Orlando-bound? Think Kissimmee Instead 0

Reunion Resort Kissimmee

Kissimmee is More Affordable, Closer to Courses, Magic Kingdom

If you're thinking about a golf getaway to Orlando before winter loosens its grip, set your sights a little to the south, to Kissimmee, Fla., a happening town that boasts easy access to 22 public and private courses.

Kissimmee, population 60,000, is a 25-minute drive from Orlando International Airport and an even shorter drive to Disney World. One of the town's premier hotels, the Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista South, is just a 16-minute drive from the Magic Kingdom.

If you've been to Orlando before, you've probably stayed or played in Kissimmee, the next town south on Interstate 4. You'll likely save money by staying in Kissimmee versus the lodging offerings along International Drive by virtue of Kissimmee's 45,000 accommodation choices, which include 22,000 affordably priced vacation home rentals.

Getting to the course will be easier from Kissimmee, too. In traffic-choked Orange County, two of the region's top golf resorts – Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate and Reunion Resort & Golf Club – are far more accessible from Kissimmee than its larger neighbor to the north. In the nearby village of Celebration, you'll find Celebration Golf Club, one of only three courses in the world co-designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr..

Championsgate offers two courses designed by Greg Norman. It's also home to the world headquarters of the David Leadbetter Golf Academy.

Celebration Golf Club features the Golf Channel Golf Academy. The course also is home to Florida Elite Travel, a golf-travel booking agency operated by Florida PGA professionals knowledgeable in the area's offerings.

Reunion has three courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.

Other worthy golf offerings in or near Kissimmee include Falcon's Fire, Hunter's Creek and Mystic Dunes Golf Club.

Off the course, besides all that Disney World has to offer, there's Disney Springs, a sprawling 120-acre Disney-owned outdoor pedestrian shopping and dining mall with 103 shops, 64 restaurants and 23 entertainment venues. Disney Springs features everything from the NBA Experience, where you can shoot hoops and compare your wingspan to those of NBA stars, to tethered hot-air balloon rides by Aerophile. Among the top dining establishments is STK Steakhouse, which, as you might imagine, prides itself on its steaks.

For kids, there's the throwback experience of Gatorland, the 110-acre home to 2,000 alligators, plus crocodiles, tortoises, snakes and wild cats. Legend has it that the alligators rumored to inhabit the New York City sewer system started life as baby alligators sold in the 1950s at family-owned Gatorland for 5 cents each.

Dan Vukelich, editor of New Mexico Golf News, is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Golf Travel Writers of America. Reach him at [email protected]

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Dan Vukelich, former editor of ABQ Free Press and Sun Country Golf magazine, is editor of NewMexicoGolfNews.com. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Golf Travel Writers of America. Reach him at [email protected]

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