The area just northwest of Orlando known as the “Florida Highlands” is home to some of the most scenic vistas in the state of Florida - and great, natural terrain golf courses. Natural rolling hills, scenic vistas, thousands of pristine lakes and spectacular golf courses... this is the only place in Florida where golfers can experience these features. Often referred to as “Old Florida”, the area is mostly unspoiled nature, dotted with thousands of freshwater lakes including some of the largest in Florida - 17,000 acre Lake Harris, plus Lake Eustis, Lake Dora, Lake Minneola and Lake Apopka.
Unfortunately, most of the golf courses in this area are overlooked by most travelers, but not anymore. Take a look at the historic Mission Inn Resort with El Campeon “The Champion” and Las Colinas “The Hills” courses onsite. Every golf trip must include The Club at Bella Collina “Beautiful Hills”, Sugarloaf Mountain, Sanctuary Ridge and The Legends Country Club. The Crenshaw/Coore designed Sugarloaf Mountain Club, was built up, down and around Sugarloaf Mountain, which at its peak is the fifth highest point in the state (312 feet above sea level). The 1st length par-4 has a natural drop of 75'. Standing on the tee box, you have 10-plus mile views of the Central Florida highlands, including Lake Apopka. At the par-3 17th 507 yard, right-to-left dogleg, par-4, has an elevation drop from tee box to green of over 200'!
The designers of the courses noted above, did not move much earth during course construction. The natural “mountain” terrain, sand barrens, natural lakes and native vegetation mostly dictated the course design characteristics. El Campeon, “The Champion” at Mission Inn was designed and built in 1917, and like other courses born during that era, the natural terrain - not a bulldozer, was “the designer”. Some thoughts from Nick Faldo when building his Bella Collina masterpiece include, “the natural rolling site with steep elevation changes is very unusual for Orlando”, and ”the course will provide an inspiring golfing experience for members and guests for years to come.”
The Florida Highlands Golf Trail has so much to offer golfers and guests after your rounds are complete, or if you dare, an “off day” to explore the area. There are numerous festivals and events throughout the year, including The Antique Boat Festival drawing boats and collectors from all over North America, the Mt. Dora Music Festival, and the The Bassmasters Southern Open. Visitors will enjoy great “Old Florida Style” cuisine among numerous culinary choices throughout the area.
If your group is looking for a change from the busy Florida tourist destinations, a golf trip to the Florida Highlands Golf Trail is a perfect choice. The area is an easy and short drive from Orlando, Tampa and Ocala. From Orlando International Airport, or Orlando-Sanford International Airport - 45 minutes, 1.5 hour drive from Tampa and 30 minutes from Ocala and Interstate 75.
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