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.
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.
The golf course at Seascape Golf Beach and Tennis 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.
The Bradenton-Sarasota region of Florida fits the definition of overlooked and underrated by both tourists and golfers alike.
The 18-hole 2/3 at University Park Country Club in University Park, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1991. Designed by Ron Garl, 2/3 at University Park Country Club measures 7152 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 137 and a 74.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Opened in 1925, Biltmore Golf Course has a traditional layout designed by Donald Ross. The course has a timelessly challenging design that has made it one of Miami's most favored layouts.
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.
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.
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.
The Rolling Oaks Course provides the second world-class layout at World Woods. An entirely different, yet no less enjoyable experience than playing Pine Barrens, this course's name also gives clue to its design.
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!
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.
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.
The 18-hole Celebration Golf Club in Celebration, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1996. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and Robert Trent Jones, Sr., Celebration Golf Club measures 7038 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 140 and a 74.5 USGA rating. The course features 5 sets of tees for different skill levels. The greens are bermuda grass.
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.
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.
Designed by renowned Bobby Weed, Fleming Island captures the essence of the northeastern Florida landscape. While playing the front nine you have to hack through the notorious low wetlands of thick palmetto bushes and Spanish dagger, and weave dubiously through a smattering of lakes and marshy quarters.
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.
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 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 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 G. Lewis, Savannahs Golf Course measures 6507 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 135 and a 72 USGA rating.
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 7,364 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 141 and a 75.9 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.
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 at Indian Lake Estates Golf & Country Club in Indian Lake Estates, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1964. Designed by George Cobb, Indian Lake Estates Golf & Country Club measures 6485 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 126 and a 70.
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 Country Club of Sebring in Sebring, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1985. Designed by Ron Garl, Country Club of Sebring measures 6714 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 123 and a 71.
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 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.
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.
A Robert Trent Jones Jr. design, the Eagle Golf Course at Banyan Cay Golf Club & Resort (previously known as 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.
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.