September weather in Florida can be unpredictable, but every local wants to believe that fall has arrived and so this is when we traditionally "get away". Last week we got a glimpse of what friends north of here get months of - some great cool weather and Atlantic breezes that made this trip west of Orlando feel much more like somewhere mid-Carolina. And Orange County National offers up some of the best golf values we've ever found.
With 36 holes of Championship golf on Panther Lake and Crooked Cat, 9 tricky practice holes on The Tooth, and a 42 acre driving range with an 18 hole putting and chipping area, this facility is all golf. Overnight accommodations included buckets and buckets of Titleist #1 practice balls, access to all practice areas, unlimited use of The Tooth, use of the locker room,and great golf prices on some truly spectacular courses.
Just about the most relaxed I've ever felt was here after 18 on the newly-greened Crook Cat, a huge burger and fries for $5.00, 9 more holes on The Tooth and then 2 hours of putting. We gratefully settled into white rockers at the edge of the lawn and felt the sun setting on our backs while we watched 2 young golfers practice their putting. They had obviously put in a lot of time. With sheepish glances at each other, up we came out of the rockers for another hour of putting practice. Which was a good thing. We would need it on Panther Lake the next morning.
Home to Professional Golfers Career College, many past Q Schools and the next Q School Finals in 2013, you are going get your fill of golfing here. Both 18's have new Champion Grass greens this year - an Ultra Dwarf Bermuda that reports say feels like Northern Bent. They were beautiful. And fast. Panther Lake is a lush cloverleaf tour around a center bowl of small lakes with landscape that has matured nicely since its' beginnings in the 90's.
The back 9 of Crooked Cat was also built in those days and winds around the outside of it through live oaks and wilder lands. It was matched well with a newer front 9 that follows this return to naturalized landscaping. But this is only the appearance of wildness. We watched mower after mower work their way across the fairways of this very difficult course and really appreciated the attention to detail that the legions of crews give to this great collection of holes. Clever use of natural hazards, landing zones and doglegs made this round a test for planned shots. But traps were impeccable, greens were perfect, fairways were mowed to a fair height that allowed a good bite on the ball, and as much attention was paid to the rough as to every other corner of playable ground, which is a good thing for The Garden Variety Golfer.
Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge