ChampionsGate: Orlando's Come-Together Getaway

ChampionsGate Golf ClubGolf in these times is so much about growing relationships, on so many levels other than just for business and exercise. Sure it is still a great way to conduct business and build partnerships. But it’s also about partnerships of a different kind, parents passing a love of the game to their kids, spouses enjoying the sport of a lifetime together, associates bringing people together for a common charitable cause.

Nowhere in Central Florida is this better understood, and more passionately practiced than at ChampionsGate Golf Club, just south of Orlando off I-4. With two 18-hole Greg Norman-designed Championship courses, 730 guest rooms and suites at the on-site Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate offering customized stay-and-play packages, villas springing up at the Del Webb developed BellaTrae at Champions Gate just across the street, and as the home base for David Leadbetter’s world-renowned Golf Academy, all of the elements are in place here for the golf experience of your life.

And you don’t have to take their word for it. You’ll see for yourself during the Del Webb Father/Son Challenge, nationally televised on NBC December 2nd and 3rd. Lee Trevino calls it “the greatest tournament to come down the pike in a long time” as he alternates which son he plays with each year. Names like Nicklaus, Floyd, Stadler, Singh, Irwin, O’Meara and Love have all made great memories with their sons at ChampionsGate. Orlando resident Arnold Palmer regularly competes with his grandson and Fuzzy Zoeller has added a twist by playing with his daughter. All of them rave about the conditions at ChampionsGate’s International Course, designed in the Scottish-links tradition by two-time British Open Champion Greg Norman. While sharing the same piece of real estate and a spectacular clubhouse with its own restaurant, meeting facilities and even valet parking, the two courses are as different as their names. The National rolls its way through 200 acres of southern woodlands, wetlands and orange groves, offering fairly wide open landing areas and greens that are elevated, but fairly gently sloped to allow you to play run-up shots. There aren’t many dramatic elevation changes, but subtle mounding, particularly bordering the fairways, affect the look, and the lies, on every hole. There aren’t nearly as many bunkers on the National as its sister course, but they’re much bigger and many come with treacherous 6-inch lips, complicating the approaches to the many deep, but narrow greens.

Most courses like to brag about the holes at the end of each nine, but the National shows its teeth in a pair of great three-hole runs in the middle of each side. The double-dogleg par-5 third is reachable, if you carry a fairway bunker off the tee and tuck your approach shot around a grove trees protecting the green. There’s not as much risk-reward at the long par-4 fourth, just two needle-threading shots to get to the #1-handicapped hole. Then there’s the forced-carry off the short par-4 fifth to a narrow landing area for an approach into a green that might be four-clubs deep. The back nine features a great 5-3-4 combination that can make or break your round. 13’s an enormous par-5 with a half-dozen large, amoeba-shaped bunkers just waiting for a greedy 2nd or off-center 3rd to a two-tiered green. The par-3 14th isn’t long, but the tee shot only shows you the very top of the pin across wetlands with only 10 yards of “land” between the marsh and the green. The 15th is a hazard-filled dogleg left par-4 with three large, well-mounded bunkers waiting to catch a tee shot hit to the outside of the dogleg and water and waste area if you try to bite off the corner.

The scorecard comes with recommended tees that match your handicap. Another recommendation is to use and trust the GPS in the carts, which also feature a yardage display on the back roof by your clubs to help with club selection and pace-of-play.

The back of your cart also comes with its own bunker rake. If you’re playing the International Course, you’ll soon understand why. Hundreds of pot bunkers, most of them small, but very deep, await any errant shots at the International, which plays between 200 and 350 yards longer and a couple of strokes tougher than the National. While much of the once-wild borders of the tees and roughs has been grassed in, you’ll still get the feeling of the rolling hills of Scotland or Ireland. Sharply mounded moguls frame the fairways and those devilish pot bunkers are surrounded by rough that really is, even at greenside. Again, trust your GPS or yardage book as there are very few landmarks to enhance your sightlines. As on the National, trouble comes in threes. The long par-4 sixth and seventh holes play closest to the Omni hotel, meaning you may have an audience to witness the challenge of carrying a marshy area on the 450-plus-yard #6 that plays more like a par 4-1/2. The seventh is shorter, but after hitting a straight tee shot short of a lake, you have to aim right to hit the fairway or green that plays down the right side of that lake. Wetlands on the right of the par-5 eighth force you to play left, where severely-sloped mounds and more pot bunkers await. The guy who has to mow around those bunkers and berms has the toughest job in the county. Fortunately for him (but not us), he doesn’t do it very often. A narrow green over water at the 16th, a deep run-off area but even deeper bunkers behind the narrow green at 17, and a couple dozen more pot bunkers you can see (and a few more you can’t) at the 18th, make the finish worthy of that national television coverage.

You never know which of the Orlando-based Tour pros you’ll might see learning right alongside you under the watchful eye of the swing guru himself (under the signature straw hat) or one of his disciples at David Leadbetter’s Golf Academy, where private lessons, group sessions or corporate programs can be customized for your needs.

The Academy is just steps away from the ChampionsGate Clubhouse, and the Omni Orlando Resort’s spectacular 10,000 square-foot, full-service European-style spa, five enticing restaurants and 15-acre “playground” featuring two headed outdoor pools and an 850-foot lazy river. If you haven’t had enough golf, this AAA Four-Diamond Resort that’s on every golf travel magazine’s “Best” list has a lighted, 9-hole, par-3 course for nighttime golf adventures.

With 36 holes available daily, ChampionsGate can host all of its regular visitors, and hundreds of business and charity outings annually. Full-time event planners and golf professionals can customize a gathering for a foursome, or 144 or more, making every event different, and special.

For more information on the great stay-and-play packages through the Omni Orlando Resort, business or charitable outings, or just that special twosome with your spouse or child, visit www.championsgategolf.com or call 407-787-4653 or toll free 888-558-9301. ChampionsGate Golf Club, bringing golfers together and forging relationships that will last a lifetime.

 

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