Grande Pines Golf Club a welcome stop off Orlando s International Drive

    By John Schwarb

    There’s nothing quite like International Drive in Orlando. With the countless restaurants, hotels, gift shops and mini-golf palaces, it’s basically the Vegas Strip for the family vacation crowd.

    I have traversed I-Drive for years and it’s still a little much for me, whether I’m alone or with fellow Schwarbs. If I have to be there, it’s a huge plus to find an oasis just off of it.

    Grande Pines Golf Club
    is one of those spots.

    Located off I-Drive just south of Sea World, the Marriott Golf property is very much in the heart of the hardcore vacation area, yet doesn’t feel like it when you’re standing on the tee picking a target.

    Designed by Steve Smyers and Nick Faldo, Grande Pines is an agreeable resort course from the 6,070-yard gold tees and a solid test from the 7,012-yard tips—perfect for families or groups of varying abilities.

    Marriott Golf—which also manages Orlando's Hawk’s Landing and MetroWest and Kissimmee’s Falcon’s Fire, among other Florida properties—offers smart pricing options for visitors including three- and seven-day memberships. Kids play free after 3 p.m. any day of the year with a paid adult.

    Three cool holes

    • No. 6, 429-yard par 4: Stay right the whole way to the green protected by water on the left. Don’t give patrons on the patio across the lake a reason to laugh at any water balls.
    • No. 10, 385-yard par 4: Don’t need a long tee shot but the second shot must be Faldo-like precise to an elevated green guarded by bunkers.
    • No. 17, 186-yard par 3: Sea World’s Sky Tower rises from the trees behind the green; don’t go right of the far-right hole location if it’s there. Trust me.