Panther Lake at Orange County National: Florida’s top public course should be top of your list of courses to play


With such high accolades as the #2 public course in the US and the #1 public course in Florida, Panther Lake at the Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge is one of those golf courses that should be high on your list of “courses to play before I die.” In the words of the Zagat guide, it’s a “true golfer’s paradise”.

Located in Winter Garden, near Orlando, this golf resort has two 18 hole championship courses – Panther Lake and Crooked Cat, and the short nine hole – Tooth Course. It boasts the largest practice facility in the world and a first-class lodge which is a short walk from the first tee(s).

Panther Lake is arguably the best course in Florida. Designed by the team of Phil Ritson/Dave Harman/Isao Aoki and open since 1997, it offers one of the world’s most memorable golfing experiences. The host course for the PGA Tour’s Q-school finals in 2003, 2005, 2007 (next in 2010) and a member of Golf Digest’s “best courses you can play” every year since 1999, it combines championship golf with first class amenities.

This links-style course measures 7350 yds and its gently rolling fairways meander through natural oak hammocks, citrus groves, pine trees and freshwater lakes. Each hole is distinctly unique, offering a fresh panorama and interesting challenge. With no homes or developments on the course itself, it makes for a relaxing, yet stimulating round of golf. The subtly contoured greens are large and fast and a two putt is far from being a formality. The many tee boxes and elevation changes, will make this enjoyable test of golf for all levels of player. The course is perfectly maintained and playable all year round.

In addition to championship courses, Orange Country National is home to the world’s largest practice area, comprising of a 42 acre driving range and a 22,000ft putting and short game area, which are lit up at night for practice after dark.

The lodge has 46 spacious rooms and two hospitality suites, which will provide you will all the necessary comfort and luxury to have you feeling completely refreshed when you step onto the first tee.

In the Orlando area there are endless possibilites for dining and entertainment. A popular and excellent restaurant within 2 miles of the resort is “Victoria and Alberts” a contemporay American restaurant with dishes such as Hudson Valley foie gras with fuji apples to chorizo-crusted shrimp with white beans and olives. Another excellent restaurant, this time offering a more festive atmosphere, is the Cuban themed Cube Libre Bar and Restaurant which offers the taste and feel of 1950s Havana.

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Whether this is a golf trip or a family vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort or Sea World, the Orange County National Golf Resort lives up to all its awards and is a must-play for any golfer.

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David MacKenzie

is a golf coach and golf publisher and lives in Washington DC. He is the founder of Golf State of Mind a teaching program designed to help golfers eliminate negative mental interference and play with confidence.

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