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.
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.
Arthur Hills designed the 27 holes at River Strand Golf & Country Club in Bradenton. The holes are intertwined with a series of waterways, incorporating water on almost every hole. The Tributary Course is the shortest and most player friendly, but there are still some challenges in store. Located between Tampa and Sarasota, River Strand makes a nice getaway but it is also popular with locals.
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.
Bonaventure Country Club in Fort Lauderdale offers two championship courses, the East and the West. The East Course is the original layout at Bonaventure. Designed by Joe Lee, this classic layout has been ranked as one of Florida's top 10. The golf course weaves through swaying palms and towering hardwoods.
Greynolds Park Golf Course is a player-friendly, nine-hole, par-36 course in North Miami Beach. Upon entering Greynolds Park, golfers are met with a stunning array of more than 2,000 live oak, mahogany, and ficus trees. The mature trees line the fairways, demanding straight shots but the layout is not overly punishing if you are slightly errant.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Sherwood Golf Club in Titusville originally opened in 1965 as a nine-hole course. Over the years it has changed ownership and undergone major renovations including the expansion into an 18-hole course. The player-friendly design features forgiving fairways and inviting greens. There are bunkers strategically placed along the greensides and fairways and water also comes into play on a few holes.
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.
Raptor Bay Golf Club in Bonita Springs has the distinction of being the first resort course to receive Audubon International's Gold Signature Certification. The course sprawls across more than 200 acres of pristine wetlands and nature preserves.
The 18-hole Palmetto-Pine Country Club in Cape Coral, FL is a private golf course that opened in 1969. Designed by Arthur Hills, Palmetto-Pine Country Club measures 6729 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 129 and a 74.
Bonita Fairways is situated near Bonita Beach, just a few minutes from the Southwest Florida International Airport. The executive golf course is made up of seven par 4s and the rest are par 3s. The unique layout will test both your short game and long game.
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.
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.
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.
The 18-hole Bartow Golf Course in Bartow, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1921. Designed by Donald Ross, Bartow Golf Course measures 6623 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 126 and a 72 USGA rating.
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.
Queen's Harbour Yacht & Country Club in north Jacksonville surrounds a freshwater basin that is connected to the Intracoastal Waterway with miles of scenic marshland between. The golf course epitomizes Florida coastal golf with century-old live oaks draped with Spanish moss and towering pine trees throughout.
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.
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.
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.
Madison Green Golf Club is home of the Florida State and U.S. Amateur Championship Qualifiers. The course is ranked as one of the top 20 golf courses in Florida. It's one of the most challenging rounds you'll find in Palm Beach County and also one of the most affordable. There is no shortage of water on this golf course and you'll also find waste bunkers fiercely guarding the fairways and greens.
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.
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 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.
DeBary Golf and 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.
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!
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.
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.
Destin is recognized as a top golf destination, and no where is it better represented than at beautiful Emerald Bay. Designed by Bob Cupp, Emerald Bay is a 18 hole championship course believed by many to be one of northwest Florida's very best.
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.
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.
Sanctuary Ridge Golf Club, formerly known as Diamond Players Club Clermont, 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.
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.
West Orange Country Club is known throughout central Florida as the home of the West Orange Invitational, where the area's best amateur players gather to compete every November. The golf course was opened in 1967 and rebuilt in 2006 with Tifdwarf grass, providing it with some of central Florida's smoothest putting surfaces.
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.
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 Golf Club of Quincy in Quincy, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1968. Golf Club of Quincy measures 7045 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 140 and a 74.
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.
The Bradenton-Sarasota region of Florida fits the definition of overlooked and underrated by both tourists and golfers alike.
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.
The 18-hole Legacy Golf Club in Bradenton, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1997. Designed by Arnold Palmer, Legacy Golf Club measures 7008 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 131 and a 73.
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.