Lake Nona Golf & Country Club: For Many Top Players, This Is Home

    By John Schwarb

    Lake Nona made a deep impression on an Alabama-Birmingham college golfer some 13 years ago. He would drive the eight hours from Alabama in his Nissan Altima just to practice at the Lake Nona golf course, while sleeping on the couches of friends who worked in the cart barn.

    “I remember when I was 20, 21 years old and just kind of looking around, going ‘Someday, this is where I want to be. This is phenomenal,’” he said of the Lake Nona Golf & Country Club.

    And that’s how Graeme McDowell, 2010 U.S. Open champion, came to make his home at the outstanding Orlando neighborhood and golf club.

    Many professional golfers, and international players in particular, have also called Lake Nona Golf & Country Club home. Nick Faldo, Nick Price, Retief Goosen, Annika Sorenstam, Ernie Els and Ian Poulter are among the members past and present of the 28-year-old club.

    I was fortunate enough to play the Lake Nona golf course recently with McDowell in a small outing for one of his sponsors, the fine shoemaker Ecco Golf, and got to enjoy the private Tom Fazio layout under ideal conditions. It’s fantastic. 

    “Great golf course, user-friendly, great mix of tee boxes,” McDowell said. “For myself, if I want kind of an eagle-booster, I play the blues (6,722 yards) and make some birdies. The blacks (7,215) are pretty long.”

    The annual Tavistock Cup comes through Lake Nona every few years and Lake Nona shines as well on TV as in person. If you can find a connection to play the course, you'll love it.

    Three Lake Nona Golf Course Holes

    1. No. 5, 359-yard par 4: Great short par 4 that doglegs around a lake; big hitters can take an aggressive line but playing shorter to the top shelf of fairway and taking a wedge in is the more conventional birdie path.
    2. No. 15, 578-yard par 5: The stunning signature hole extends around Buck Lake and plays as a true three-shotter for most.
    3. No. 18, 440-yard par 4: A strong finish demands a pinpoint drive; go too far left and the second shot will need to be shaped around Lake Nona, which extends all the way down the left.