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The Country Club of Orlando

On the outskirts of downtown Orlando, right between the Parliament House and the Magic Mall is a freaking golf course with sweeping greens, human-height sprinklers and a gate keeping most of us out. Its the The Country Club of Orlando‎ at 1601 Country Club Drive. (MAP) Who knew? I certainly don't care about a golf course, but I just think its funny that I never knew this even existed. The rich-ies keep the place well-hidden.

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(From their website)The Country Club of Orlando was chartered in November 1911. At this time, the City of Orlando was eager to attract northern tourists, and the Club – which had already opened a nine-hole golf course, was seen as a tremendous asset to the city in this regard. The first clubhouse, a typical “old Florida” building with wide verandahs, was opened in May of 1912. When financial difficulties developed a few years after the Club’s founding, a vigorous, community-wide effort took place in order to raise funds for expansion of the golf course to eighteen holes, as well as other improvements to the Club facilities.

In 1926, just at the end of the Florida Land Boom, a new Mediterranean-style clubhouse was opened. Costing $65,000, the new facility was, indicated the Orlando Morning Sentinel, “one of the finest in the country.” By this time, the golf course was considered one of the best in the state; and in 1933, a stable was constructed where members could keep their horses.

By now, the Great Depression had taken a firm grip on the nation, and Central Florida was experiencing a drop in the numbers of winter visitors, along with less expendable money for club dues, and even losses in the powerful citrus industry. The future of the Club seemed uncertain until Club President, Jack Branham, managed to get the mortgage reduced to a figure that members could afford to pay. In 1935, the Club’s corporate structure was reorganized, and the name was changed to The Country Club of Orlando, which has remained to the present day. At this time, dues for Active Members were established at $44 per year.

During World War II, the Club experienced many difficulties – a drop in membership, along with shortages of labor, food and supplies – and only superb leadership by Club President, Holman R. Cloud, along with many donations from members, kept the Club afloat. Following the war, the Club experienced a swift upsurge in membership as the post-war economy expanded, and in the early 1950’s the membership decided to construct a new clubhouse.

In January 1956, a new, contemporary-style facility, costing some $400,000 was opened. During the following decades, as Central Florida prospered on many fronts – most notably that of tourism as Walt Disney World opened in 1971, and many other entertainment areas followed. Major golf course renovations took place in 1960, 1976 and 1990, the last of which was planned to preserve and enhance the features of the original Donald Ross design.

A new Mediterranean design club house was built in 2000, reminiscent of Addison Mizner’s Palm Beach-style architecture.