Courses: Golfers will find no fewer than 189 courses within an hour's drive of downtown Orlando, fitting just about anyone's taste and budget.
Enthusiasts played approximately 6 million rounds of golf in Central Florida in 2010, according to figures from the PGA of America's PerformanceTrak database. At an average price of $31 per round, that translates to $186 million in greens fees alone.
They can test themselves where the pros play at Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer Invitational) or Grand Cypress (LPGA Titleholders). Disney World, site of the Children's Miracle Network Classic, has five courses under its mouse ears.
High-end golfers can get pampered at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes or Waldorf Astoria GC. For those trying to stretch their greens fees, 28 executive courses wind through The Villages.
Players: About 40 PGA Tour members call Greater Orlando home, plus another two dozen or so LPGA pros. "It seems someone's winning something every week, somewhere," said Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo.
Only Orlando could spawn the Tavistock Cup, where Lake Nona and Isleworth pros battle in a two-day friendly shown to a worldwide audience. Of the 95 players invited to this year's Masters, 11 have Lake Nona connections.
And nowhere else can claim the Great Triumvirate of one-name icons who call Orlando home -- Arnie, Tiger and Annika.
Arnold Palmer first saw Orlando's golf potential some 50 years ago, searching for a winter base where he could keep his game sharp. He became so smitten by Bay Hill that he eventually purchased the club in 1970.
Three decades later, Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam put Orlando front and center as they dominated the fairways right after the turn of the century. Woods (Isleworth) remains the only player to hold all four major titles at the same time; Sorenstam (Lake Nona) won 10 majors among her 72 LPGA victories.
Events: Orlando has been a twice-a-year destination on the PGA Tour for four decades now. Bay Hill's Arnold Palmer Invitational now holds the anchor position on the Florida Swing, two weeks before the Masters; the CMN Classic brings the season to an end at Disney.
Now add the LPGA's season finale, which ended the tour's brief absence from the state when it moved to Grand Cypress. "A lot of our players live here, we're here," Whan said. "So why not?"
And those are just the marquee events. Greater Orlando is a hotbed for developmental circuits. The NGA/Hooters Tour and LPGA Futures Tour open their seasons here; the Suncoast Ladies Series and Moonlight Golf Tour play almost exclusively in the area.
Instruction: David Leadbetter, a top-three mainstay on Golf Digest's biannual list of top swing instructors, has an affiliation with Central Florida that goes back to 1982.
Future Hall of Famers Nick Faldo and Nick Price were sweating under Leadbetter's tutelage at Greenlefe Resort in Haines City long before they began winning majors. The England-born instructor later moved operations to Lake Nona before settling at ChampionsGate in 2000.
Mike Bender, based at Lake Mary's Timacuan Golf Club, is No. 9 on the magazine's list and works with former Masters champion Zach Johnson and two-time U.S. Open winner Lee Janzen. Yani Tseng, the LPGA's 2010 Player of the Year, sees Gary Gilchrist at Mission Inn.
The biggest spotlight, though, now falls on Sean Foley. Based at Orange County National, he already was rising fast in the ranks before Woods chose him to revamp a swing that left him with his first winless season as a pro.
Retail: Few locales rival Greater Orlando for shopping around for deals on clubs and other equipment. Beyond the various pro shops at area courses, more than a dozen independent golf outlets have set up shop.
Edwin Watts Golf has six outlets alone, including its National Clearance Center.
Orlando also is where new models frequently get their official rollout at the annual PGA Merchandise Show. Nearly 1,000 vendors, from established names to startup ventures, will be showcasing their wares this week at the Orange County Convention Center.
Open only to industry professionals, the gathering is projected to draw some 45,000 attendees -- an attendance that translates to $50 million in spending.
Media: When Golf Channel first fired up its signal in 1995, plenty of skeptics wondered how any channel could maintain 365-day programming focused on a single sport.
Today, the network is in 120 million homes and broadcasts live from more than 40 PGA Tour events, plus a healthy dose of the LPGA, Champions, Nationwide and European tours. Any significant news in the sport filters through its Sand Lake complex.
Palmer was one of Golf Channel's founders, teaming with cable entrepreneur Joseph Gibbs. Even he admits to some skepticism at the time.
"Do you know how much it would have been worth if I had taken all the stock I could have taken?" he mused while taping a recent segment. "A billion [dollars]."
Golfweek, which began as a regional publication, keeps its offices in Orlando. So does Global Golf Digest, a digital-only entry sent directly to subscribers' e-mails.
Read Jeff Shain's golf blog, The Downswing, at OrlandoSentinel.com/golfblog and e-mail him at email@example.com.
Orlando remains a hot spot for golfers
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