuda-grass seed. Originally designed by Ward Northrup, the 18-hole, par 72 championship course caters to handicaps of all levels with 6,558 yards of meticulously manicured fairways, making it one of the newest and most handsome semiprivate clubs in the area. Thirteen holes border lakes, and 63 strategically placed bunkers challenge experienced golfers and give amateurs multiple chances to supplement their income with hidden sand dollars.
When picking the location for the championship course at Zellwood Station Golf Club, architect George Maddox discovered hilly terrain not often seen at Floridian links. He made the most of this undulating ground as he designed four doglegs that loop around a dry lake, nicknamed Crater Junction, and also devised a treacherous ninth hole. Known as the Train Wreck, this obstacle is infamous for its long fairway and sharp dogleg left. Today, head golf professional Christopher C. Tyler presides over the course’s bermuda-grass fairways and its expansive greens, which putt fast and true. Before facing down the landscape, golfers can figure out which of their balls are afraid of heights by sending them flying from one of a dozen hitting stations at the driving range.
Despite its impressive course and welcoming clubhouse, Zellwood Station Golf Club isn’t resting on its laurels; the club has plans to debut four new holes, a 10,000-square-foot practice chipping-and-putting facility, and a new driving range before the end of 2012.
Volcano Island Miniature Golf’s 18 holes wind through an immersive landscape of volcanic crags and life-size dinosaur statues. A towering brachiosaurus welcomes visitors to the complex, its neck extending far above a canopy of palm trees that casts shadows on the course’s emerald corridors, tropical tiki huts, and camped-out dinosaur-rights activists. As golfers putt through the jungle, course-side plaques aim prehistoric factoids into their brains to fill holes in dinosaur trivia. A dazzling eruption spews from a volcano to celebrate holes in one on the final green, sending golfers and stranded hot air balloons on their way home.
Sweetwater Golf & Country Club's 18-hole Highlands Course weaves over 6,771 yards of fairways and greens stitched by mature oaks. The player-friendly, par 72 course puts clubbers face to face with the Loch Ness Monster—which is the name bestowed upon the course's signature hole, a 625-yard par five that double-doglegs around a lake. Golfers can prepare for their round with a stint at the club's driving range, where practice balls await to be launched in the stratosphere while commenting on the tense relationship between golf balls and sheets of glass. The club fosters more competitive fun at its tennis complex, which boasts eight lighted, outdoor Har-Tru—green clay—tennis courts.
After a day spent reading putts or thrashing forehands, guests can unwind at one of the club's three dining facilities. The relaxed vibes of the Fife & Drum Pub and the Carnoustie Café welcome casually-clad guests fresh off the course, and the more formal, chandelier-lit confines of the Highlands Dining Room provides an apropos backdrop for dinner parties or a romantic setting for date night for golfers and their caddy.
Faldo Golf Institute’s 27-hole, resort-style golf complex, practice green, and driving range serve as a haven for duffers and a training ground dedicated to the teaching principles of six-time major champion Sir Nick Faldo. Designed by Faldo and golf architect Steve Smyers, the institute’s 18-hole Grande Pines course invites golf balls to wrap around groves of natural timbers, settle into pillowy bunkers, and practice splash-free dives into water hazards across a challenging, 7,012-yard layout. The adjacent nine-hole course was designed to foster the development of novice golfers, although the water-kissed, 2,300-yard layout still packs enough challenges to keep aces interested. A staff of Faldo-certified instructors roams the stately grounds, imparting advice in lessons while helping each unique swing find its titanium soulmate with Trackman club-fitting technology. Partnered with Marriott’s Grande Vista Resort, the Faldo Golf Institute offers overnight stay-and-play packages for dedicated duffers or those hoping for a romantic getaway with their 9-iron.