Course Source: Celebration Golf Club, Hawks Landing Golf Club

Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Celebration Golf Club in Celebration, Fla.
THE LAYOUT: Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. carved this magnificent 6,792-yard layout, which opened in 1996, out of the wild, natural habitat of Central Florida.
The course plays to a rating of 73.0 and a slope of 135 from the tips, but there are six sets of tees, including a learner's loop. There also is a three-hole, par-3 junior course, which youngsters can play for $1.
Much of the course plays on open land in links-style, but other parts are through typical lush Florida landscape, with lakes on several holes.
Robert Gamez, who has won three times during his PGA Tour career, owns a home across the street from the 18th tee and holds a charity tournament at the course every year.
John Daly holds the course record of 9-under-par 63.
In 2011, Celebration underwent a three-month renovation of its greens, which were replanted with Champion turf grass, giving the course some of the best putting surfaces in Central Florida.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Walt Disney once dreamed of building the town of the future and Celebration is it, although the Disney Corporation sold this quaint village 10 minutes from Disney World in 2004.
The golf course, which has been rated the 12th best in Florida by one publication, is the centerpiece of the town.
The front nine is mostly wide open, with a links feel, especially the par-5, 533-yard sixth hole. It plays alongside a lake that runs down the left side of the hole to a green that slopes dramatically from back to front. When the pin is up front, only the top of the flagstick can be seen over a large bunker that guards the green.
Part of the back nine plays through a heavily-wooded wetlands area. The best stretch of the course comes at Nos. 12 through 17, a secluded area where you just might see alligators, boar, wild turkey, deer, raccoon and armadillo.
Best hole of that stretch is No. 16, a scenic 211-yard par-3 that plays over a lake, and the course winds up with another challenging par-5, which plays to 566 yards, usually into the wind.
Celebration Golf Club has been the site of the 1999 USGA Senior Amateur Qualifier, the 1999 LPGA Section Championship, the 1999-2001 Oldsmobile Scramble National Finals, the 2000 Central Florida Amateur Championship, a 2002 U.S. Senior Open Qualifier and the 2003 Florida State Public Links Championship.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: The four Disney Resort Courses -- the Magnolia, the Palm, Lake Buena Vista and Osprey Ridge -- are 15 minutes away.
Also nearby are Falcon's Fire Golf Club in Kissimmee, Southern Dunes Golf and Country Club in Haines City, Mystic Dunes Golf Club in Kissimmee, the New Course at Grand Cypress Resort, the Legacy Club at Alaqua Lakes in Longwood, Hawks Landing Golf Club, Royal St. Cloud Golf Club, three courses at Reunion Resort and Club, Bay Hill Resort and Club, and ChampionsGate Golf Resort.
WHERE TO STAY: The Celebration Hotel has the charm and style of a Florida resort hotel of the 1920s.
The Disney resorts -- the Grand Floridian, the Contemporary, the Polynesian, the Wilderness Lodge, the Dolphin, the Swan, the Beach Club and all the rest -- and numerous hotels in the Lake Buena Vista area are only a short drive away.
The Orlando World Center Marriott, site of Hawks Landing Golf Club, is the largest hotel in the world-wide chain.
On the web:

THE LAST RESORT: Hawks Landing Golf Club in Orlando, Fla.
THE LAYOUT: The Hawks Landing course, which wraps around the Orlando World Center Marriott, opened in 1985 and was designed by Joe Lee, who also created the Magnolia, Palm and Lake Buena Vista courses at Disney World.
However, Hawks Landing was reworked in 2001 by Robert Cupp II and is much different than the original course. Four sets of tees, modern architectural techniques and water on 15 of the 18 holes provide a fun and challenging round for players of all abilities.
The 6,602-yard course is relatively flat and plays to a par of 71, with a USGA rating of 72.6 and a slope of 131. The greens are slick and the breaks subtle.
This is one of those immaculate resort courses that make you wonder why every layout cannot be groomed like this, with aquatic vegetation, native grasses and Chinese tallow, palms, oak, pine adding to the landscape.
Hawks Landing is home to the renowned Bill Madonna Golf Academy, and you can book a lesson with Madonna, one of the most respected instructors in the nation.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: There seemingly is water everywhere at Hawks Landing, but not to worry, because there are no exceptionally long forced carries off the tee and all the hazards are considered to be lateral, so simply take a drop and add only one stroke.
After three straight-forward holes to start, welcome to Hawks Landing on No. 4, a 535-yard par 5 where two large water features come into play all the way to the small green -- where birdies are available if you get there in regulation because you won't have a long putt.
Nothing fancy about No. 7, a par 3, except that it plays 229 yards into the prevailing breeze. Don't be fooled by the three bunkers to the left because they are 35 yards short of the green, but you can't see that from the tee.
The ninth hole, a 407-yard par 4, is another one where water stares the golfer into face on every shot, although the pond in front of the tee should not come into play. But be careful on the long approach shot because there is water left and behind the green.
No. 12 is 412 yards from the back, but considerably shorter from the other tees, to a tight driving area guarded by another pond and a waste bunker on the left, and out of bounds on the right. But a precise tee shot down the left side and an accurate approach can lead to a rewarding birdie.
Hawks Landing saves the best for last, a 565-yard monster that rates No. 1 on the card. After a tee shot over a large body of water, the second shot must be squeezed between bunkers on the left and a lake that begins at 125 yards out and protects the full width of a wide, shallow and undulating green.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: Disney offers golfers five courses, including the Magnolia and Palm, where the PGA Tour's Children's Miracle Network Classic is played in November.
Also at Disney are the Lake Buena Vista, Osprey Ridge and Oak Trail courses, the latter a nine-hole walking course.
Celebration Golf Course is not on Disney Resort property, but is a nearby cousin designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. in the town of the same name built by the Disney Corporation.
Also in the neighborhood are Royal St. Cloud Golf Links, Kissimmee Bay Country Club, Mystic Dunes Golf Club and Falcon's Fire Golf Club in Kissimmee, the Crooked Cat and Panther Lake courses at Orange County National Golf Center, and 45 holes at the Grand Cypress Resort, all in Orlando.
Not far are ChampionsGate Golf Club, designed by Greg Norman, just west of Orlando, and Reunion Golf Club, with courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson -- another new development west of Orlando on Interstate 4.
WHERE TO STAY: The Orlando World Center Marriott, built on 220 lush acres of tropical landscape, is only a mile and a half from Disney World and near Orlando's other tourist attractions, including Universal Studios, Sea World and Discovery Cove.
In addition to its 2,000 hotel rooms and suites, the largest Marriott in the world offers its guests fine dining, a full-service spa and fitness center, and a convention center.
Guests at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Contemporary Resort, Wilderness Lodge, Polynesian Resort, Caribbean Resort, Beach Club Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boardwalk Inn and Yacht Club Resort receive vouchers for free cab rides to and from the Disney courses.
Also nearby are the Celebration Hotel, the Wyndam Orlando Resort, the Renaissance Orlando Resort, the Omni Orlando Resort and Spa, the Grand Cypress Resort, the Grande Lakes Orlando and at Universal, the Portofino Bay Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel and the Royal Pacific Resort.

What to Read Next