Get down to business at Shingle Creek Golf Club in Orlando

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

ORLANDO, Fla. -- On any given day at Shingle Creek Golf Club, you're liable to see a herd of businessmen hacking it around the golf course. They've shed their suits and dressed in same-color polo shirts, maybe engaged in a team-leadership exercise.

Shingle Creek Golf Club
Shingle Creek Golf Club is close to the Orange County Convention Center and International Drive.
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Shingle Creek Golf Club

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Shingle Creek Golf Club lies along historic Shingle Creek in Orlando - the headwaters to the Florida Everglades. This par-72 David Harmon-designed course is not only near the happenings of International Drive, it's also offers easy access from Orlando International Airport with what seems like its own exit off the Beeline (Toll Road 528) at Universal.

18 Holes | Public/Resort golf course | Par: 72 | 7213 yards | Book online | ... details »

Shingle Creek G.C., laid out nearly in the shadows of the Orange County Conference Center, is smack dab in the middle of conference central, in the bustling hub of International Drive, or "I-Drive" as it is known to those locals in the know.

It's the perfect course to take a break from a long, boring conference or seminar and get in a few swings. In fact, on one recent outing, our foursome changed twice to accommodate seminar attendees. The club goes after large groups like a dog goes for a bone.

That may be the best thing about Shingle Creek Golf Club: location, location, location. That is, if you define great location as a place to attract those crowds used to luxury and paying high prices.

If you're looking for a pristine, natural environment, get out of here: you play with the dull roar of the intense traffic of Orlando always in the background. Still, there are some holes, particularly on the back nine, where you almost forget you're playing golf in the country's No. 1 tourist destination.

The course opened with a great deal of fanfare in 2003, owned as it is by Harold Rosen of Rosen Hotels and Resorts. And Golfweek ranked it among its top 40 new courses for that year. But, there are those who feel like the course has not met the lofty expectations.

"I don't think it's that great a course," said one area pro. "Maybe it's just high expectations, but I was thinking it would be a lot more."

It's true there's nothing to set the course dramatically apart, especially in Orlando, where there are a number of terrific courses. It's basically a flat, Florida course built on top of wetlands, with Shingle Creek as the centerpiece.

That being said, it isn't exactly a bland course. It was designed by David Harman, who's been in the golf construction and design business for more than 20 years and worked for such luminaries as Pete Dye, Arnold Palmer and Tom Fazio. Harman's projects include Pinehurst Plantation in Pinehurst, Turtle Bay in Hawaii, Teton Pines in Jackson, Wyo. and closer to home, Panther Lake at Orange County National.

The course features a series of interconnected lakes and ponds. Nearly every hole has water on it, most of it lateral, though it can definitely come into play.

The fairways are wide and generous and the layout could be called the Americanized version of links-style golf, open and susceptible to the wind that can rip across the wide expanse of central Florida. There is some minor perimeter mounding, but the main feature here is the water.

So, although Shingle Creek doesn't really compare with other top Orlando golf courses, it can be a fun play -- and convenient.

It's more than 7,200 yards from the back tees, with a slope rating of 139. The Orlando Business Journal ranked it one of the toughest courses you can play, but that is a bit of overstatement. Maybe the corporate boys were serving bourbon at that conference.

Shingle Creek Golf Club: The verdict

Still, there are some holes that do make this a good golf experience, though it isn't as challenging as, say, Mystic Dunes Golf Club or as beautiful at the Legacy course at Reunion Resort.

The 555-yard third hole has a long, narrow green with water long and bunkers short, and No. 4, a 394-yard par 4 has a tough tee shot with water left and right. To the left is also a series of moguls and the slightly elevated green drops off sharply on three sides.

No. 7 has some visually deceptive bunkers short of the green and the uphill, par-3 eighth has a tricky two-tiered green. No. 11, a par 5, has water right and pine trees all down the left, with fairway bunkers built into mounds on the right side.

Shingle Creek Golf Club is a very nice facility, with GPS in the carts, an excellent clubhouse and practice facility and complementary valet parking. It also has the Brad Brewer Golf School.

Stay and play

Wyndham Palms Resort and Country Club in Kissimmee is a convenient resort, especially if you have kids.

It's a family-oriented resort on 600 acres with spacious villas, many of them overlooking the superb Mystic Dunes golf course. They have one-, two- and three-bedroom villas with private Jacuzzis and big-screen televisions. Aside from the 18-hole course, there's mini-golf, basketball, lighted tennis courts, three heated swimming pools and children's wading pool and playground.

The Villas of Grand Cypress has suites and one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom villas, some with views of the North course, designed by Jack Nicklaus. In fact, it's Nicklaus everywhere here: the three nines of the North, South and East courses and the 18-hole Old Course, a tribute to Nicklaus' love of Scottish links layouts, with pot bunkers and stone walls.

Orlando dining

Are you kidding me? Eating is second only to the Disney attractions in Orlando.

For fine dining, try Victoria and Albert's, the Venetian Room or Le Coq au Vin on Orange Avenue. For family-friendly dining, the Rainforest Cafe has waterfalls and swinging monkeys, and Chef Mickey has the kids eating with Disney characters.

If it's barbecue you're after, Bubbalou's Bodacious Barbecue and Smokey Bones are both excellent. Some say Cecil's Texas BBQ is the best in town, though.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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