Visit Orange County National Golf Center for one reason and one reason only, golf. If you are looking for non-golfing frills then you are at the wrong place. With 45 holes (two 18-holers called Panther Lake and Crooked Cat and a 9-holer called Tooth), a 36-hole putting course called Whiskers, a 42-acre circular driving range – which once received the Best Golf Driving Range in America accolade – comfortable lodge rooms and a decent clubhouse, you might begin to get the idea that Orange County National is Florida’s equivalent to Oregon’s Bandon Dunes but with some weird feline fetish.
Even though Orange County National Golf Center is a relatively short drive by car from Orlando, it feels as though you are heading into the boondocks. But keep going, you are travelling in the right direction and eventually you’ll arrive at the property, which is set in more than 900 acres of pleasantly rolling ground that is completely devoid of housing.
Panther Lake was the first course to open at Orange County National (1997) and it was the result of collaboration between Phil Ritson, Isao Aoki and the late David Harman. The Crooked Cat opened in 1999 and the same trio designed that course too. Both courses feature plenty of rare Floridian elevation change and both can be stretched out beyond 7,200 yards from the tips.
“There is hardly anything to dislike about Crooked Cat.” Wrote Rob Armstrong in Golfing Florida’s Best. “It’s scenic. It’s demanding. The greens are true and fast, ranging in size from merely large to gigantic. Good shots are rewarded. Bad shots will cause you anguish and cost you strokes. From the opener to the long par four 18th, it is a memorable golf experience… When I finished playing both courses, one of the guys who wiped down my clubs asked which one I preferred. My honest answer was that I liked them both. Both are simply lovely, challenging golf courses. I thought Panther Lake was the tougher of the two, but Crooked Cat is hardly a pussycat.”