There used to be a golf course here.
It belonged to Disney. I think it was called Osprey Ridge. I remember it was good, not great … fun, but not really fun. It was a Tom Fazio course before he’d really made a name for himself in golf architecture.
But the Tom Fazio they brought back in 2014 to open a “new” course (in exactly the same spot) put a lifetime of experience into this design. This is a great course, a really fun course. Some might call it a renovation, but that’s a slight. It’s more than that. This is more of a reincarnation. Here, right next to the Animal Kingdom, this course has come back as a whole new breed.
But, then again, deep pockets tend to produce high-quality projects, and Four Seasons Resorts has always known how to stand out from a crowd. Four Seasons Hualalai (Hawaii) and Punta Mita (Mexico) are some of the classiest resorts I’ve ever visited, and while this one is far smaller than those, it still packs an amenity-filled punch. Here at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World, there’s breakfasts with Goofy (who this father of four kept wanting to call Pluto) and fun in the sun at the pools, splash zone, lazy river and water slide, plus the The Hideout kids recreation center, the spa, and four restaurants — including Capa, a 17th-floor rooftop steakhouse where I could eat every night (and it’s a great vantage point for the Disney fireworks).
Yes, Capa was definitely a high point on the week, but then so was the golf. There’s a mystical sense of solitude throughout your round at Tranquilo. The course is like your own magical kingdom, your own jungle nook. Out of curiosity, my son and I stopped by the pro shop to ask how many golfers we’d shared the course with. The reply was “48” from a superbly gracious golf professional. Turns out I only saw six (I would only have seen two had I stayed in my own fairway).
Tranquilo is a zoo, and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s a certified Audubon sanctuary, which explains the walk-in-the-park serene solitude and abundance of gators, birds, deer and some really strange, squirrel-looking woodpeckers. One of the groundskeepers took advantage of my geographical disorientation and joked that Fazio had removed a section of the fence from the Animal Kingdom during construction and forgot to put it back. At least I think that was a joke (or else that really was a monkey that threw my ball into the pond on 18).
Tranquilo is also family friendly — you’d be surprised at how few exceptional courses are — having GPS-loaded golf carts with seating for four (so a dad can take the kids). The age-inclusive aspect has its benefits (leisurely bonding time) but also the occasional drawback, like when your daughter thinks your story about the monkey was worth re-enacting with your third shot.
The course is peppered with marshes, ponds, oaks and salt-white bunkers. It’s loaded with fun holes and easy holes, tough holes and memorable ones — like the “save the best for last” signature No. 18. Whether or not Baloo was responsible for my white ball’s blue bubbling bath, I blew my chance to break 90 from the tips. But I’ll be back. And next time, it’s going down.
Of course next time I’ll play from a different set of tees. I like to do that. It makes an old course feel new, and a new course feel … well … even newer. Like Tranquilo itself where old charm meets new class. Four Seasons did real good for themselves with this place, and Tranquilo is quietly going to make a lot of noise.
Where It’s At: 10100 Dream Tree Blvd. in Lake Buena Vista, opened in southwest Orlando in 2015 pretty much in Disney World’s backyard.
Ideal Stay & Play: 3-5 nights. 18 holes of golf at Four Seasons Tranquilo. 3-4 days at Universal, Disney and SeaWorld.
What It’s About: You’re probably not here just for the golf, but the golf is here for you and it’s fantastic fun, appreciatively uncrowded. In a place where you often get so little for so much, it’s nice to have one place that actually gives you a lot for a lot. Central Florida’s only AAA Five Diamond Resort.
Family Focus: So many kids amenities surrounded by amenity world. So many adult comforts in a place where adults probably need them the most. It’s the best of both worlds for a family.
Local Food & Drinks: (High-End) Victoria & Alberts; (Social) Capa – 17th-floor at the resort; (Casual) Pei Wei – my family’s vote for “best fast food chain in America.”
Night GolfGetaway: There are tons of daytime golf options in Orlando, but this is where the after-hours game is: Dewey’s Indoor Golf & Sports Grill. Food. Sports. Golf. Awesome.
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Eric N Hart is the GolfGetaways Course Ratings Editor for GolfNewsNet.com and freelance golf journalist writing for multiple regional and national publications — and specializes in exploring the world with his wife and children in tow. This story is part of his ongoing series exploring Family Fun Golf Resorts in Florida. Follow his adventures on Instagram @MobileGolfer.