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.
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.
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 Country Club of Miami boasts 36 holes of championship golf, where the club's most famous member, comedian Jackie Gleeson, hosted other celebrity players including Bob Hope and Bing Cosby. The West Course is much longer than the East Course, stretching to over 7,000 yards from the back tees. The rolling greens can be quite difficult but they are nicely balanced by generous fairways.
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.
Bonaventure Country Club in Fort Lauderdale offers two championship courses, the East and the West. The East Course is the original layout at Bonaventure. Designed by Joe Lee, this classic layout has been ranked as one of Florida's top 10. The golf course weaves through swaying palms and towering hardwoods.
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.
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.
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.
Located a short distance from the Walt Disney World Resort and Orlando's airport, Hunter's Creek Golf Course offers a challenging game. It is the longest golf course in Florida and has been rated among the top 75 public courses in the U.S. The course winds through stately pines and thirteen lakes
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.
A Robert Trent Jones Jr. design, the Eagle Golf Course at 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.
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 Bradenton-Sarasota region of Florida fits the definition of overlooked and underrated by both tourists and golfers alike.
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.
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.
Legacy Golf Club in Bradenton is an Arnold Palmer signature design that is one of southwest Florida's premier courses. The challenging but fair layout will appeal to players of all skill levels. The course features multiple elevated tees and like a true Palmer course, there is water and sand surrounding nearly every hole.
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.
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.
Overlooking the scenic Long Bayou, Seminole Lake Country Club has a lush landscape that showcases the best of Florida golf. Calming views of the bayou are joined by refreshing coastal breezes, providing the perfect atmosphere for a casual round.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
The 18-hole Don Veller Seminole Golf Course in Tallahassee, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1959. Designed by Bill Amick, Don Veller Seminole Golf Course measures 7147 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 131 and a 74 USGA rating.
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 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.
Sixty-three white sand bunkers, water on 11 holes and 7074 yards in length make Pine Lakes one of north-central Florida's most challenging courses. The rolling fairways and manicured greens are always beautifully maintained.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 18-hole St. Johns Golf & Country Club in Saint Augustine, FL is a public golf course that opened in 2001. St. Johns Golf & Country Club measures 7236 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 132 and a 74.
Pete Dye and Jerry Pate crafted this par-72 TPC Sawgrass Dye's Valley course. Water comes into play on 6,838 yards along 18 holes, while fairways filled with hills and valleys create additional challenges.
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.
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.
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.