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.
Two 18-hole courses rest on the 900-acre retreat that is all about golf -- not condos or summer homes. Panther Lakes is the flashier of the two designs at Orange County National, most say, because no two holes are the same.
Designed by Arthur Hills Stoneybrook West is a roaming blend of gutsy, penal holes, picturesque par threes over water, reachable par fives (527 and 522 yards from the tips, then 578 and 605), and several short, sporty par fours that cover all corners of the site.
Sanctuary Ridge Golf Club is a fun, thrilling golf course with some extreme golf shots unlike anything in the state. It may not be the Rocky Mountains, but it doesn't feel much like Florida either.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Carved from forests of towering oaks and pines, Old Corkscrew Golf Club exhibits all of the superior characteristics that define Nicklaus Signature courses. The absence of houses around the golf course adds to the secluded and peaceful feel that is provided by the dense thickets of trees that surround it.
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.
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, Ponte Vedra Golf & Country Club at Sawgrass boasts an active membership and friendly, professional staff that make it an ideal setting to entertain family, friends or clients.
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.
Magnolia Point Golf & Country Club is home to 27 holes of championship golf. The holes are divided into three par-36 nines that can be played as different 18-hole combinations. They each have their different challenges but they are all player friendly enough to appeal to high and low handicappers alike. The White nine is the longest of the three at 3,494 yards from the back tees and it's arguably the most challenging.
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.
Much of the Brooksville Country Club golf course, a 6,871-yard, par-72 track that opened in 1971, weaves through mature live oak trees with rolling fairways and elevated tees.
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.
Situated along the banks of the Manatee River, Waterlefe Golf Club is defined by its water features, which come into play on nearly every hole. The course is definitely tough, especially for high handicappers, so don't be surprised if you lose a few balls.
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.
Lake Wales Country Club boasts a classic Donald Ross design that players of all skill level will enjoy. Built in the 1920s, the golf course has a different look and feel than most modern courses.
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.
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 18-hole TPC Eagle Trace in Coral Springs, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1983. Designed by Arthur Hills, TPC Eagle Trace measures 7040 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 144 and a 75.
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.
Jacaranda Golf Club boasts two championship courses that are both four-star rated by Golf Digest. The courses, the East and the West, have a lush, tropical setting amongst towering palm trees and colorful vegetation. The West Course winds through a series of ponds, canals, and lagoons, which come into play throughout the course.
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.
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.
West Palm Beach Golf Course originally opened in 1947 but the design was beautifully restored in 2009. The course stands out from run-of-the-mill public courses thanks to a stunning landscape of mature palm, pine, and oak trees. The rolling terrain provides plenty of ups and downs and there are a few strategically placed bunkers, but you won't find any water on this golf course.
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.
As its name implies, Nature Walk Golf Club in Lynn Haven is situated amid a beautiful natural setting. The golf course weaves through stands of majestic oaks and Florida pines. The par-60 layout is a manageable 3,512 yards from the back tees.
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.
Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club stretches along the shores of South Walton's pristine white sand beaches. It's the only course in the Destin area with two holes that back up to the Gulf of Mexico, providing scenery unlike any other course nearby.
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 18-hole Don Veller Seminole Golf Course in Tallahassee, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1959. Designed by Bill Amick, Don Veller Seminole Golf Course measures 7147 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 131 and a 74 USGA rating.
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 Savannahs Golf Course in Merritt Island, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1989. Designed by Gordon G. Lewis, Savannahs Golf Course measures 6507 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 135 and a 72 USGA rating.
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 5155 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 119 and a 65.
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.
The Bradenton-Sarasota region of Florida fits the definition of overlooked and underrated by both tourists and golfers alike.
The 18-hole Creek/Oaks Course at Heron Creek Golf and Country Club in North Port, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 2003. Creek/Oaks Course at Heron Creek Golf and Country Club measures 6783 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 143 and a 73.
Rosedale Golf & Country Club boasts beautiful conditions and friendly service that has made it the most popular golf course in Bradenton. The layout is somewhat tight but scenic pockets of nature and stands of trees give it a more spacious feel. The fast greens roll true and are often framed by tricky hazards.
Situated along the Braden River, the River Club in Bradenton is conveniently located near both Sarasota and Tampa. The golf course is considered to be one of Florida's best, which is some lofty recognition in a state that boasts more than 2,000 courses.
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.
Venetian Bay Golf Club is part of a unique residential community with a Mediterranean theme. Colorful buildings, mosaics, and Mediterranean vegetation surround the championship golf course. The biggest challenge for the designers was transforming what was formerly a cow pasture into a lush, challenging course.
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.
The Grand Club in Palm Coast offers 54 holes of golf designed by two of the most recognizable names in golf. The club has three 18-hole courses, one of which is the Gary Player-designed Cypress Knoll Course. Cypress Knoll has a diverse terrain that makes for an interesting round.