An Expert Guide to the 10 Best Private Golf Courses in Orlando

Published on 10/13/2023 · 13 min readCheck out Orlando's top 10 private golf courses with this expert guide. Discover exclusive clubs for an exceptional golfing experience!
Brendon Elliott, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Brendon Elliott

The 13th hole at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In 1996, after graduating from college near my home in upstate New York, I decided to move south to Florida and start my career in the golf industry. I settled in the greater Orlando area. In the 27 years I have lived in Central Florida and been working in the golf business, I have played almost every course offering up tee times. Some are no longer around, and others have opened to much fanfare in the almost three decades I have been in the area. At its height, some 200 courses dotted the landscape within a 50-mile radius of downtown Orlando.

Today, I will share with you a handful of the best private golf courses that Central Florida has to offer. In a future article, I will look at some of the area's best private courses with resort options, resort courses, and public courses, so look out for that soon.

By definition, at least for this article, I will call “Central Florida” the area with Orlando at the center and running 50(ish)mi out in radius.

10 of the Best Private Golf Courses in the Greater Orlando Area

As mentioned above, there are numerous courses within 50 miles or so of downtown Orlando. They come in all shapes and sizes and offer many different layouts and experiences. I will cover Private facilities to start my two-part examination of great Orlando area courses. Again, stay tuned for my soon-to-be-published breakdown of some of the best private courses with resort options, resort courses, and public courses.

The following list is in no particular order of preference.

Feel free to message me here on Curated if you have any questions about courses on this list or those that are not.

1. Lake Nona Golf & Country Club

Lake Nona Golf & Country Club. From Wikimedia Commons courtesy of Cem0300

Stats:

  • Location: Southeast Orlando, FL
  • Designer: Tom Fazio
  • Opened: 1986
  • Tees and Yardages:

Brendon and his brother, Graham Elliott, at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club. Photo courtesy of Brendon Elliott

Overview:

I’ll start with Lake Nona Golf & Country Club for my Private Clubs review. Home to numerous PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour professionals, Lake Nona is one of the area's most beautiful and finest golf courses and clubs. It is a course that is designer Tom Fazio at his finest. Nona hosted the first Solheim Cup in 1990 and has held multiple other prominent events such as the World Cup of Golf in 1993, the Tavistock Cup, which pitted Tour Professionals from Lake Nona vs.Isleworth in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012, the U.S. Senior Amateur in 2010, and many more. Starting in 2021, Lake Nona became a regular stop on the LPGA Tour with an event early in its season.

Expert Review:

Playing Lake Nona a few times, I have to say that it is one of the finest manicured courses in the area. It is a tough but fair test, especially with so many tee options. The clubhouse and staff are both fantastic. Seeing a PGA TOUR or LPGA Tour star while you are there is also a treat. This is a private club, of course, so it is very difficult to get on. I have hosted several of my Little Linksters youth golf organization events at Lake Nona.

My Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars.

2. Isleworth Golf & Country Club

The famous bull sculpture at Isleworth Golf & Country Club. Photo by Brendon Elliott

Stats:

  • Location: Windermere, FL
  • Designer: Arnold Palmer (Original 1986) Steve Smyers (Update 2003)
  • Opened: 1986
  • Tees and Yardages:

Scorecard from Isleworth. Photo by Brendon Elliott

Overview:

The sister course of Lake Nona, Isleworth, is also home to numerous PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour professionals. Isleworth is one of the area's most storied and beautiful private facilities. Located on the west side of Orlando. Isleworth's original design and vision came from none other than The King, Arnold Palmer. What makes Isleworth a very difficult course is the multi-million dollar redesign that designer Steve Smyers brought to the course in 2003. It is another very pristine golf course with some of the best greens in the state of Florida. It hosted Tiger Woods’s Hero World Challenge in 2014, won by Jordan Spieth (by 10 shots), and also hosted the inaugural Tavistock Cup in 2004.

Expert Review:

I have played Isleworth a few times, and It is definitely a tough test. It may be one of the toughest golf courses I have played. You can have a very rough day if you are not playing the correct tees for your ability level. Just like with Lake Nona, seeing a PGA TOUR or LPGA Tour star while you are there is also a treat. Keep in mind that this is a private club, so getting on is not easy, and you need to “know a guy” to do so.

My Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars.

3. Interlachen Country Club

Brendon Elliott at Interlachen Country Club. Photo by Brendon Elliott

Stats:

  • Location: Winter Park, FL
  • Designer: Joe Lee (Original 1983) Steve Smyers (Update 2007)
  • Opened: 1983
  • Tees and Yardages:

Overview:

Interlachen Country Club (ICC) is an immaculately maintained 18-hole championship course located in Winter Park, FL. ICC is consistently ranked among the best and most challenging courses in Florida. The course is hidden from view in a residential area in Winter Park, and most would never even know it was there. It is a classic Joe Lee design; however, it got a major facelift in 2007, some 24 years after it opened in 1983. Jay Kennedy, Interlachen’s PGA Director of Golf, has been with the club for a remarkable 36 years, almost as long as the club has been open.

Expert Review:

This hidden gem of a private club is where I got my start in the golf business way back in 1996. I worked at Interlachen from 1996 through the end of 1998, at which point I left to work at the Winter Park Golf Course. I have played Interlachen probably 50 or more times, and I have to say, it is a tough test. I absolutely love the golf course at Interlachen, even though I lost a golf ball or two there. The greens are amazing, and the design is both tough and fair. This is a private club, so getting on is not easy.

My Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars.

4. The Club at Bella Collina

The Club at Bella Collina’s Clubhouse and Proshop buildings are unmatched. Photo by Brendon Elliott

Stats:

  • Location: Montverde, FL
  • Designer: Nick Faldo
  • Opened: 2008
  • Tees and Yardages:

PGA Professional Brendon Elliott playing Bella Collina. Photo by Brendon Elliott

Overview:

Bella Collina is located in Montverde, FL, 24 miles west of Orlando. The club is nestled amongst orange groves and woodlands, overlooking the vineyards of Central Florida and two lakes, Lake Apopka and Lake Siena. The course is unlike many Florida courses, boasting spectacular elevation changes. Sir Nick Faldo is the designer of this golf course, and he and the club's developers spared no expense in making this an amazing experience.

Expert Review:

The clubhouse and drive up to it, all along a stone driveway, are absolutely stunning. It may be one of the finest clubhouses I have been in. With all of the unique elevation changes, the course is a non-typical Florida course experience. I would say that Bella is much more of a fair test than the previously mentioned course, as long as you play the correct tees for your ability level. The back tees stretch all the way out to a PGA TOUR-like length of 7617 yards, but with all the elevation changes, it does not play to that length. I enjoyed my Bella Collina rounds, but remember, it is not easy to get on like all other private golf courses on this list.

My Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars.

5. The Country Club Of Orlando

Stats:

  • Location: Orlando, FL
  • Designer: Tom Bendelow/Donald Ross (Original 1911), Robert Trent Jones (Three Holes 1950), Ron Forse and Jim Nagle (2017)
  • Opened: 1911
  • Tees and Yardages:

Overview:

The Country Club of Orlando is one of the largest and oldest country clubs in the state of Florida. This private club was founded in 1911 and has some very famous names working on its design over the years, including Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones. The course was fully renovated and reopened in 2017. The course at the Country Club of Orlando is a throwback to golf’s origins in the United States and truly shows the classic design features of a Donald Ross course, even after its redesign in 2017 by Ron Forse and Jim Nagle.

Expert Review:

The Country Club of Orlando is a classic example of old Florida and original American golf. It just has a great feel once you step foot on the grounds. The course is very fair and playable, with great conditions and really good putting surfaces. Compared to the other private clubs in the area, it is on the shorter side, but that is okay, as I feel that sometimes golf courses get far too long and difficult at times. Sure, you want a challenge, but you also want to have fun. That is what The Country Club of Orlando offers.

My Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars.

6. Legacy Club at Alaqua Lakes

Stats:

  • Location: Longwood, FL
  • Designer: Tom Fazio
  • Opened: 1998
  • Tees and Yardages:

Scorecard from The Legacy Club at Alaqua Lakes. Photo by Brendon Elliott

Overview:

The Legacy Club at Alaqua Lakes is a Tom Fazio masterpiece. The course's layout tests the most accomplished players but is playable enough for beginners. Fazio carved out this gem around mature trees and over a rolling topography, offering a unique experience for Florida.

Expert Review:

I have had the pleasure of playing the Legacy Club on several occasions. It is a fantastic golf course, for sure. The layout is set among the natural backdrop of this region of Florida. It almost feels like the course was carved out and designed to incorporate what was always there. You will almost certainly see deer and other native species as you play, and perhaps a curious bear. There are some tough holes at the Legacy Club, such as the Par 4 fifth, eighth, and thirteenth, as well as the Par 3 sixth. However, some very getable holes also help balance things out. You will always find great conditions at the Legacy Club at Alaqua Lakes.

My Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars.

7. Heathrow Country Club

Stats:

  • Location: Lake Mary, FL
  • Designer: Ron Garl
  • Opened: 1998
  • Tees and Yardages:

Overview:

Heathrow Country Club is the sister course of the Legacy Club at Alaqua Lakes. The Ron Garl design is a challenging 18-hole par 71 golf course that has hosted several U.S. Open qualifiers. Heathrow is home to several past and present PGA TOUR players, including Chris DiMarco, Cliff Kresge, Danny Ellis, Jim Thorpe, Donnie Hammond, Lion Kim, and Fulton Allem.

Expert Review:

Like with its sister course, the Legacy Club, I have played Heathrow on multiple occasions. It is a great golf course and a staple in Seminole County. The layout is very wide open for the most part, although there are some monstrous holes, such as the Par 4 seventh, which is the number one handicap hole on the course. The seventh has a very narrow fairway with water just in front of the tee, all along the left side, and out of bounds to the right. There is also a generous carry of water as you hit your approach into the green. Just like with the Legacy Club, there are some very getable holes that help balance things out among the tough ones. There are some elevation changes here and there, and water comes into play very often. Heathrow is a great private course and will be enjoyable if you get the chance to get out on it.

My Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars.

8. ChampionsGate Country Club

Stats:

  • Location: Championsgate, FL
  • Designer: George Clifton
  • Opened: 2015
  • Tees and Yardages:

Overview:

George Clifton created one of Central Florida's newest golf gems with ChampionsGate Country Club. Located right behind the Omni ChampionsGate Resort, the natural landscape and contours of the property helped Clifton create this beautiful golf experience.

Expert Review:

A newer private course in Central Florida that is only eight years old, ChampionsGate Country Club, not to be confused with the Omni ChampionsGate Resort, is a fantastic golf course. I have always enjoyed my trips to ChampionsGate Country Club. The staff has always made it an enjoyable experience. The course is pretty open and playable, with a few exceptions where water and bunkering come into the mix and are strategically placed. The greens are always great and roll true; that is something that golfers are always looking for out of a golf course. It provides a really fun course and experience. I have had the pleasure of hosting junior events here, through my Little Linksters organization, on several occasions as well.

My Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars.

9. The Golden Bear Club at Keene's Pointe

Stats:

  • Location: Windermere, FL
  • Designer: Jack Nicklaus
  • Opened: 1999
  • Tees and Yardages:

At the Golden Bear Club in 2013, my father and I were on the winning team of a Celebrity Charity Pro-Am. Photo by Brendon Elliott

Overview:

The Golden Bear Club is a Jack Nicklaus Signature-designed. Located south of Orlando on the Butler Chain of Lakes, the golf course features magnificent oaks, mature cypress trees, and some of the best greens in Central Florida.

Expert Review:

The Golden Bear Club holds a special place in my heart as my team won a Celebrity Charity Pro-Am here in 2013. My dad was on the team as we captured the win. I have played this private club several times and always enjoyed the experience. The course has a picturesque layout and many traditional Jack Nicklaus design features, such as fast greens, wide fairways, strategically placed water hazards, and bunkers. The Golden Bear Club greens are always immaculate and roll as true as any greens in the area.

My Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars.

10. Orange Tree Golf Club

Stats:

  • Location: Orlando, FL
  • Designer: Joe Lee
  • Opened: 1972
  • Tees and Yardages:

Overview:

Designed in 1972 by Joe Lee, Orange Tree Golf Club is the “hidden gem” of Orlando area private clubs. This family-owned and operated private golf club is located in the heart of the Dr. Phillips area. The club has a reputation for excellence in design and course maintenance and has very much a family atmosphere and feel to it. Orange Tree is a U.S. Open Local Qualifier spot and a Florida State Senior Open qualifying course.

Expert Review:

I have played Orange Tree on a handful of occasions and can say this under-the-radar track is definitely a tough test and offers all the golf you could want. One of the things that makes it difficult is how tight many of the holes are. However, the fact that they offer six different tees that range from 4329 for the kids (or a fun round for anyone, really) and up to the tips at 7036 allows the course to be very playable for all abilities. Orange Tree is a true family club and has a family feel to it that you will notice right away. The conditions are always fantastic, and they have a great practice facility that seems to always be buzzing. PGA Professional David Damesworth is one of the area’s most respected PGA members and runs a fantastic operation. I have had the privilege of hosting a handful of youth golf events at this top-notch facility.

My Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars.

Wrapping It Up

Little Linksters event at Orange Tree Golf Club. Photo by Brendon Elliott

The greater Orlando and Central Florida area offers some of the country's best golf, especially with its private club offerings. Obviously, not everyone can join a private club, and many golfers, even those who can afford to join one, choose not to. For more information on golf in the Orlando area, feel free to contact me here on Curated for free, personalized advice.

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