There’s an art to the perfect 36-hole golf resort.
Build two similar golf courses, it’s not distinctive enough. Build two over-the-top macho tracks, you’ll scare away novices and visitors not wanting to work so hard on vacation. Toss up two pushovers and, conversely, you’ll offend single-digit handicaps who want a challenge.
At ChampionsGate, the golf club at the Omni Orlando Resort, Hall of Famer Greg Norman struck that perfect balance. His International course, paying homage to the great links of Scotland and Ireland, is a handful. Bring patience, an extra sleeve and maybe your own bunker rake.
The National, on the other hand, is the more welcoming layout on the property. To be sure, it requires good shots, but a double-digit handicap fresh off a near all-nighter between theme parks and a restless infant can still make birdies and have a great time. (Yes, I speak from experience.)
I tackled the National from its 6,427-yard blue tees, which offered manageable par 3s, a fun drivable par 4 (the 255-yard 16th) and a pair of reachable par 5s on the front side. The 7,128-yard tips offer all you could want with a course rating of 75.2, stretching out all the par 3s past 200 yards and two par 5s past 620 yards.
No matter which tee you play, the greens are accessible and there’s only one hole – the par-3 14th – where you can’t run one up to the putting surface. At 14, you’ll have to dig a little deeper and send a tee shot airborne over wetlands.
But the rest of the 17 holes are friendly and uncluttered by real estate, winding through the wild. Keeping that experience is key to the owners, so much so that two new holes on the back edge of the property are being built to replace the current second and 18th holes, which sit near construction areas for new villas. That’s an impressive move, as opposed to just shoehorning buildings around the course.
The National will remain a pure golf experience, the easier of the two Greg Norman tracks at ChampionsGate. And there’s not a thing wrong with that.
If you go
Omni Orlando Resort at Champions Gate
1500 Masters Blvd.