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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Eagles Golf Club is one of the most popular public golf facilities in the Tampa area. The club offers two championship courses, the Lakes and the Forest, that each provides a different experience. The Forest Course is the shorter of the two at 6,719 yards, but it's no less challenging.
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.
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.
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 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!
Sixty-three white sand bunkers, water on 11 holes and 7074 yards in length make Pine Lakes one of north-central Florida's most challenging courses. The rolling fairways and manicured greens are always beautifully maintained.
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.
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 Sanibel Island Golf Club in Sanibel Island, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1976. Designed by Truman Wilson, Sanibel Island Golf Club measures 6006 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 129 and a 69.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pete Dye and Jerry Pate crafted this par-72 TPC Sawgrass Dye's Valley course. Water comes into play on 6,838 yards along 18 holes, while fairways filled with hills and valleys create additional challenges.
Windsor Parke Golf Club in Jacksonville has the distinction of being one of the top 100 golf courses in Florida. The course is conveniently situated between the beaches and downtown Jacksonville and just minutes from the airport. Arthur Hills designed the course, utilizing the rolling terrain to incorporate the dramatic elevation changes that are the hallmark of his courses.
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.
Bartow Golf Course is a municipal course that offers an affordable yet challenging round. The course has a classic design with an interesting mix of holes that range from being wide open to narrow and tree lined.
The Bradenton-Sarasota region of Florida fits the definition of overlooked and underrated by both tourists and golfers alike.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.