Having recently spent a weekend at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, I couldn’t wait to share my experience with Golf Aficionado readers. Since opening in 2004, the Omni Resort at ChampionsGate has been an established name in the Orlando luxury golf resort and spa community. Located within close proximity of Walt Disney World, the resort has hosted millions of visitors over the years. The main attraction for golfers is ChampionGate’s two Greg Norman designed 18-hole championship golf courses, the International and National golf course. Besides the two Greg Norman-designed courses, our interest in ChampionsGate was sparked by the $40 million expansion project just completed in September of 2017.
After being opened for just more than a dozen years the resort was far from dated. However, as the economy continues it’s strong rebound, the luxury golf and resort market in Orlando is more competitive than ever. Omni’s $40 million expansion includes: 10,000 square feet of additional pool deck and recreational space, installation of Orlando’s only resort wave pool, a new property villa building and a redesign of Trevi’s Restaurant that now includes an outdoor garden terrace and bar. In addition, to those upgrades at the resort the expansion also includes the addition of 81,000 square feet of expanded event lawn and conference center space which combined with the new Sunset Lodge makes for an ideal location to host large golf groups or wedding parties.
Oh, by the way, part of that $40 million upgrade included major enhancements to the International and National golf courses at ChampionsGate. I mean, the wave pool was amazing but this is Golf Aficionado Magazine and nothing gets us more excited than a resort fully committed to the success of their golf operation! So, let’s dive into how the money was spent on the golf courses. Part of the beauty of having more than one golf course on property is the ability to temporarily close one course while keeping the golf operations going at the other. First up was the International Course, this is by far the harder of the two courses and known for providing a stiff challenge to even the best golfers. In June of 2016, the International Course closed and the focus of the project was on improving playing conditions. The highlight of the renovation work was a complete resurfacing of all 18 greens. The original FloraDwarf greens have been replaced by Champions Bermuda.
Is Champions Bermuda the best putting surface? Let’s take a few minutes and delve into the science of the putting surface. The right putting surface is always debatable and the answer will vary based on region and location. However, we think ChampionsGate made the right decision! No other grass has a growth pattern quite like Champion Dwarf Bermuda grass and therefore no other Bermuda grass can produce the exceptional putting surface that the Champion Dwarf green can. Stimp meter tests have proved that Champion Dwarf greens are known to roll at speeds of nearly two feet faster than other varieties. Not only is Champions Bermuda grass built for speed but their incredible growth rate allows them to stand up to a beating and last the test of time.
In addition to the new green surfaces, work included the flattening of all par-3 tee boxes and the complete reconstruction of all green-side bunker complexes. The effort to resurface didn’t stop on the greens, as part of the worked completed, the fairways and tees were all sprigged with Champions Bermuda. More than a year after work was completed on the International Course, the Champions Bermuda has taken hold and is providing golfers with more consistent and faster conditions. Golfer’s aren’t the only ones loving the new playing surface, the Champions Bermuda has a higher tolerance to cold and traffic, so the maintenance staff’s job has gotten much easier allowing them more time to focus on fine details.
Next up was the National Course, the National is the easier of the two courses and by far the resort favorite. Following the success of the renovation work on the International Course, the game plan was pretty much the same with the switch out the FloraDwarf grass with Champions Bermuda. The National Course just reopened in September and the Champions Bermuda has already taken hold; the new putting surface is phenomenal. You know how everyone loves a new car; the smell, the look, the feel. It’s the same thing with new greens, every step on the green I felt like I was taking in a whiff of that new car smell. The greens at ChampionsGate are running true and fast, and you won’t find better greens in Orlando. Unfortunately, that means you’ll have a hard time blaming the putting surface for any of those missed 3-foot putts.
The upgrades just completed further establish ChampionsGate as one of the leaders in the Orlando luxury resort market. ChampionsGate provides guest with an all-in-one luxury escape for families, groups, and golfers. During my stay, I had a chance to sit down and eat lunch with Robert Stanfield, general manager of Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate. After lunch one thing was clear, Robert and his team are passionate in their quest to provide guests with an unparalleled level of quality, comfort, and convenience. It’s easy to tell that a lot of energy and planning was devoted to the renovation and every penny of that $40 million was well spent. Next time you’re headed to Orlando make sure to keep ChampionsGate at the top of the list of places to stay and play.