Another fine choice is Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge (888-422-9445), a.k.a. Arnie's winter home. The sixty-five rooms in this intimate inn aren't especially luxe, but the atmosphere is that of a storied private club, which Bay Hill is. Best of all, guests get a crack at its Championship eighteen, annual host of the Bay Hill Invitational, and there's always the possibility of seeing the King on the range, playing cards in the men's locker room or teeing it up in the daily members' scramble. The course itself is one of the state's best: Sometimes it requires strength, sometimes smarts, but focus is needed all the way around.
Elsewhere around the fantastical world of the Magic Kingdom, the golf is the real deal. Greg Norman designed both the National and International courses at ChampionsGate (407-787-4653) just off I-4 past Disney World. The former is tight and compact; the latter, our preference, is long and open with a links feel. If the course bollixes up your game, there's a David Leadbetter Golf Academy on hand to fix it. Falcon's Fire Golf Club (877-878-3473) is a nice Rees Jones country-club-for-a-day, if one can penetrate the forest of T-shirt shops, fast-food joints and discount marts constituting Kissimmee's main drag to find it.
Orlando's outskirts feature some interesting layouts, too. To the southwest, in Haines City, is Southern Dunes Golf & Country Club (800-632-6400). Built on open, rolling terrain, it's a handful if the wind is blowing. To the north, in Eustis, is P. B. Dye's Black Bear Golf Club (352-357-4732), of which the same things can be said. To the southwest, Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge (888-727-3672) boasts the traditional Panther Lake and the linksy Crooked Cat (which together will host the 2003 PGA Tour Q-school finals), the world's biggest range (forty-two acres), and a Phil Ritson Golf Institute.
For nighttime diversions, kick it up a notch from the city's basic flavors with dinner at Emeril's Restaurant Orlando (407-224-2424) at CityWalk. Because of the chef's celebrity and the quality of the nouveau New Orleans food, call for a table at least six weeks in advance for weekdays, fourteen for weekends. Don't yell "Bam!" into the phone.
For those who live golf and wish to eat that way, too, head for Sam Snead's Tavern (407-295-9999) not far from MetroWest Golf Club (407-299-1099, a tough Robert Trent Jones design that sports the highest point in Orlando). Snead's has a broad range of fine fare and Slammin' Sammy memorabilia; you might also spy some of the Golf Channel's on-air talent at the hopping bar. A strip of popular restaurants has sprung up on Sand Lake Road near I-4 and International Drive: Timpano Italian Chophouse (407-248-0429), Samba Room (407-226-0550), Morton's (407-248-3485), Ruth's Chris Steak House (407-226-3900) and Roy's (407-352-4844). For music, House of Blues (407-934-2583) in Downtown Disney often features well-known headliners, while beboppers should check out CityJazz at CityWalk (407-224-2189).