Raise your hand if you think of oranges when I say Wisconsin. How about Vermont? South Carolina? Texas? (Sorry UT alums...Burnt Oranges don’t count.) No? You’re all waiting for me to say “Florida,” aren’t you? Then you’d all raise your hands. I understand.
But Orange Lake Resorts and Holiday Inn Club Vacations are out to change your geographical associations of oranges (kind of), mutually spreading their wealth of amenities and opportunities across 11 properties throughout the country—in Florida and those six other states. Orange Lake Orlando is bigger than all 10 of their other resorts combined. I’m not referencing acreage when I say “bigger,” though the Orlando property is so massive their own shuttle drivers occasionally get lost (sometimes twice in one day). I’m talking about the sheer number of amenities, the pools and, most of all, the variety of lodging options. Orange Lake Orlando has 2,478 villas in divided into four “villa-ges” spread across 1,450 acres. That’s huge! OLR’s next biggest resort (in Nevada) has 648 villas by comparison. Each quadrant of the Orlando resort has their own pool complex, beach club or water park—12 acres of lazy rivers, zero-entry splash zones and aquatic playgrounds overall.
Orange Lake Resorts are timeshare vacation specialists. (Not the super annoying kind.) Want studio accommodations? They’ve got them. Need a four-bedroom sprawl? Covered. This resort is all about providing the ideal accommodations for whatever your family needs. Amenities and lodging are what you will remember... what keeps them in the mix with the plethora of other area resort considerations.
Admittedly, the Orlando Orange Lake lobby can be rather overwhelming to first timers. (I’ve seen international airports with less chaos and commotion.) You eventually find comfort in the fact that everyone is there to help you with a different facet of your “stay-and-play-cation,” be it checking in, itinerary consultation, deal shopping (careful what you sign), and/or merely to significantly reduce your off property exploration concerns. It’s a multi-lingual concierge hub of agents who work with thousands of families every year and know which direction to point you for your respective “next.”
There’s a little less mayhem on the property’s 54 golf holes, although it can’t be overstated that this is (by design) a family resort, so there are as many (or more) roaming kids as there are squirrels in some areas. Honestly, because of everything else the resort provides, the golf feels like more of an afterthought—a tough concession considering Orange Lake Orlando has an Arnold Palmer championship routing, and I’d contend that nothing Mr. Palmer designs should ever receive second (or third) billing.
Mr. Palmer’s Legends Course was described as a Scotland-Carolina hybrid. The Carolina elements were evident throughout the wild back nine—water in play on seven of them, unquestionably the best nine holes on the property. The front nine was far more Florida than Scotland—too many buildings and distractions to ever be able to mentally transport yourself to the U.K. in any imaginative way. But where Orange Lake Orlando blows away their golf competition is in their time-flexible and family-friendly options.
Orange Lake Orlando provides two nine-hole courses, with Mr. Palmer’s par-3 Legends Walk course even taking tee times until 9 p.m. Playing anywhere from 950 to 1,600 yards, it’s fun, fast and flexible enough to let you play under the lights... under the stars.
The other nine-hole course is an executive par-30 called Cranes Bend. Cranes Bend is a little more challenging and hazard-filled than Legends Walk but is equally popular for those on a time crunch or with more family vacation responsibilities off the fairways.
The last piece of Orange Lake Orlando’s golf puzzle is Mike Dasher’s Reserve, an 18-hole round that is as entertaining as it is frustrating, equal parts brilliant and bewildering. Take away all the houses and associated restrictions and it’s just plain entertaining and brilliant. Easily the best conditioned course on site.
There’s no question every aspect of this resort is family-oriented. What that occasionally detracts from the golf it only adds to everything else the troop would love. You’re in Orlando, surrounded by restaurants, grocery stores and shopping outlets. Anything and everything you need is close—convenient. If you’re coming to Orlando kids in tow, and golf is more bonus than focus, I don’t know that you can do better.
Where It’s At: 8505 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway / Kissimmee.
Ideal Stay & Play: 3-5 nights. 54 holes of golf including a night-nine—Legend’s Walk.
What It’s About: Spacious villas to spread out in, cook your own food if you’d like, do laundry and relax just minutes (5 miles) away from Walt Disney World.
Family Focus: Water parks galore. Pools. Lake activities. Mini-golf. 9 restaurants and food service options on-site. Gatorland Alligator Show. Surrounded by grocery stores, Target, etc.
Local Food & Drinks: (High End) Eleven at Reunion Resort, (Social) Drafts Sports Bar & Grill, (Casual) Fish Chips and Beyond, (Hot Spot) Dexter’s – Sunday Brunch (WOW!)
Day GolfGetaway: Stick with the “Orange” theme: Orange County National Golf Center has 45 high-value holes ($40-$130) of golf (Crooked Cat, Panther and a nine-hole short course) just 16 miles west of Bay Hill.