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.
The 18-hole River Greens Golf Course in Avon Park, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1965. Designed by Jack Kidwell, River Greens Golf Course measures 6117 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 124 and a 69.
The 18-hole Deer Run at Sun 'n Lake Golf & Country Club in Sebring, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1976. Designed by Don Dyer, Deer Run at Sun 'n Lake Golf & Country Club measures 7002 yards from the longest tees.
Harder Hall Golf Club is home of the Sebring Golf Academy as well as an 18-hole championship course. Opened in the 1950s, the club built a reputation as a pro favorite. The course offers one of the best values in the area with a challenging layout that will appeal to players of all skill levels. Accuracy is the key to playing this tight golf course.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Indian River Preserve 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 & 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.
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.
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 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.
Eagle Marsh Golf Club is a Tom Fazio design that is one of southern Florida's premier golfing destinations. Located in Jensen Beach, the course sits at the heart of the Treasure Coast. The course winds through natural wetlands with marshes separating each 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.
Jacaranda Golf Club offers two championship courses, the East and the West. The courses, which are both four-star rated by Golf Digest, weave through a variety of ponds and canals, lending a tropical feel throughout. The East Course presents many interesting risk-reward opportunities. The fairways are generous, but undulating and lined with trees and the greens are raised and sloping.
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.
The Senator Course is an excellent venue for tournaments, offering a layout that is challenging, but playable. The golf course provides a quick round as well, it can usually be played in just over four hours.
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 Spruce Creek Preserve Golf Club in Dunnellon, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1997. Spruce Creek Preserve Golf Club measures 6540 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 122 and a 71 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.
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.
Although it is only 20 minutes outside of Jacksonville, the Country Club of Orange Park feels tucked away amongst ancient oak hammocks and protected wetlands that sit next to an Audubon Society Wildlife Preserve. Golfers will find that they are sharing the course with an abundance of wildlife including wild turkeys, deer, and osprey.
The 18-hole St. Johns Golf & Country Club in Saint Augustine, FL is a public golf course that opened in 2001. St. Johns Golf & Country Club measures 7236 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 132 and a 74.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 5018 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 117 and a 64.
The Bradenton-Sarasota region of Florida fits the definition of overlooked and underrated by both tourists and golfers alike.
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 Highlands golf course is one of three courses owned and operated by Meadows Country Club. In addition to the Highlands and Meadows Courses, there is also the Arthur Hills-designed Groves Course, an 18-hole executive course.
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.
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 Quail Run Golf Club in Naples, FL is a private golf course that opened in 1972. Designed by Walter Smith, Quail Run Golf Club measures 5304 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 112 and a 65.
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 Dunes Golf & Tennis Club in Sanibel, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1973. Dunes Golf & Tennis Club measures 5606 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 129 and a 68.8 USGA rating. The greens are tifeagle grass and the fairways are bermuda grass.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 18-hole Golf Club at Summerbrooke in Tallahassee, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1993. Designed by Dean Refram, Golf Club at Summerbrooke measures 6845 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 140 and a 73.