Frugal Golfer: Orlando

There are roughly 80 daily-fee or resort courses of note within a 40-mile radius of Orlando International Airport, and competition for your dollar is fierce. Combine that with a vast array of equally competitive hotels and condos, attractive car rental rates, and 800 flights a day and you have all the ingredients for a wallet-friendly golf trip. Which by our definition, during the high season—November through March—means five rounds of golf and four nights lodging for less than $600. Add airfare, meals, shared car rental, and extracurricular activities, and the whole package should cost no more than $1,300. (Gluttons, tack on $200.)

Value varies with the season. Green fees hit rock bottom June through September, when central Florida weather can be hot, humid, and stormy. Fees can double, even triple, November through March when “snowbirds” and vacationers are in town. Even then, finding a nice layout to play for less than $90 is easily done by trolling the internet.

So fire up the laptop and consider these venues, each with high-season green fees between $50 and $90.

Rio Pinar Country Club: Even if you frequent Orlando, you probably haven’t played Rio Pinar, which opened to the public last spring after 56 years as a private club. Rio hosted the Florida Citrus Open from 1966 until 1978; these days, it’s a popular hangout for mini-tour players. It recently underwent an extensive facelift (new greens, tees, bunkers) to the old-school layout designed by self-taught architect Mark Mahannah. Only a few steps separate each green from the next tee; water comes into play on only a handful of holes; and movement left or right is equally distributed among par fours and fives.

Orange County National: This 45-hole complex (including a par-three course) is a four-time venue for the PGA Tour Q-School finals. The Panther Lake and Crooked Cat courses were designed by Dave Harman, who died in 2005 not long after completing world-renowned Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand.

Metro West Golf Club: A wide-open Robert Trent Jones Sr. design and frequent qualifying site for USGA competitions, Metro West underwent an extensive renovation by architect Billy Fuller late last year. Fuller, a former superintendent at Augusta National, removed 42 bunkers—reducing total sand square footage at Metro by 75 percent—but upped the ante on those left behind, giving them a look similar to ANGC’s white sand hazards.

Eagle Creek: Touted for its fast and firm Scottish flair, Eagle Creek is a 2004 collaboration between Ron Garl, a Floridian, and Howard Swan, an Englishman.It features five par fives.

Deltona Club: Far afield from the International Drive/Convention Center area where most visitors stay, it’s worth the 40-mile trek. A 2008 renovation by Bobby Weed moved the 50-year-old club considerably up in class.

And…Providence Golf Club typically garners high marks for grooming. Harmony Golf Club, the handiwork of Johnny Miller, occupies land on a nature preserve. Shingle Creek, affiliated with a Rosen Hotel, was the last course designed by Dave Harman.

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