When it's time for a reprieve from the tourist hordes at central Florida's theme parks, Lakeland and Sebring offer a slower pace, excellent golf possibilities and fun off-course activities. Many picturesque lakes serve as natural buffers from development, giving Lakeland the laid-back feel of a much smaller city. Sebring attracts visitors with its Old Florida downtown historic district, golf courses and Sebring International Raceway.
Harder Hall Golf Club is home of the Sebring Golf Academy as well as an 18-hole championship course. Opened in the 1950s, the club built a reputation as a pro favorite. The course offers one of the best values in the area with a challenging layout that will appeal to players of all skill levels. Accuracy is the key to playing this tight golf course.
There are two championship golf courses available at Highland Ridge, an upscale residential community that is one of central Florida's most popular golfing destinations. Both courses enjoy a beautiful tropical setting situated next to a nature conservancy and a 260-acre freshwater lake. Highlands Ridge's North Course is known for its excellent conditions and the more challenging South Course is one of the heartland's toughest layouts. The South was even voted the area's best golf course in 2012.
Highlands Ridge offers 36 holes of championship golf, which form the centerpiece of the upscale residential community. It's one central Florida's most popular golf destinations. The North Course is known for its outstanding conditions. The layout is not as challenging as the South Course, making it more appealing for beginners.
Beyond its vibrant nightlife and arts scene, West Palm Beach is also an excellent destination for golf. Palm Beach National is a classic, player-friendly layout that is a local favorite. West Palm Beach G.C. is another popular play. This public course stands out thanks to the abundance of palms, pines, and oak throughout its landscape. And just up the road is PGA National Resort & Spa, host of the Honda Classic. If those offerings aren't enough, the famed Breakers hotel is just across the bridge.
Atlantis Country Club has a central location in Palm Beach County that makes it conveniently accessible, but its unique setting will make you feel as though you're in North Carolina. Unlike many other golf courses in the area, Atlantis enjoys a lush landscape covered with enormous banyan trees, mature pines, and towering oaks.
The 18-hole Osprey Creek Course at Martin Downs Country Club (formerly known as Tower Course at Martin Downs Country Club) in Palm City, FL is a private golf course that opened in 1982.
Palm Beach National stands out from other south Florida golf courses thanks to a stunning landscape blanketed with mature stands of live oaks and laurels, Royal and Queen palms, and cypress trees. The course has a traditional landscape with wide-open fairways and elevated greens.
Set in the north central part of the state, Ocala attracts visitors with its Old Florida charm and a laid-back lifestyle dominated by horse farms, tree-laden golf courses, an historic downtown and easy access to the Ocala National Forest, Appleton Museum of Art and Silver Springs theme park.
Candler Hills Golf Club in Ocala was designed by Florida native Gordon Lewis. In a state that has no shortage of golf courses, Candler Hills manages to stand out. The layout offers plenty of length at 7,233 yards from the back tees.
When Juliette Falls Golf Course first opened in 2008, Golf Digest ranked it is one of the top five best new courses in the country. In a state that boasts more than 2,000 courses, Juliette Falls stands out as one of Florida's finest.
The 18-hole Ocala Golf Club in Ocala, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1920. Designed by Lloyd Clifton, Ocala Golf Club measures 6552 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 125 and a 71.
As you might expect, the Space Coast of Florida got its name because that's where NASA launched its rockets and shuttles for the last half century or so. But the region has far more to offer than an education on America's space program. It's an area that stretches from Ormond Beach to Vero Beach with a coastline that offers great surfing and spring break locations, big-time auto racing, deep sea fishing and a pretty good golf scene.
The 18-hole Spessard Holland Golf Course in Melbourne Beach, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1977. Designed by Arnold Palmer, Spessard Holland Golf Course measures 5018 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 117 and a 64.
The 18-hole Savannahs Golf Course in Merritt Island, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1989. Designed by Gordon Lewis, Savannahs Golf Course measures 6507 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 135 and a 72 USGA rating. The course features 4 sets of tees for different skill levels.
The 18-hole The Habitat Golf Course in Malabar, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1991. Designed by Charles Ankrom, The Habitat Golf Course measures 6836 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 141 and a 73.
Naples is known just as much for its golf as it is for its famous beaches. With more than 35 courses right in the city and over 50 more championship courses in the surrounding area, Naples is the state of Florida's self-proclaimed Golf Capital. The city claims to have the highest ratio of golf courses to golfers in the country.
The 18-hole The Golf Club At Magnolia Landing in Fort Myers, FL is a public golf course that opened in 2007. The Golf Club At Magnolia Landing measures 7265 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 142 and a 75.
Hibiscus Golf Club is one of the few 18-hole courses in Naples that are open to the public. The course is player enough for beginners and while it may not be what you're looking for if you're in search of a formidable test, it's good for some casual practice for the more advanced player.
TPC Treviso Bay was a collaborative effort between Arthur Hills and PGA Tour player consultant Hal Sutton. Their mission was to create a golf course that will not only test your skills with your clubs but will also make you think.
Tallahassee revolves around two things: Government business at the capital, and Florida State University. And while the capital city may not be the golf capital of the Sunshine State, it boasts a handful of top-notch courses with terrain reminiscent of the Carolinas.
Located in Carrabelle just minutes from the pristine white beaches of St. George Island and Cape San Blas, St. James Bay Resort boasts the only Audubon Signature Sanctuary golf course in the area. It's not an understatement to say that water is the course's most formidable feature. In addition to the natural hazards that have been seamlessly incorporated, bunkers were carefully added to strategic locations to make the course more challenging, but they still allow the landscape to truly shine.
The 18-hole Capital City Country Club in Tallahassee, FL is a private golf course that opened in 1924. Designed by A. W. Tillinghast, Capital City Country Club measures 6502 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 128 and a 71.
This Fred Couples-Gene Bates design meanders through high countries, low countries, secluded woods and open fields. The golf course is not revved up on gimmicks or architect steroids. SouthWood's routing flows seamlessly with the existing elements.
To an outsider looking in, the Tampa Bay area has it all. The enormous, sugar-white beaches of St. Petersburg/Clearwater are some of the best in the world. The peaceful, warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay are a veritable maritime playground. The area is home to an intriguing collection of golf courses that will appeal to any skill level and income bracket.
A vintage TPC golf course with dramatic finishing holes and loads of stadium mounding. Designer Bobby Weed routed the 6,898-yard par 71 course through the wetlands and cypress trees north of the city. TPC Tampa Bay is an Audubon certified cooperative sanctuary courses.
Heritage Isles Golf & Country Club offers the best of Florida golf with a landscape covered in cypress trees and tranquil ponds. The architects wanted to retain the rustic charm as well as the native flora and fauna and so 15 acres of natural wetlands were preserved.
The Saddlebrook Course is one of two Arnold Palmer championship designs at Saddlebrook Resort, located about 30 minutes north of Tampa. The 18-hole, par-70 layout is tighter and flatter than its sister course, the Palmer, so hitting it straight off the tee is key.
Why do so many of the world's best golfers call Orlando home? Well, there are 123 courses within a 45-minute drive of downtown, and many things to do off the course. Plus, the weather is always great for outdoor activities, with an average annual temperature of 72.4 degrees. In short, it's a great place to work on your game -- or forget about it altogether.
Grand Cypress' South/East Course blends elements of the more challenging North/South combination and the gentler East/North. The course plays through woods as well as natural water hazards that come into play on a number of holes.
The natural Florida woodlands provide a stunning backdrop to one of America's premier resort courses. Architect, Joe Lee, designed the 6,870-yard Palm with elevated tees and greens. The key ingredient, of course, was the Florida palm and he made good use of nearly every variety for aesthetic and strategic purposes.
At Twin Rivers Golf Club experience a course that combines the natural beauty of Florida with a consistent test of shot-making abilities. Nestled between two rivers this golf club offers eighteen unique and challenging holes surrounded by environmentally protected areas.
The Daytona Beach area boasts miles of white-sandy beaches and hosts more than 8 million visitors each year. They come not only for NASCAR races and Speedweeks, but summertime concerts, Biketoberfest, the Halifax Art Festival and -- of course, for some amazing golf courses.
Nestled in the gently rolling hills of Lake Mary Timacuan is a Ron Garl designed course. The front nine is reminiscent of a Scottish links-style course, with wide open fairways, rolling hills and deep bunkers. Watch the wind and keep it low!
DeBary Golf & Country Club, a Lloyd Clifton-designed course sits on hilly land. The layout is fascinating. No two holes feel similar. Only two holes have water, but there is significant sand. Dense woods of pine and evergreen border the fairways.
The Deltona Club holds the distinction of being ranked as one of the top 20 public golf courses in Florida. The club has roots that date back to the late 1950s. It is a remake of one of the state's earliest planned communities. Bobby Weed redesigned the golf course, improving its aesthetic appeal and giving it more playability.
Florida's Emerald Coast, from Pensacola and Panama City across the panhandle to Destin and Tallahassee, has emerged as a golf destination and now features more than 1,000 holes to enjoy on its golf courses, not to mention sandy beaches and the sparkling Gulf of Mexico. Thousands of families visit the area each spring and summer to indulge in the powdery sand and consistently ideal weather.
The golf course at Seascape Golf Beach and Tennis is routed through a network of freshwater and coastal dune lakes, offering stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico from nearly every hole. With so much water throughout, it is only natural that it comes into play on 15 holes.
After carving the masterpiece called The Links Course, Tom Jackson returned to Sandestin to develop the course we call Baytowne. As Jackson himself says, "Each hole has a personality all its own." And that's what makes this course so special.
The 18-hole Creek/Seminole at Indian Bayou Golf & Country Club in Destin, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1978. Designed by Earl Stone, Creek/Seminole at Indian Bayou Golf & Country Club measures 7047 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 142 and a 74.
Anyone who's been there will tell you that Jacksonville is one of the best-kept secrets on the eastern seaboard. A vibrant, midsize city with an enviable waterfront setting and an NFL franchise, "J-ville" as locals call it, often plays second fiddle to Atlanta, Charlotte, and even instate rivals Tampa and Miami in the Southern city popularity contest.
The Oak Bridge Club (formerly known as Ponte Vedra Golf & Country Club at Sawgrass) is one of the finest golf courses located inside the Sawgrass community just minutes from the Marriott Sawgrass Resort. Nestled in beautiful Ponte Vedra, The Oak Bridge Club boasts an active membership and friendly, professional staff that make it an ideal setting to entertain family, friends or clients.
The 18-hole Bent Creek Golf Course in Jacksonville, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1989. Designed by Bobby Weed, Bent Creek Golf Course measures 6420 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 136 and a 71.
Cimarrone Golf Club has a landscape that includes both natural wetlands and pine forests, providing an interesting variety of risk-reward opportunities as well as scenic views. The course's 17 lakes come into play on every hole along either the well defined fairways or manicured greens.
The Bradenton-Sarasota region of Florida fits the definition of overlooked and underrated by both tourists and golfers alike.
The 18-hole 3/1 at University Park Country Club in University Park, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1991. Designed by Ron Garl, 3/1 at University Park Country Club measures 7247 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 132 and a 75.
The Highlands golf course is one of three courses owned and operated by Meadows Country Club. In addition to the Highlands and Meadows Courses, there is also the Arthur Hills-designed Groves Course, an 18-hole executive course.
The 18-hole Tatum Ridge Golf Links in Sarasota, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1989. Designed by Ted McAnlis, Tatum Ridge Golf Links measures 6745 yards from the longest tees. The course features 4 sets of tees for different skill levels.
Miami's warm ocean breezes and colorful culture highlight the easygoing yet energy-filled atmosphere of this city where you can do everything from relax at the beach to exploring an ancient Spanish monastery all in one day. Naturally, the sandy coasts and marshy wetlands provided an excellent opportunity for some world-class golf courses.
The Country Club of Coral Springs is popular among the surrounding communities, known for its excellent conditions and family-friendly atmosphere, but it's also a hidden gem for visitors too. In addition to golf, the club also has six tennis courts available.
Opened in 1925, Biltmore Golf Course has a traditional layout designed by Donald Ross. The course has a timelessly challenging design that has made it one of Miami's most favored layouts.
Jacaranda Golf Club offers two championship courses, the East and the West. The courses, which are both four-star rated by Golf Digest, weave through a variety of ponds and canals, lending a tropical feel throughout. The East Course presents many interesting risk-reward opportunities. The fairways are generous, but undulating and lined with trees and the greens are raised and sloping.