The Guru travels around the world to play golf, but, ironically, I really don’t have to venture beyond my hometown, Orlando, to tee up at phenomenal resorts. O-Town has an amazing inventory of resorts with courses designed by a Who’s Who list of architects like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, Tom Fazio and Tom Watson. Just a few miles from my house is one of my favorites, Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate. I absolutely love the resort plan with all of the golf elements situated directly behind the hotel. Everything from the two championship golf courses, the world headquarters of the David Leadbetter Golf Academy and par 3 chip and putt course are just a few steps from the hotel back door. Oh yeah, if you’ve got kids in tow, they’ve even got a highly entertaining miniature golf course. Better still, it’s a great time to visit because the resort just completed a multi-year, extensive $40 million enhancement and expansion project. GOLF You can almost feel Greg Norman’s presence on the Championsgate fairways. Norman, aka The Great White Shark, designed both of the resort’s 18-hole championship layouts. Both courses have undergone recent refurbishments and enhancements.
–International Course-If you’ve never been to Australia to play golf, this layout will give you a good idea of what a “down under” coastal links course looks and plays like. Ranked in most “Top 10” rankings of courses in Florida, this rustic design features firm, fast fairways, wind-swept dunes and sprawling greens. Opened in 2000, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable, albeit very challenging at times, links-style golf experience. If you’ve got serious game, try the Black tees at 7,363 yards and a 143 slope. Most golfers play the blues at 6,792 yards (137 slope) or Whites at 6,239 yards (132 slope).
–National Course-It’s a traditional, parklike course carved from 200 acres of citrus groves, wetlands and natural Florida forest. There are 80 sculpted bunkers and a variety of engaging holes with interesting doglegs and water coming into play on several holes. The greens are fairly small so shotmaking and distance control are important if you want to score well. The Black tees play 7,128 yards. For higher handicappers, the blues at 6,427 yards and whites at 5,937 yards are the best choices.
—David Leadbetter Academy–If you need instruction, help is not far away at Championsgate. The world headquarters of the David Leadbetter Academy is at the opposite end of the resort’s expansive practice range. Amenities at the complex include spacious classrooms, student relaxation areas, video and computer analysis area, short game practice area, 65,000 square-foot lesson tee and more. ACCOMMODATIONS Overview: There are 862 guestrooms and suites as well as two-and-three bedroom villas and a new lodge.
–The standard guestrooms are superbly designed with an executive desk, leather chair, triple sheeting on beds, foam and feather pillows, mini-refrigerator and plush robes to name some of the amenities. The design scheme is soft, muted beige, brown and yellow colors. –Some of the amenities at the villas include 24-hour room service, open kitchen, dining and living room floor plans, built-in wet bar in the dining rooms area, queen-size sleeper sofa bed in each living room, 42 inch plasma television or 35 inch LCD television with DVD play in living room, washer/dryer stackable units and daily housekeeping. –Recently opened is the new Sunset Lodge and Suites, a 3-story building with 93 units, including 23 four-bedroom unites and 50 studio suites with double Queen beds and kitchenettes.
MAJOR RESORT AMENITIES –European-style spa –Kids pool, slides and private cabanas –Quiet pool with private cabanas –Family pool –850-foot Lazy River –Wave pool and private cabanas –Lighted 9-hole par 3 course and miniature golf –Complimentary scheduled shuttle transportation to Walt Disney World theme parks –Guided bass fishing excursions and seminars –Eco-adventure excursions 10 Little Things I Liked 1. The amazing French Toast coated with crumbled corn flakes and coconut I had for breakfast at Trevi’s. 2. The mini-fridge in my guest room, which was perfect for chilling white wine and water. 3. The free valet parking at the golf clubhouse and the convenient self-parking at the hotel. 4. The scrumptious club sandwich I had after my round at Piper’s Grille at the golf clubhouse. 5. The fun-to-play (and oh so convenient) Champions Lighted Golf 9-hole, par 3 course right behind the hotel. 6. The Lazy River and Wave Pool. The Guru never, I mean never, misses a chance to float down a Lazy River with a cool libation in hand. 7. The phenomenal Orange Sesame Beef with Steamed Broccoli I had at the on-site restaurant Zen. 8. My meeting with golf director Patrick Dill, who directs a staff that makes every golfer guest feel welcome. 9. The multiple, rapid elevators in the hotel that allow you quick access to the lobby and pool area. 10. The scenic walking, jogging path that weaves through the resort grounds. DINING/LOUNGES Zen Restaurant–An upscale Chinese setting with a sushi and sake bar. David’s Club–A high-end sports bar ambiance with everything from nachos and burgers to steaks. For your sports viewing pleasure, there is video wall and 90″ flat screen TV. Trevi’s Restaurant–Available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Italian fare dominates the menu in the evenings. Croc’s Pool Bar & Grille–Lots of burgers, salads and cocktails you can enjoy while in your bathing suit. Piper’s Bar and Grille at Championsgate Clubhouse–Really delicious pub style food. Better than most clubhouse grills. THINGS TO DO NEARBY —Walt Disney World Theme Parks–Located less than a 15 minute drive from the resort. —Warbird Adventures–Kissimmee-based company featuring flying in vintage military aircraft. —Boggy Creek Air Boat Rides —Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park LOCATION Situated 25 minutes from Orlando International Airport 3 miles past the Walt Disney World exits on Interstate 4. Take exit 58 off I-4 and bear right. Address; 1500 Masters Boulevard, Championsgate, Florida 33896