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A great golf course can be defined in a number of different ways. To some, the defining characteristic is the name architect associated with the layout. Others merely define a course’s value based on its location or setting. Think Pebble Beach.

For many, though, what makes a golf course great is simply the experience. In other words, does the course feature certain elements that make it fun and/or memorable?

Here in South Lake County, there are a number of golf course developments that definitely deliver on the latter criteria. How else can one describe the compelling combination of affordable golf amidst the beautiful backdrop of Florida’s only rolling hills and chains of lakes.

Indeed, Sanctuary Ridge Golf Club, formerly known as Diamond Player’s Club, is one of the more unique golf experiences in South Lake courtesy of a spectacular setting in the heart of Clermont. Unofficially known as the Mountain Course, the 230-acre property features 190 feet of elevation change and includes a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse that sits 280 feet above sea level, one of the highest points in peninsular Florida.

golf course

To actually get to the peak of peninsular Florida, one needs to travel just 20 minutes away to the eponymously named Sugarloaf Mountain, a master-planned community in Minneola that features Florida’s only course designed by the acclaimed design duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Though Sugarloaf Mountain is private, it does offer limited guest access and is well worth the visit—if for nothing else than just to hit a shot on top of the 312-foot namesake mountain. From the site of the proposed clubhouse, the panoramic views of massive Lake Apopka and downtown Orlando some 30 miles away are as stunning as one will find in the Sunshine State.

Another world-class setting and golf property is Mission Inn Resort & Club, a 36-hole resort community overlooking Lake Harris in the tiny town of Howey-in-the-Hills. Between its 82-year-old El Campeon course and the more modern Las Colinas layout that opened in 1992, Mission Inn offers two uniquely different experiences, accented of course, by those rolling hills that also traverse this part of the county. One exciting change is the addition of the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy, known as one of the world’s leading golf instructors.

For a more modest golf outing, visit Green Valley Country Club in Groveland, where an average $30 round is one of the best buys in Central Florida. Though short on length, 6,645 yards from the back tees, Green Valley offers more than its fair share of memorable panoramic holes, including the signature 415-yard, par-4 No. 6, where an elevated downhill dogleg left tee shot onto a blind green is one of most fun drives in the county.

Of course, these same signature South Lake hills can also be enjoyed at other excellent golf venues such as 36-hole King’s Ridge (includes alternative 18-hole short course) and Legends Golf and Country Club, sister properties located across the street from each other in Clermont.

First-class golf and physical setting notwithstanding, perhaps the most attractive element of South Lake golf is its proximity to Orlando—arguably the Golf Capital of the World. Yes, Orlando might be more synonymous with Mickey and Goofy, but there’s only one place that can lay claim to having Tiger and the King (that would be golf greats Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer, of course).

Actually, more than 100 touring pros consider Orlando home, and for good reason, what with an estimated 150 golf facilities in the area and year-round sunshine. For a rare opportunity to tee it up where the top pros play, be sure to visit Disney World and Palmer’s Bay Hill Club, which annually host PGA Tour events, or Orange County National, longtime venue for the PGA Tour Qualifying School. On the amateur front Mission Inn has regularly hosted NCAA Division II men’s and women’s national tournaments.

“It’s just amazing how many people involved in the sport are based in the area,” says top golf instructor David Leadbetter, whose world headquarters is part of the 36-hole Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, which holds the nationally televised Father-Son Challenge. “Once something started it just attracted more and more. Now (Orlando) has a reputation that obviously, this is where golf should be based.”

And South Lake County is certainly one of the best places to start.

country club

Scott Kauffman is the owner/broker of Clermont-based Aloha Realty Group LLC, the area’s only independent commercial real estate brokerage firm. In addition to his real estate interests, Kauffman has been a career journalist who specializes in golf course development and luxury real estate worldwide. Kauffman writes for numerous national publications, including Ocean Home, Robb Report Vacation Homes, Links, Estates West and Living Southern Style, and he is affiliated with www.privateclubmembers.org and www.realestatechannel.com.

Chamber Golf Courses

Green Valley Country Club
14601 Green Valley Blvd. Clermont, FL 34711
P: (352) 394-0632 • F: (352) 394-6930

Legends Golf and Country Club
1700 Legendary Blvd. Clermont, FL 34711
P: (352) 243-1118 • F: (352) 243-3790

Mission Inn Golf & Tennis Resort
10400 County Road 48 Howey-in-the-Hill, FL 34737
P: (352) 324-2024 • F: (352) 324-2779

Palisades Country Club
16510 Palisades Blvd. Clermont, FL 34711
P: (352) 394-0085 • F: (352) 394-8474

Sanctuary Ridge Golf Club
2601 Diamond Club Drive Clermont, FL 34711
P: (352) 243-0411 • F: (352) 394-1434

Other Golf Courses

Clerbrook RV & Golf Resort
20005 U.S. Hwy. 27 Minneola, FL 34715
P: (352) 394-5513 • F: (352) 394-8251

King’s Ridge Golf Club
1950 Kings Ridge Blvd. Clermont, FL 34711
P: (352) 242-4653 • F: (352) 242-6345

Swiss Fairways
13114 Skiing Paradise Blvd. Clermont FL 34711
P: (352) 429-2178 • F: (352) 429-9628

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