Golf: ‘Fore’ it

 The area is far better known for theme parks than golf courses but in what may be a surprise to many, this is a golfer’s paradise with almost 200 courses, 20 golf academies and links named after legends such as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. But you may also know that golfing popularity has been shot with bogies in recent times.

Two major reasons: the lengthy time it takes to play the game, and the high cost.

Orlando’s major big-name courses can do little about the time except their player’s demand, as they do, that you get a motorized kart. As for the price or greens fees, way up there. Expensive.

But you can play golf here for far more reasonable rates. Here is a brief guide to cheap golf (even if you don’t play the game, it might be worth knowing if relatives or friends want a game).

The very best place for cheap and fast golf is in the heart of downtown, trendy, upscale Winter Park. The WPCC or Winter Park Country Club is one of the oldest in the area. It advertises itself as a “challenge to even the most experienced golfer.” Those included names like Hogan and Snead. It might be hyperbole, however, to say it was challenging for them.

It does have “narrow, tree-lined fairways and postage stamp, bunker guarded greens,” but it’s only nine holes long. You can play it twice, however, but even then it is a quick walk. The reason is that there are few hazards and little chance of losing balls because there is hardly any water. There is a graveyard right in the middle of the layout, however, and if you hit an errant shot among the tombstones, you are allowed to place your ball outside the graveyard. Without any penalty.

Many present day golfers learned the game here because the course is very short, by golf standards, short, and easy to play. But the best part is the cost. Daily fees start at $12. To walk, of course. It’s $14 for non-residents but if you are a visitor and ask for the resident rate, you will likely get it.

For further information, contact [email protected]. or call the PGA professional there (yes, it has one) at 407-599-3339.

Serious golfers know that shirts and shoes are often required. But they are often more concerned about amenities such as the 19th hole where alcoholic beverages can be purchased.

Public golf courses (where you can play whether or not you are a member) sometimes have tricky fee structures. Golf course fees are tricky because they vary at different times of the year (much more expensive in winter here, where golf is comfortably played year-round).

Also, fees depend on whether you are willing to play twilight or later in the day as the sun goes down. But these three courses generally have fees as low as $25 (not bad when you consider that a top rate course can cost $150 and up for a single round). These courses also offer bars and restaurants.

Here are three bargain golf courses in the area.

Legends Golf & Country Club. There’s a “Slope” and a “Course” rating for this layout, but if you know what that means, you’re a serious player and better able to afford those high green fees. All you need to know is the course’s location in the hilly suburb of Clermont means it has some hills, and it has bar service. 1700 Legendary Blvd., Clermont, (386-738-6000).

—Willowbrook Golf Course. Advertises itself as a “premiere municipal facility” that is a “challenging yet forgiving layout” for golfers of all ability. If your golf is not up to par, you can admire the natural nature setting where you might encounter alligators, herons, cranes and maybe even foxes. 4200 State Road 544, Winter Haven,, (863-291-5899).
Victoria Hills Golf Club. One of many area golf courses inside a housing development which is said to “preserve the natural flow of Mother Nature with rolling hills, and historic oaks.” Also said to do something duffers don’t want: challenge and tease a golfer’s skills. Even has rental clubs, a teaching pro and chipping area, but also a nearby Mulligan’s Tavern. 300 Spalding Way, DeLand, (386-738-6999). ###