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.
Opened in 1991, Crescent Oaks Golf Club in Tarpon Springs underwent a $1 million renovation in 2011. The player-friendly design of the course remained mostly untouched but the greens were completely renovated. With the improved playing conditions the course has garnered quite a local following. Steve Smyers, a Florida-based designer who has contributed numerous golf courses throughout the state, designed the traditional layout.
Heritage Isles Golf & Country Club offers the best of Florida golf with a landscape covered in cypress trees and tranquil ponds. The architects wanted to retain the rustic charm as well as the native flora and fauna and so 15 acres of natural wetlands were preserved.
Located just north of Tampa, the Links of Lake Bernadette sprawls across rolling hills sprinkled with stands of mature pines. Since opening in 1983, the golf course has garnered a popular following, receiving acclaim from Golf Digest as the "Best Overall Value" in Tampa Bay.
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.
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.
Palm Harbor's narrow, bending fairways are lined with towering palms, oaks and pines. Combine this with elevated greens and you have a course that demands accurate shots. The creativity in the design is the use of large bunkers.
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!
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.
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.
Jacksonville isn't the biggest city in the southeast, but don't tell its golf that. Home to the World Golf Village, the TPC at Sawgrass and more than 60 more courses, the First Coast is a top choice for golf in Florida.
Formerly known as Mayport Golf Club, Windy Harbor Golf Club is a military course that is a part of the Mayport Naval Station. The name change is derived from the blustery winds that sweep across the course, courtesy of its seaside location. The challenging layout features narrow fairways lined with trees and fast greens that are subtly sloped.
The 18-hole Bent Creek Golf Course in Jacksonville, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1989. Designed by Bobby Weed, Bent Creek Golf Course measures 6420 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 136 and a 71.
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.
Eagle Lakes Golf Club is situated just minutes from Olde Naples and Marco Island. It lives up to its name, providing a round of golf accompanied by a pair of bald eagles that call this stretch of the Everglades home, along with an abundance of other wildlife.
Myerlee Golf & Country Club began as the dream of a retired New York police officer who moved to Florida in the 1960s just so he could play more golf. His dream eventually became a peaceful retirement community with a beautiful 18-hole course as its centerpiece. The Arthur Hills-designed layout is one of the toughest par-60 golf courses in southwest Florida.
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.
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 Florida Club is a captivating course that places special emphasis on customer service. The course is reminiscent of "old" Florida's natural beauty, with long wide fairways surrounded by stately ancient oaks, pines and palmettos.
The 18-hole Osprey Creek Course at Martin Downs Country Club (formerly known as Tower Course at Martin Downs Country Club) in Palm City, FL is a private golf course that opened in 1982.
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. 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.
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.
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 131 and a 70.9 USGA rating.
The 18-hole Ocala Golf Club in Ocala, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1920. Designed by Lloyd Clifton, Ocala Golf Club measures 6552 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 125 and a 71.
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 Bridges at Springtree Golf Club in Sunrise originally opened in 1972 but it was completely remodeled in 2010, revealing a course that is still just as playable as the original layout but also more challenging. The greens were restored and a state-of-the-art irrigation system was added to keep playing conditions at their best
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.
The Country Club of Coral Springs is popular among the surrounding communities, known for its excellent conditions and family-friendly atmosphere, but it's also a hidden gem for visitors too. In addition to golf, the club also has six tennis courts available.
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.
Eagle Dunes Golf Club in Sorrento sprawls across rolling elevation changes that aren't typically found on central Florida courses. The course also claims to have the area's truest putting surfaces. The layout stretches to just over 7,024 yards from the back tees.
Since opening in 1957, Rio Pinar Country Club has hosted several PGA and LPGA events. Some big-name players have graced the links at Rio Pinar, including Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, and Julius Boros. The golf course is one of the oldest in the area and the traditional layout has become a local favorite among all skill levels.
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 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 6792 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 143 and a 72.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 9-hole Lake June West Golf Course in Lake Placid, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1980. Lake June West Golf Course measures 1368 yards from the longest tees. Greens and fairways are bermuda grass.
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 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 Savannahs Golf Course in Merritt Island, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1989. Designed by Gordon Lewis, Savannahs Golf Course measures 6507 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 135 and a 72 USGA rating. The course features 4 sets of tees for different skill levels.
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.