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 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.
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.
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 Seminole Legacy Golf Club (formerly known as Don Veller Seminole Golf Course) in Tallahassee, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1962. Designed by Bill Amick, Seminole Legacy Golf Club measures 7800 yards from the longest tees.
The 9-hole Jefferson Country Club in Monticello, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1964. Designed by Bill Amick, Jefferson Country Club measures 3124 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 117 and a 34.2 USGA rating. The course features 2 sets of tees for different skill levels.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 Atlantic National Golf Club in Lake Worth, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1988. Designed by Joe Lee, Atlantic National Golf Club measures 6519 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 130 and a 70.
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 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.
The Club at Venetian Bay is part of a unique residential community with a Mediterranean theme. Colorful buildings, mosaics, and Mediterranean vegetation surround the championship golf course. The biggest challenge for the designers was transforming what was formerly a cow pasture into a lush, challenging course.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 18-hole Deer Island Country Club (formerly known as International Golf Club) in Deer Island, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1994. Designed by Joe Lee, Deer Island Country Club measures 7029 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 133 and a 73.
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.
The 18-hole 1/2 at University Park Country Club in University Park, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1991. Designed by Ron Garl, 1/2 at University Park Country Club measures 7001 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 134 and a 74.
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.
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.
Stonybrook Golf Club boasts seven sets of tees, making it a truly versatile course that any skill level can play. The layout features wide fairways with generous landing areas leading to large, undulating greens that are bordered by intimidating bunkers and contoured mounding.
The 18-hole San Carlos Golf Club in Fort Myers, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1971. Designed by John E. O'Connor, San Carlos Golf Club measures 6465 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 121 and a 71 USGA rating.
Lakewood Country Club of Naples sprawls across 52 lush acres that is home to an abundance of wildlife, including several different bird species. Located just outside of downtown Naples, Marco Island is just a few minutes away. The golf course snakes around four freshwater lakes, the sparkling waters contrasting beautifully with the native trees and shrubs that border the fairways and greens.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Oak Bridge Club (formerly known as 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, The Oak Bridge Club boasts an active membership and friendly, professional staff that make it an ideal setting to entertain family, friends or clients.
Amelia River Golf Club prides itself on being one of the best-conditioned golf courses in the area, boasting large, smooth TifEagle greens that are carefully sculpted around forested parkland. Due to the abundance of trees on the golf course, ball placement and accuracy are integral to doing well.
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.
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 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 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.
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.