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 18-hole Bartow Golf Course in Bartow, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1921. Designed by Donald Ross, Bartow Golf Course measures 6623 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 126 and a 72 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.
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.
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.
The Golf Club at South Hampton is considered one of the best values in the area. Unlike many other courses in northeastern Florida, there is actually some movement in the landscape, which was fully utilized in the design.
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.
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 Saddlebrook Course is one of two Arnold Palmer championship designs at Saddlebrook Resort, located about 30 minutes north of Tampa. The 18-hole, par-70 layout is tighter and flatter than its sister course, the Palmer, so hitting it straight off the tee is key.
The Pine Barrens Course at World Woods, is ranked #26 by Golf Week " Americas Best Modern Course". Pine Barrens is a visually stunning blend of native terrain and golf course design.
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.
Situated in Gulf Breeze, along the shores of the Santa Rosa Sound, Tiger Point Golf Club takes full advantage of the beautiful water views. The golf course is conveniently located just minutes from the white sands of Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach. The East Course is a Scottish links layout that stretches to 7,041 yards from the back tees. With six different sets of tees, golfers of all skill levels can find the right level of difficulty for their handicap.
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 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.
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.
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 Bradenton-Sarasota region of Florida fits the definition of overlooked and underrated by both tourists and golfers alike.
River Run Golf Links is a municipal course owned by the city of Bradenton. The layout is player friendly enough for all skill levels to enjoy but it's also a fair test that is anything but boring.
Arthur Hills designed the 27 holes at River Strand Golf & Country Club in Bradenton. The holes are intertwined with a series of waterways, incorporating water on almost every hole. The Tributary Course is the shortest and most player friendly, but there are still some challenges in store. Located between Tampa and Sarasota, River Strand makes a nice getaway but it is also popular with locals.
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 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 & CC, 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.
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.
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!
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 Jack Nicklaus-signature layout is easily the star of North Palm Beach Country Club. The recently redesigned, links-style course is one of only two Nicklaus Signature Municipal plays in the United States.
Madison Green Golf Club is home of the Florida State and U.S. Amateur Championship Qualifiers. The course is ranked as one of the top 20 golf courses in Florida. It's one of the most challenging rounds you'll find in Palm Beach County and also one of the most affordable. There is no shortage of water on this golf course and you'll also find waste bunkers fiercely guarding the fairways and greens.
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.
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.
The 18-hole Falcon's Fire Golf Club in Kissimmee, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1993. Designed by Rees Jones, Falcon's Fire Golf Club measures 7006 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 135 and a 73.2 USGA rating. The course features 4 sets of tees for different skill levels. The greens are tifdwarf bermuda and the fairways are bermuda grass.
Designed by Arthur Hills Stoneybrook West is a roaming blend of gutsy, penal holes, picturesque par threes over water, reachable par fives (527 and 522 yards from the tips, then 578 and 605), and several short, sporty par fours that cover all corners of the site.
The 18-hole Red Tail Club in Sorrento, FL is a private golf course that opened in 2004. Red Tail Club measures 7152 yards from the longest tees. The course features 5 sets of tees for different skill levels.
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.
Duran Golf Club is a local favorite, known for being the best public course in Brevard County. The club is also home to the area's only lighted nine-hole, par-3 course. The course stretches across fertile terrain that was formerly a sod farm, lending some of the lushest playing surfaces on Florida's east coast.
The 18-hole Crane Creek Reserve Golf Course at Melbourne in Melbourne, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1926. Designed by Bill Amick, Crane Creek Reserve Golf Course at Melbourne measures 5886 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 115 and a 67.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Shula's Golf Club in Miami Lakes is home to the championship Senator Course as well as an executive par-3 course. 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.
Crandon Golf Club at Key Biscayne is only 10 minutes from Miami but it will feel as though you've been transported to a faraway tropical island. The course sprawls across a scenic landscape covered with mangrove forests and brilliantly colored foliage.
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.
Bonita Fairways is situated near Bonita Beach, just a few minutes from the Southwest Florida International Airport. The executive golf course is made up of seven par 4s and the rest are par 3s. The unique layout will test both your short game and long game.
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.
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.