Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge Overview

By Derek Duncan, Contributor

Winter Garden, FL - Orange County National, set in the agrarian hills west of Orlando and just a matter of miles outside of Disney World's North entrance, is a paean to golf immersion and indulgence. Less of a resort than a compound, this is where the serious player goes for golf, more golf, and nothing but golf.

The complex is located in the wide-open hills of western Orange County, a place in Florida where the land actually rises and falls to a degree significant for the state. Orange County National is ideally situated as a convenient golf retreat, unfettered (hopefully permanently) by housing or condos, just far enough away from the bustle of one of the busiest tourist cities in America to be aloof from its steel and glass and plastic trappings, and just near enough to it to be enticingly convenient for the player and visitor searching for the first-tier golf experience.

The theme of Orange County National is size. The complex is incredibly large and spacious, sitting on over 900 acres with two courses and room to add another two, and possibly a full-fledged resort hotel, says Chad Robertson, Marketing Manager at OCN.

From the outside, the facility appears to be more of a laboratory than a sporting endeavor. The monolithic clubhouse (33,000 sq. ft.) sits up high, its tall, monotone beige brick walls and narrow windows, seemingly something out of an energy conservationist's plan for modern living. It's the golf that is taken serious here, however. A well-drilled army of radio-linked technicians, er, players assistants, roam the premises toting bags and offering carts, towels, bag tags, advice, or anything else players require.

Inside the clubhouse is one of the largest pro shops you'll come across (7,000 sq. ft.), numerous meeting rooms, a spacious banquet hall and restaurant, and a locker room on par with some of the best clubs in the state that is available to all players.

As a practice facility, Orange County National is virtually unbeatable. The club has committed a serious amount of acreage (125) to this aspect of the complex that include a 360ยบ driving range (42 acres) with numerous chipping and putting greens dotting points on its circumference, a 36-hole putting course, and a nine-hole executive course called "Tooth." High-tech instruction is the modus operandi as players are filmed and then taken to screening rooms where their swings are analyzed

Orange County National offers a 50-room lodge just off the practice area so it's never necessary to leave the grounds - golf is literally outside the door. Though the lodge will never be confused with the word "swanky", the rooms are more than adequate and more than convenient. The price is fair as well, ranging from $85 to $100 through most of 2001, with stay-and-play packages beginning in the low $100's.

This enormous project was the idea of internationally noted golf instructor Phil Ritson, who began by leasing the property from Orange County for 55 years at a cost of $51.5 million. Though he has since sold it to AIG Global Investment Group, his dream of Orange County National has come to fruition.

Since its opening in 1997 the list of national and local awards Orange County National has received is a virtual catalogue of the sport's highest honors, including 4 1/2 star rankings from Golf Digest's Places To Play List for its two courses.

Of course, it's the golf courses that are the feature attractions at Orange County National. Between them, Panther Lake and Crooked Cat signify a novelty in design and a willingness to explore previously unheralded West Central Florida terrain in ways that many courses have been unable to pursue. Florida-based architect David Harman designed both courses, with input from Ritson, which feature large, rolling fairways and inventive bunkering to accent the unusually complicated topography of the area.

Click on the following links for in-depth looks at the courses:

Cost for playing the courses ranges from $80 to $90 at Panther Lake and $70 to $80 at Crooked Cat for most of the Spring and Summer of 2001. Fees are slightly higher in the Fall and Winter, so call ahead for prices.


Orange County National is located just east of County Road 545 on Phil Ritson Way, 9.5 miles south of Highway 50 and Winter Garden or 6.8 miles north of Highway 192.

Derek DuncanDerek Duncan, Contributor

Derek Duncan's writing has appeared in,,,, LINKS Magazine and more. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Cynthia and is a graduate of the University of Colorado with interests in wine, literary fiction, and golf course architecture.

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