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April 15, 2023

There’s no such thing as Mickey Mouse golf in Orlando

By Gregg Dewalt, Alabama Golf News Editor
Orlando golf course, Dubsdread GC

Four courses that won't bust the bank

ORLANDO, Fla – Admit it. At some point in time, you and the family are headed south to Orlando and the wonderful world of the mouse.

Theme parks galore and the fun of dodging baby strollers and sidestepping young’uns await.

During the family vacation, your sanity dictates that you’ll need some alone time, and the perfect place to regain a sense of serenity amid the chaos is on the sanctuary of a golf course.

Other than strip malls, theme parks, chain restaurants and, of course, Mickey Mouse, Orlando is a mega golf destination. There are tons of options, ranging from high-dollar facilities to budget entities and everything in between.

Having been there, done that, here are four Orlando golf course options for your time away from the hustle and bustle of that family vacation.

Two of the courses – Lake Buena Vista and Palm – are on the property of Walt Disney World, while the other two – Rio Pinar and Dubsdread – are outside the Magic Kingdom. All have a little bit of history and they won’t break the bank.

From my personal experience over years of visiting Olando, here they are:

Disney’s Lake Buena Vista

Disney's Lake Buena Vista Course
Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Course, designed by Joe Lee, opened in 1972. (Photo: Arnold Palmer Golf Management)

This Joe Lee design opened in 1972 and was one of the host courses for the PGA Tour’s Walt Disney World Golf Classic between 1971-2012. It underwent renovations in 2018 and, like many Florida courses, is mostly flat with challenging Bermuda grass greens. There’s water on 11 holes but it’s really is only a nuisance on five of them.

At 6,745 yards with a slope of 133 and rating of 72.3, Lake Buena Vista isn’t going to overwhelm you unless the wind is howling. Take some time to enjoy the palmettos and the pine forests along the way.

Disney’s Palm Course

Disney's Palm Course
Like the other courses at Walt Disney World, the Palm Course is managed by Arnold Palmer Golf Management. (Photo: Gregg Dewalt)

Before you venture over to the first tee, try out the new 18-hole putting course adjacent to the clubhouse. It’s a fun, yet confounding way to warm up on the tricky greens awaiting. More than likely, you will three-putt, four-putt or even five-putt on the putting course, but just laugh it off and proceed to the opening hole.

The Palm course stretches to 6,870 yards from the blue tees, but it’s an enjoyable 6,339 from the white tee and 5,995 from the golds. It has a rating of 73.7 and a slope of 131. The Palm course underwent a complete renovation in 2013 by Arnold Palmer Golf Management. New greens complexes were built, tees were reshaped and bunkers were redesigned.

One of the best holes is No. 6, a 409-yard par four with water in play fronting the green.

In all, water comes into play on nine holes and there are 59 bunkers. Be patient when playing, though. You might have to wait for a flock of wild turkeys to play through or sidestep a sunning alligator.

Rio Pinar Golf and Country Club

Orlando golf: Rio Pinar
Rio Pinar is an old-school parkland course that once hosted the PGA Tour’s Citrus Open (Photo: Rio Pinar)

The conditions at Rio Pinar aren’t as pristine as at Disney, but this heavily wooded course winding through an older neighborhood oozes history. A classic old school Florida course that opened in 1957, Rio Pinar hosted the PGA Tour’s Citrus Open from 1966 to 1978 and the LPGA’s Lady Citrus Open from 1979 to 1982. Among the winners at Rio Pinar were Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Hale Irwin on the PGA side, while Janie Blalock and Patty Sheehan won on the LPGA side.

Designed by Mark Mahannah and Lloyd Clifton, known for their work in Florida, Rio Pinar plays 7,001 yards and has a slope of 130 and a 73.9 rating from the tips.

One of the best holes is the par 3 12th, a 134-yard par 3 over water with a severely canted green. The ninth hole, a narrow 400-yard par 4, is no bargain, either.

Dubsdread Golf Course

Dubsdread GC
Dubsdread, opened in 1924, may be short but it definitely has teeth. (Photo: Dubsdread)

Dubsdread Golf Course had been turning rounds since before Orlando was a thing. Tom Bendelow is credited with the original design in 1924 and it is considered to be the oldest public course in central Florida. Mike Dasher redesigned and renovated this historic course in 2008 and it doesn’t disappoint.

Dubsdread was home to the Orlando Golf Open from 1945 until 1947 and hosted legendary players such as Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Jimmy Demeret.

When you check in, hopefully Herman Macauley will be behind the counter. He’ll give you a quick history of Dubsdread and note that you’ll be playing on the best greens in Orlando. He’s not wrong, either. The TifEagle Bermuda greens are pristine.

Dubsdread, which is part of Florida’s Historic Golf Trail, was built on 120 acres and maxes out at 6,153 yards from the black tee markers. It plays to par 70, but it does have some teeth. Two of the best holes are No. 4, a 435-yard dogleg left par 4 with a tight driving area, and No. 5, a quaint 137-yard par 3 over water.

So, if you like a little history to your golf awhile you’re in Orlando, these four won’t disappoint and will go easy on the wallet.

Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News

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All photos courtesy of Dusbdread Golf Course

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