My third Florida round was with a college friend at ChampionsGate Country Club. ChampionsGate CC is a newer course in the Orlando area and my friend suggested that I check it out. He had played here before and enjoyed it, so it didn’t take any convincing for me to check out a new course!
We had a 12:30pm tee time and the first thing you’ll notice about the area is just how new it is! Every time I drive on US 27, it seems that the Orlando area keeps creeping west! Technically, the course is in ChampionsGate, FL which is between US 27 and the 429 toll road. There are new apartments, homes are being built, and the course’s clubhouse is just a trailer for now. The clubhouse didn’t look far from being completed though. From what I heard, the course would like to go private if they can get enough members. So check it out while you can if you are a course nut like me!
In my previous post I mentioned designer Lloyd Clifton, and his firm turned out to be the theme to my trip! Lloyd Clifton (who passed away in 2013), his son George Clifton, and Ken Ezell teamed together to form CEC Golf Design Group. They have done a lot of work in the Orlando area and I ended up playing three of their courses, plus a couple executive courses in The Villages, on this trip. I read a good article about them, and they seem to have a good grasp on a course’s playability for the average golfer! In the interview, Ezell said that their greens are larger than average and have more undulation than most courses. He said their bunkers are fair and typically the farther the ball goes offline, the greater the shot difficultly. I’m paraphrasing, but if you are interested in the full article it can be found here.
I mentioned that my friend liked the course and we were paired with a local husband and wife who enjoyed the course too. I think that says a lot about the type of courses that CEC tries to create. I’m not saying that I like everything about their designs, but they seem to put together courses that double digit handicaps can enjoy! You don’t have to hit great shots and can recover all day long. Heck, I hit three fairways and somehow managed to shoot a 75 as my irons and putter were working. The way I drove it, I deserved to shoot 85!
We played the back tees which are 71.5/129/6404, although if you really want to air it out then you can head back to the pro tees which are over 7,000 yards. No matter where you play, you will find a resort style course with large fairways, large bunkers, and water features. There is a lot of domestic landscaping (muhly grass I think) to pretty things up. The biggest challenges are going to be avoiding the large, man-made water hazards and all the bunkers. Picking the proper lines off the tee can be tricky, but likely the worst that will happen is hitting it through the fairway and into the rough. You can hit it all over the neighborhood here, which means you can relax and enjoy your day of golf without having to drop one ball after another!
The front nine at ChampionsGate CC is the better nine as it is more secluded. The front nine is in a natural area on one side of the clubhouse while the back nine is on the other side of the clubhouse, woven between the new homes. I’m not sure if there are plans to build homes around the front nine or not, but if so it would take away from the overall setting. When it comes to individual holes, there isn’t anything to memorable. The 3rd is probably the most interesting hole on the front. It is a 413 yard par 4 that plays ever so slightly uphill. It was into the breeze when we played, and took two big shots to get there. As you’ll see from my pictures it has a nice look to it!
The back nine is overshadowed by homes all around, but I was still able to appreciate the 12th and 15th holes. The 12th is a 407 yard par 4 that plays uphill to a fairway that is framed by oak trees and bunkers. The 15th is a 310 yard par 4 with some options. You can layup and then play over the water on the approach or blast a driver out to the right for a better angle and pitch into the green. This isn’t a course you will want to walk as there are some rides between greens and tee boxes!
The conditions at ChampionsGate CC were great! The fairways were perfect and the greens were as smooth and as quick as can be. The rough wasn’t a penalty and the sand was fluffy and a nice white color, since the course is so new. We paid $60, but if the course was closer to Orlando I think they could get away with a $100 to $125 green fee this time of year. The only thing odd is that the construction of multiple water hazards is still taking place. That gave a bit of an uncompleted feel at the time we visited.
If your group is headed to the west side of Orlando on a golf trip then mixing in ChampionsGate CC wouldn’t be a bad idea. The design can border on uninspiring, but it would be a good course to get loose when escaping winter! There are plenty of other courses nearby, including Greg Norman’s ChampionsGate Golf Resort right next door. This course would pair nicely with those, Highlands Reserve, Orange County National, or be a good stop on the way to Southern Dunes in Haines City. If you do play here, you might want to bring a range finder as my Garmin GPS didn’t have the course on the database. I’ve never had that happen before!
#1 (383 yard par 4):
#2 (172 yard par 3):
#3 (413 yard par 4):
#4 (512 yard par 5):
#5 (345 yard par 4):
#6 (167 yard par 3):
#7 (394 yard par 4):
#8 (369 yard par 4):
#9 (500 yard par 5):
#10 (497 yard par 5):
#11 (143 yard par 3):
#12 (407 yard par 4):
#13 (390 yard par 4):
#14 (181 yard par 3):
#15 (310 yard par 4):
#16 (366 yard par 4):
#17 (352 yard par 4):
#18 (503 yard par 5):