Golf in Orlando Florida – Exploring Orange County National

Golf at Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge was delayed a couple of days.

I promised my readers a review and it follows! But not without a detour or two. One thing I learned very quickly about Orlando Florida is that driving here is totally mind boggling. All the streets and highways have three names, and depending on whether you rely on Google maps or Yahoo or the local AAA map in hand, or in our case, one of the locals, to give you proper directions you may or may not find your way.

I mapped the road from our hotel to Winter Garden, the home of Orange County National, and headed out in plenty of time to meet Bruce Gerlander, General Manager at 11 a.m. for a tour and possibly some practice time. Yahoo maps had me going in circles!!! Up one road that didn’t exist, down another, before I knew it I was so twisted around I had to stop and ask directions. “It’s easy,” said the guy behind the gas station counter. “Just go up two lights, take a left and then head north for about 10 miles.” Right! The second light landed me right in the middle of a Walmart parking lot! Totally frustrated I gave up, called Bruce and rescheduled. Then I went into the store and bought a Garmin GPS unit. I was determined to solve this direction problem one way or the other.

I needed the Garmin to find my way the next day. Orange County National is located in Winter Garden about 10 miles north of Orlando. This is not a resort, but a golf center and training facility for the serious golfer. If you are looking for a laid back, easy afternoon, dip in the pool after the round type of place, OCN is not for you. Accomodations are simple, clean and pretty straight forward. There is a TV, but you probably won’t be spending any time in your room. OCN is for the serious golfer and most of your time will be spent outside practicing or playing the game, or sleeping because you’ll be so tired from all the golfing!

From their brochure: “Orange County National features the world’s most comprehensive practice facility and we offer a variety of Golf Schools that offer hourly, daily and multi-day programs. All schools take advantage of our 42 acre practice range, chipping greens, our Championship courses, 9 hole short course and some of the most advanced training technology available.”

OCN was part of the PGA Tour Q-School Finals in 2003, 2005 & 2007 and received 4 1/2 stars from Golf Digets for being one of the “Best Places to Play.”

For the woman golfer who is serious about improving her game, this is a great place to visit. They can easily accomodate small groups who want to travel and play together and will develop a program to meet your specific needs.

Kayse, one of the OCN staff, took me on a tour of the center. We drove out to the practice range first. It’s enormous! A large 42 acre circle, more than 400+ yards across, golfers line up all around the circumference and hit into the middle. I asked if anyone ever hits all the way across to the other side. “Once in a while, but it’s rare. And there is the wind factor too.” It was a sunny day, but the wind across that large practice range was crispy! If you plan to play at OCN be sure to bring a light jacket.

The small 9 hole course was busy so we headed out to Crooked Cat, 7,493 yard course, which is very much a “links” course. In the early spring the ground is still brown, the thickets thick and the course gave the impression of something you would find in the Scottish highlands. It’s sister, Panther Lake, is 7,350 yards long and features more hills and water. Both courses will challenge golfers of all skill levels.

Back at the club house the woman’s locker room was large and well appointed with lotions, soaps, even mouthwash! The pro shop could have had more women’s clothing to choose from. Kayse explained that OCN is not known as a golf shop that featured the latest styles. “Golfers come to OCN to play, not to shop, so we keep our inventory small.” The restaurant is full service and they can accomodate groups of up to 30 in a private dining area. If you wanted to have a corporate event or group gathering for both golf and meetings, OCN would work for you. But again, this is NOT a resort. They don’t have a pool, or tennis court, but they have great golf training and facililties.

It’s a great place for the serious beginner as well as the accomplished player. Instruction for all levels is available. With their “Stay and Play” packages you don’t have to worry about getting up early and traveling miles to get to the course (or getting lost in the middle of nowhere as I found myself). The focus is on golf from dawn to dusk. And, if you do want to venture out for some nightlife, it’s only 10 miles away.

For more information visit the Orlando County National Golf Center website!

Have any of you ever played OCN? or taken lessons at their facility? Share your story in our comment section.

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