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.
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 golf course at Seascape Resort 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.
Bluewater Bay Resort in Niceville sits along the shores of Choctawhatchee Bay with Florida's famous white sand beaches in view. It is one of Destin's most popular places to play. The resort boasts four nine-hole golf courses designed by Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate. The Lake, Bay, Magnolia, and Marsh Courses all have varied landscapes that provide a different set of challenges on each.
The Bradenton-Sarasota region of Florida fits the definition of overlooked and underrated by both tourists and golfers alike.
River Run Golf Links is a municipal course owned by the city of Bradenton. The layout is player friendly enough for all skill levels to enjoy but it's also a fair test that is anything but boring.
River Wilderness Golf & Country Club is situated along the north shore of the Manatee River. The course is the centerpiece of a gated golf-and-boating community and it is a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. The layout stretches across more than 150 acres of scenic terrain that offers a mix of woodlands and wetlands.
IMG Academy Golf Club offers a challenging, but rewarding golf experience no matter what skill level. Towering oaks and pine trees dot the course as well as a few sparkling lakes. Opened in 1972, the golf course underwent a major renovation in 2003 that has made it one of the most technically advanced golf courses in southwest Florida.
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 Prince/Queen at Royal Tee Country Club in Cape Coral, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1991. Designed by Gordon G. Lewis, Prince/Queen at Royal Tee Country Club measures 6606 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 126 and a 71.
Stonybrook Golf Club boasts seven sets of tees, making it a truly versatile course that any skill level can play. The layout features wide fairways with generous landing areas leading to large, undulating greens that are bordered by intimidating bunkers and contoured mounding.
Quail Village Golf Club is part of a quiet residential community that is conveniently situated just minutes from Naples' beaches, shops, and restaurants. The 18-hole course is the centerpiece of the community. The layout has an interesting variety of holes that consist of three par 5s, nine par 4s, and six par 3s.
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.
Grand Haven Golf Course in Palm Coast is a Jack Nicklaus-designed championship layout that sits just minutes from the ocean, providing scenic views of the Intracoastal Waterway from nearly every hole. The layout features all of Nicklaus' trademark features including generous, player-friendly fairways.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Stone Creek Golf & Country Club stretches across more 185 acres of Ocala's rolling hills and lush green countryside. The lengthy course stretches to 7,221 yards from the back tees. The challenging layout is known for being one of the best public golf courses in Ocala and the surrounding area.
The 18-hole Ocala National Golf Club is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1964. Designed by Charles Pace and Lee Popple -- and later redesigned by Rees Jones -- Ocala National measures 7,301 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 138 and a 75.7 USGA rating.
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.
The 18-hole Red Tail Club in Sorrento, FL is a private golf course that opened in 2004. Red Tail Club measures 7152 yards from the longest tees. The course features 5 sets of tees for different skill levels.
Located a short distance from the Walt Disney World Resort and Orlando's airport, Hunter's Creek Golf Course offers a challenging game. It is the longest golf course in Florida and has been rated among the top 75 public courses in the U.S. The course winds through stately pines and thirteen lakes
Mike Dasher's Highlands Reserve (opened 1998) is suggestive and irresistible. The course sits on the edge of a long sand shelf called the Green Swamp Ridge near the town of Davenport, spanning 120 feet from top to bottom.
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 Wildwood Country Club in Crawfordville, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1995. Designed by Greg Diehl, Wildwood Country Club measures 6504 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 120 and a 70.
The 9-hole Jefferson Country Club in Monticello, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1964. Designed by Bill Amick, Jefferson Country Club measures 3124 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 117 and a 34.2 USGA rating. The course features 2 sets of tees for different skill levels.
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.
Silverado Golf & Country Club is spread across a beautifully pristine landscape that is covered with 100-year-old oaks. A variety of Florida wildlife call the course home, including red-tail hawks, Sandhill cranes, egrets, and foxes.
The 18-hole Forest Course at The Eagles Golf Club in Odessa, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1995. Forest Course at The Eagles Golf Club measures 6604 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 134 and a 72.
Opened in 1991, Crescent Oaks Golf Club in Tarpon Springs underwent a $1 million renovation in 2011. The player-friendly design of the course remained mostly untouched but the greens were completely renovated. With the improved playing conditions the course has garnered quite a local following. Steve Smyers, a Florida-based designer who has contributed numerous golf courses throughout the state, designed the traditional layout.
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.
Pete Dye and Jerry Pate crafted this par-72 Sawgrass TPC Valley course. Water comes into play on 6,838 yards along 18 holes, while fairways filled with hills and valleys create additional challenges.
The Golf Club at South Hampton is considered one of the best values in the area. Unlike many other courses in northeastern Florida, there is actually some movement in the landscape, which was fully utilized in the design.
Jacksonville Beach Golf Club has been a favorite among locals since opening in 1960. The municipally owned and operated course is well known for its affordable rates and player-friendly layout. The golf course underwent a redesign in 1987 and another in 2009 that added over two acres of lakes and several bulkheads.
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.
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.
Spring Lake Golf Resort in Sebring sits alongside Lake Istokpoga, which is Florida's second largest freshwater lake. The resort is home to three of Highland County's most popular golf courses: Panther Creek, Cougar Trail, and Bobcat Run. Panther Creek boasts the longest hole in the state. The sixth is an intimidating par 6 that stretches to a whopping 800 yards. Water is the most prominent feature on this golf course; golfers will encounter it on every hole.
The 18-hole Championship at Harder Hall Country Club in Sebring, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1958. Designed by Dick Wilson, Championship at Harder Hall Country Club measures 6300 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 116 and a 70 USGA rating.
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.
The Hammock Creek Golf Club is the first golf course in Florida co-designed by Jack Nicklaus and his son, Jack Nicklaus II. It offers championship golf to players of all skill levels in a natural setting uncommon among semi-private clubs.
The Florida Club is a captivating course that places special emphasis on customer service. The course is reminiscent of "old" Florida's natural beauty, with long wide fairways surrounded by stately ancient oaks, pines and palmettos.
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.
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 Miami boasts 36 holes of championship golf, where the club's most famous member, comedian Jackie Gleeson, hosted other celebrity players including Bob Hope and Bing Cosby. The West Course is much longer than the East Course, stretching to over 7,000 yards from the back tees. The rolling greens can be quite difficult but they are nicely balanced by generous fairways.
Since opening in 1965, Hillcrest Golf & Country Club in Hollywood has matured into a beautiful layout. Although Joe Lee redesigned the course in 2000, the classic features of the design were carefully preserved. The renovation added mounding, sand traps, and lakes to make the golf course even more challenging.
Flamingo Lakes Golf & Country Club in Pembroke Pines is a Broward County favorite. The par-71 course is challenging but at the same time player friendly enough to appeal to a range of skill levels. The course has a hilly terrain, a unique feature for Florida golf courses, that provide a variety of different lies.
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.
Bordering the Indian River, Viera East Golf Club sprawls across a landscape of sparkling blue lakes and native marshland that is accented with towering pines and cypress trees. The well known layout is considered one of the best and most affordable public golf courses in Florida.
The 18-hole Turtle Creek Golf Club in Rockledge, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1971. Designed by Robert Renaud, Turtle Creek Golf Club measures 6709 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 130 and a 70.
The 18-hole Mallards Landing Golf Course at Melbourne in Melbourne, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1969. Designed by Bill Amick, Mallards Landing Golf Course at Melbourne measures 6955 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 119 and a 72.