ChampionsGate is an extremely challenging golf course and is more suited for skilled and avid players. The International measures a lengthy 7,363 yards from the championship black tee and has the distinction of having one of the highest course ratings in the state at 76.8 with a slope of 143. We non-masochistic player will probably opt for something a little more relaxing such as the blues which play to 6793 yards with a 137 slope, or the whites at 6239 with a 132 slope. We chose the blue tees and believe we would have had more fun from the whites.
The Greg Norman designed course rolls its way through Central Florida Wetlands, adding both beauty and challenges to the round. The International Course has the look and feel of a links-style layout in the British Isles – only with water hazards. This course was designed, constructed and seeded to offer a harder, faster playing surface similar to those found in the Home of Golf.
Scattered throughout the course are randomly placed pot bunkers – over 160 in all. Swirling grasses have been planted within the high-side dunes and literally grow down into the banks of the hazards. Miss hit shots can frequently lead to difficult lies in thick grass in these wind swept dunes, or out of tricky pot bunkers.
The rough has been allowed to grow wild and long in the common areas on the International Course. It’s simple really, hit the fairway or pay the price. Don’t get me wrong, on most holes there is plenty of room to drive the ball with wide, reachable fairways. If your game allows you to shape the ball, you will have a definite advantage over lesser skilled players. But shot shaping is not a priority here; club selection is. The proper way to approach the course is to ask yourself “Where is the best the best place to miss?”
The green complexes are always in excellent playing conditions. Greens vary greatly in size and shape. Many times players will find them back on the putting surface.
Memorable Holes – (All yardage is from the Blue Tees)
Number 1: Par 4, 437 yards.Nothing like a risk/reward decision to get your round started. Be sure to choose wisely as the first hole can make or break your round. By favoring the right side of the fairway off the tee, you will have a better angle into the green and take the small fairway bunkers on the left out of play. On your approach shot, missing the green to the right can spell disaster as can finding one of the deep bunkers on either side of this well elevated green.
Number 3: Par 5, 539 yards. Number 3 on the International Course is recognized as one of Orlando’s best par 5s. This hole calls for about a 200 yard carry across wetlands and between hazard-laced dunes. The next two shots require tricky position shots to dodge high the pot bunkers that dot the landscape en route to the green. A par is considered a good score on this tricky hole.<
Number 6: Par 4, 462 yards.Accuracy off the tee is a necessity on number 6; sure it’s a long hole, but it’s even longer (and more miserable if you find the water on your tee shot). Most players will be face with a long second shot into a green that slopes back to front and is well protected by bunkers. This may be a par 4 hole where your best second shot is a good layup and then go for a one-putt par!
Number 11: Par 5, 544 yards. Another par 5 that requires an accurate tee shot as the fairway slopes severely from right to left. Playing your tee shot down the right side of the fairway will also take away any chance of finding the water or any of the devious little pot bunkers on the left. The large bunker on the left side of the green is a great reason to favor the right side on your approach.
Number 14: Par 3, 214 yards. Although this is a fairly long par 3 at 214 yards, the green is very large and protected in the front by a large, shallow bunker. If anything off the tee, don’t miss the green long and left because of the severely slope down to the wetlands. This is one of the tougher par 3s in the area. Par is a good score here!
Number 15: Par 4, 419 yards. As the course’s #8 handicap hole, the governing bodies view this as a not so difficult par 4. Play it a few times and your opinion may change. Once again a certain amount of accuracy (or luck) is needed off the tee; it may very well require your best tee shot of the day. A drive just left of the pot bunkers in the middle of the fairway will set up the best approach. On your approach, favor the right side to take the large bunkers and water out of play. The green is not very deep and seems to fall off on all sides.
Number 18: Par 5, 528 yards.Avoid the left side at all costs! You will find about 20 bunkers on the left in a variety of shapes and sizes; all are poised to put an end to an otherwise good scoring day. The good news is that here is a lot more room in the landing area than it looks. Be sure to take enough club on your approach shot; you don’t want to leave it short!
Last Word: The International Course seems a little out of place in Florida although it certainly is a welcomed change from the mundane flat Florida courses. It definitely has a British Isles feel with the different grasses that are used and just how the course plays in general. The course has received honorable mentioned in Golf Magazine’s ’10 Most Distinctive Places to Play,’ and is definitely worth it if you are looking for courses to play in the Orlando area.
In order to have fun on the International Course, it is important to pick the right set of tees. The course can play between 5618 yards and 7363 yards so there is a wide variance. We played from the blues and definitely bit off more than we could chew. Next time out I will definitely play from the Whites.
The international Course forces you to use every club in your bag – a few times! Several times I was faced with a downhill or side hill lie, something you don’t see every day in Florida. The greens are in excellent condition and the ground is definitely harder than most courses – another aspect of true links golf.
All in all, the folks at Championsgate have done a great job of capturing a UK feel to the course. For more information or to book your next round on the International Course at Championsgate, visit them online at www.championsgategolf.com or give them a call at (407) 787-4653.