First-Class, Links-Style Golf at ChampionsGate International Course

ChampionsGate, International Course: 14th hole

The 14th is a par 3. Straight away and long. Anything left of green could roll to wetlands.

I first played at ChampionsGate Golf Club a little over ten years ago when they first opened. At that time, there was just a small Pro Shop housed in a trailer next to the driving range. A lot has changed since then. The trailer has been replaced by a large, luxurious club house; a well-outfitted Pro Shop; and a better-than-average sports lounge.  They even have an Omni Resort on the property for stay-and-play.  What’s more important is what hasn’t changed, and that is the quality and condition of the courses.

ChampionsGate has two 18 hole golf courses. On this visit, we played The International course designed by Greg Norman. This is a rare-for-Florida, links-style course with many challenges, from the deep bunkers and dunes, to the wetlands and large traps scattered throughout the course.  The International  has four sets of tees ranging from over 7300 yards to just over 5600. The course can play really long depending on your tee selection so I recommend you pick the tees that best fit your game to make it more enjoyable for you and your playing partners. 

With several open fairways and sand your only trouble, it’s easy to see where you don’t want to go and shape your game from there.  Definitely avoid the sand if you can.  There are well over 150 bunkers and traps that can come into play during your round including some nasty pot bunkers.  You might want to avoid the rough as well as you can find yourself surrounded by tall grasses.  Although hard and fast greens and fairways are a feature of links-style golf, they were more forgiving during our round, probably due to recent rains.

I was looking forward to playing ChampionsGate again, especially with the added incentive of a special rate of $49 plus tax (this is due to go up at the end of September).  I was not disappointed.  Ten years ago the course was in great shape and it still is. From the tees to the greens, everything was in first-class condition.  We booked our tee time at 9:40 on a Saturday and got around in under four hours which wasn’t bad and we didn’t have to wait on anyone.

The staff are friendly and facilities are great.  The carts are equipped with a pretty fancy GPS system.  It will show you where you are on the course, provide a video flyover of the hole, and call over the beverage cart when you’re thirsty.  There is also water, ice and wet towels to beat the heat.  To practice before your round, they have a large putting green behind the clubhouse and a driving range and chipping area by the parking lot.

ChampionsGate Golf Club is located just off I-4 at exit 58.  Just on the outskirts of Orlando, the Club is about an hour from downtown Tampa. If  you don’t mind a little extra drive I suggest you make the trip. For more details check www.championsgategolf.com

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