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.
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.
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.
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.
Heritage Harbor Golf & Country Club in Lutz shares a home with a variety of birds including hawks, ospreys, loons, ibis, herons and kingfishers. In addition to being a bird sanctuary, this 18-hole public golf course provides a challenging round.
Overlooking the scenic Long Bayou, Seminole Lake Country Club has a lush landscape that showcases the best of Florida golf. Calming views of the bayou are joined by refreshing coastal breezes, providing the perfect atmosphere for a casual round.
Located in the heart of Clearwater, Clearwater Country Club opened in 1920, making it one of the oldest golf courses in Pinellas County. Since opening, the landscape has matured beautifully with large moss-draped, oak trees framing the fairways and greens. There have been some changes to the golf course over the years, including new Bermuda grass tees and greens.
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.
Sawgrass is home to the annual PGA event, The PLAYERS Championship. Its best known for the island green at the par-3 17th -- perhaps the most photographed hole in golf. Contrary to popular belief, treachery is not waiting around every corner of Pete Dye's most famous design.
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.
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.
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 18-hole Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club in Santa Rosa Beach, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1971. Designed by Roy Albert Anderson, Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club measures 6564 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 133 and a 72.
Bluewater Bay Resort in Niceville sits along the shores of Choctawhatchee Bay with Florida's famous white sand beaches in view. The resort's golf courses all have varied landscapes that provide a different set of challenges on each. Although water is a prominent feature on all of the courses, it comes into play on none more so than the Marsh nine, which is situated right along the shoreline.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Located in Ave Maria, Panther Run Golf Club is less than 30 minutes from Naples but it has a much more secluded feel. The course was built with a strong dedication to preserving the landscape's beautiful natural features and significant environmental resources, even as residences started being developed.
Copperhead Golf & Country Club in Lehigh Acres is conveniently situated just minutes from the beautiful white sand beaches of Ft. Myers, Sanibel, and the Captiva Islands. Lehigh Acres sits atop the highest elevation in Lee County, ranging from 27 to 30 feet above sea level, which puts it at a great position for golf.
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.
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.
Walkabout Golf Club was a collaboration between LPGA Tour champion Jan Stephenson and Perry Dye. The course is an homage to Stephenson's Australian heritage. It gets its name from a term signifying a rite-of-passage ritual of the Australian Aborigines. The layout wanders across a verdant, rolling landscape, abundant with native vegetation and wildlife.
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.
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 Great Outdoors Golf Club in Titusville, FL is a resort golf course that opened in 1988. Designed by Ron Garl, Great Outdoors Golf Club measures 6542 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 125 and a 71.
Aquarina Country Club sits at the halfway point between Melbourne Beach and Vero Beach with the Atlantic Ocean bordering it on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other. The layout is also routed around eleven different lakes that come into play frequently throughout the course. Accuracy will be rewarded at Aquarina Country Club, but it's not an overly punishing golf course overall.
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.
A Robert Trent Jones Jr. design, the Eagle Golf Course at President Golf Club boasts championship Bermuda greens. Jones also lined the fairways with coquina and accented the course with pampas grass, both of which help bring out the beauty of the natural landscape.
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.
The Palm Beach Par 3 Course is situated right along the beach, offering stunning views of the Atlantic and the Intracoastal Waterway. The tropical setting is perfect for a round. Originally opened in 1961, the golf course underwent a major redesign in 2009 headed by Hall of Fame golfer Ray Floyd to make it more challenging and improve its playability.
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.
Providence Golf Club meanders through forests of ancient hardwoods, freshwater creeks, and natural wetlands. The course's scenic landscape also serves as home to an abundance of wildlife including otters, deer, and wild turkeys.
Shingle Creek Golf Club lies along historic Shingle Creek in Orlando - the headwaters to the Florida Everglades. This par-72 David Harmon-designed course is not only near the happenings of International Drive, it's also offers easy access from Orlando International Airport with what seems like its own exit off the Beeline (Toll Road 528) at Universal.
Located southeast of downtown Orlando and about 25 minutes from Orlando International Airport, Harmony Golf Preserve is a secluded championship golf course set on 260-acre wildlife preserve and is a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
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.
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.
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 East Course at Orangebrook Country Club in Hollywood, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1933. Designed by A. J. Ewing, East Course at Orangebrook Country Club measures 6574 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 120 and a 71.
Grand Palms offers three nines: Royal, Sabal, and Grand, which are played in three different 18-hole combinations. The golf courses sprawl across a landscape of tropical foliage and swaying palms, showcasing the best of what south Florida golf has to offer.
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.
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.
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.
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.