Go Golf Kissimmee

From challenging course designs to first-rate golf academies, the sport's most famous names such as Sörenstam, Norman, Palmer, Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and Sr., Tom Watson, Rees Jones, Johnny Miller and many more have all left their mark on Kissimmee’s beautiful landscapes.

I’m getting tips on my golf swing. This time, happily, they’re not from another well-meaning golfer friend. This time around, I’ve turned to Charlotta Sörenstam. Yes, she’s related to that Sörenstam.

Instruction at the Annika Academy

Charlotta, former LPGA Tour player and director of golf operations at the ANNIKA Academy in Reunion (near Kissimmee in the greater Orlando area of central Florida), is the younger sister of Hall of Fame Swedish golf star Annika Sörenstam, for whom the academy is named.

Her professional assessment? I’m trying to make too much happen with my arms.

“Most beginner and intermediate players try to use their arms too much instead of their bodies,” Charlotta tells me. Instruction at the Annika Academy includes a fitness angle to help players strengthen their bodies, thereby improving their swing. Three-day courses incorporate gym training with time on the golf course.

“The problems we see in the swing are often because the person doesn’t rotate their hips,” explains Kai Fusser, Annika Sörenstam’s personal trainer for more than six years and the director of fitness at the academy. “We teach exercises in the gym to help with that.”

“Annika’s passion is how to be functional, healthy and happy,” says Fusser, adding that nutrition counseling and a take-home exercise program are part of the academy’s teaching method. “Literally, you can enjoy this game forever.”

Speaking of enjoying the game of golf forever, I think I’ve come to a place with endless golf.

Top-Notch Courses

Kissimmee is well-known for its proximity to Orlando’s theme parks, but to golfers, it’s a mecca in its own right. A collection of courses designed by a who’s who of golf legends is clustered around the central Florida city.

The best part? Many of the Kissimmee-area courses are located just a few miles apart and right off Interstate 4. If you’re so inclined, you could easily binge on 36 holes of some of the country’s best golf in the same day.

Greg Norman’s contributions to Kissimmee-area golf are the two premier 18-hole championship courses at ChampionsGate Golf Club. The club is also home to a world-class golf instruction facility, the David Leadbetter Academy. For links-style play in the old British tradition, opt for the International Course. And why not stay the night? Luxury lodging is available a short cart ride away at the luxurious Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate.

Feeling a little more Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and Sr. today? Come right this way. Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Sr. teamed up to design the Celebration Golf Club’s beautiful 18-hole championship course, which ripples with challenging water hazards. The centerpiece of the residential community of Celebration, the course is renowned for its striking Florida scenery and the esteemed Golf Academy at Celebration, where video equipment and personally tailored instruction get you playing your best.

Less than 8 miles from downtown Celebration, you’ll find Mystic Dunes Golf Club, a top-tier challenge by Gary Koch with undulating greens (former orange groves) and atmospheric wetland surroundings.

And just south of Mystic Dunes is the Reunion Resort Golf Course, home to three fabulous courses open to resort guests for play. The Legacy course at Reunion, designed by Arnold Palmer, is a rolling beauty, with elevation changes of up to 50 feet in places. The Tradition course, by Jack Nicklaus, is a smoother parkland-style layout with long horizon lines and elevated greens. And Tom Watson’s course, The Independence course, brims with fast fairways and expansive greens.

The fifth jewel in the Kissimmee golf course crown is Rees Jones’ signature gem at Falcon’s Fire Golf Club, revered for its superior year-round conditioning and immaculate greens and fairways. This is classic Jones, with wide fairways and open interiors; four sets of tees make it challenging for all skill levels.

Course Roundup

Don’t miss these other fine golf clubs in the Kissimmee area:

Harmony Golf Preserve: A Johnny Miller-designed course on an Audubon-recognized wildlife preserve east of St. Cloud.

Kissimmee Bay Country Club: A par 71 course loved by locals, with century-old oak trees and occasional sandhill cranes.

Kissimmee Golf Club: Another locals’ favorite, with beautifully conditioned greens and very reasonable greens fees.

Kissimmee Oaks Golf Club: Sloping fairways wind through ancient stands of oaks and crystalline lakes at this championship 18-hole course.

Orange Lake Country Club
: Feast on four golf courses, including two Arnold Palmer designs.

Remington Golf Club: A classic 18-hole championship layout with a fun fee structure – your greens fees include unlimited golf as well an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Royal St. Cloud Golf Links: A Scottish-style links course complete with stone bridges and wood-faced bunkers.

This article is brought to you by the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors Bureau. To plan your Kissimmee golf vacation, request a 2009 Kissimmee Visitor's Guide at 800-711-KISS or find course details at www.VisitKissimmee.com.

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners


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