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.
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 7,301 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 138 and a 75.7 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.
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 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.
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.
Rosedale Golf & Country Club boasts beautiful conditions and friendly service that has made it the most popular golf course in Bradenton. The layout is somewhat tight but scenic pockets of nature and stands of trees give it a more spacious feel. The fast greens roll true and are often framed by tricky hazards.
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.
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.
Magnolia Point Golf & Country Club is home to 27 holes of championship golf. The holes are divided into three par-36 nines that can be played as different 18-hole combinations. They each have their different challenges but they are all player friendly enough to appeal to high and low handicappers alike. The White nine is the longest of the three at 3,494 yards from the back tees and it's arguably the most challenging.
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.
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. It is one of Destin's most popular places to play. The resort boasts four nine-hole golf courses designed by Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate. The Lake, Bay, Magnolia, and Marsh Courses all have varied landscapes that provide a different set of challenges on each.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Providence Golf Club meanders through forests of ancient hardwoods, freshwater creeks, and natural wetlands. The course's scenic landscape also serves as home to an abundance of wildlife including otters, deer, and wild turkeys.
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 Queen/King at Royal Tee Country Club in Cape Coral, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1991. Designed by Gordon G. Lewis, Queen/King at Royal Tee Country Club measures 6574 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 128 and a 71.
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 Sanibel Island Golf Club in Sanibel Island, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1976. Designed by Truman Wilson, Sanibel Island Golf Club measures 6006 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 129 and a 69.
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.
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.
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.
Jacaranda Golf Club boasts two championship courses that are both four-star rated by Golf Digest. The courses, the East and the West, have a lush, tropical setting amongst towering palm trees and colorful vegetation. The West Course winds through a series of ponds, canals, and lagoons, which come into play throughout the course.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Pebble Creek Golf Club is one of Tampa's most well known courses. Once just a local favorite, it has since garnered a reputation among visiting golfers as well. The golf course exemplifies the beauty of the Florida landscape. The layout weaves through mature pines and 40-year-old grandfather oaks draped with Spanish moss.
Silverado Golf & Country Club is spread across a beautifully pristine landscape that is covered with 100-year-old oaks. A variety of Florida wildlife call the course home, including red-tail hawks, Sandhill cranes, egrets, and foxes.
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.
Lake Wales Country Club boasts a classic Donald Ross design that players of all skill level will enjoy. Built in the 1920s, the golf course has a different look and feel than most modern courses.
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.
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.
Sherwood Golf Club in Titusville originally opened in 1965 as a nine-hole course. Over the years it has changed ownership and undergone major renovations including the expansion into an 18-hole course. The player-friendly design features forgiving fairways and inviting greens. There are bunkers strategically placed along the greensides and fairways and water also comes into play on a few holes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
LPGA International in Daytona Beach boasts two championship golf courses, one designed by Arthur Hills and the other by Rees Jones. Hills designed the Hills Course, which is the shorter of the two courses, but not by much, it is still quite lengthy at just under 7,000 yards.
Grand Haven Golf Course in Palm Coast is a Jack Nicklaus-designed championship layout that sits just minutes from the ocean, providing scenic views of the Intracoastal Waterway from nearly every hole. The layout features all of Nicklaus' trademark features including generous, player-friendly fairways.