For golfers, hearing about a "links style" golf course may incite thoughts of golf's early days, tracing its lineage to Scotland. Every year in July, The Open Championship, one of golf's four major championships, is played on a links style course, giving us insight to what makes these courses unique. What sets links courses apart from Florida or "parkland" style courses are the playing features. Some of these unique features include small, deep sand traps called "pot bunkers," with its top edges looking rough and grown out or having wooden fronts made of railroad ties. The greens and fairways may have undulations that could be worthy of a roller coaster track, leaving you with blind shots or twisting putts. Additionally, the playing surfaces are usually firm and fast, and trees give way to dunes and hills.
Though true links golf courses primarily exists in the United Kingdom, there are many courses right here in Kissimmee, Florida that have similar qualities and provide an experience that will make you feel like you've landed in "across the pond." Here are three courses located in Kissimmee, Florida that are open to the public and will bring feelings of playing the old courses that gave birth to the sport of golf right to you.
Mystic Dunes Resort Though they say it's the back-nine that is reminiscent of a British Isles links course, all 18 holes have elements in play that is a far cry from the traditional Florida course. The undulations on the fairways and greens will amaze you, and it can be difficult to find your golf ball on a flat lie. There are large waste areas filled with soft sand on all but two holes, and many of the regular sand traps contain vertical railroad ties on their front walls, aptly named "whiskey barrel bunkers." The course boasts five sets of tees, the longest ones playing just over 7,000 yards, and you will find a challenge from just about anywhere on the course. This amazing and unique course is a must play whether you are looking for links golf or not.
International Course - OMNI Resort One of Greg Norman's two signature courses located at the OMNI Resort at ChampionsGate, the International Course is the one to play if you're looking for a British style of course. It plays host to numerous tournaments, most notably the PGA and Champions Tour's Father Son Challenge from 2003-2008. While this course is ready for the pros, five sets of tees and many wide fairways offer playable conditions for most skill levels. With Central Florida's famous wetlands as a backdrop, you will find many features on this course that would be more at home in the British Isles, not Kissimmee. From tee to green, you will find high-sided dunes with swirling grasses, over 160 pot bunkers, and hazards that blend seamlessly into the landscape. The greens themselves, with every size and shape variety you can find on one course, deserve every bit of recognition for the superb conditions you will find year round.
Royal Saint Cloud Golf Links Voted the top links course in the area, Royal St. Cloud offers a very well kept course at very affordable rates. With 27 holes broken into three sets of nine, each set represents a different style: Scottish, British, and Irish links. Wide, plateaued fairways containing many bunkers, most of which named, lead to smooth and fast greens. Apart from having very few trees, you won't see many houses, and the surrounding natural areas blend very well with the course. The unique layout will have you dodging a "church pew" sand trap on one hole, or trying to clear a creek spanned by a stone bridge with your approach on another. But what really makes Royal St. Cloud stand out is the overall quality of the course. Any time of year, the fairways will be tight and flawless and the greens will roll quick and true.