The Bradenton-Sarasota region of Florida fits the definition of overlooked and underrated by both tourists and golfers alike.
Situated along the Braden River, the River Club in Bradenton is conveniently located near both Sarasota and Tampa. The golf course is considered to be one of Florida's best, which is some lofty recognition in a state that boasts more than 2,000 courses.
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.
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.
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.
Formerly known as Mayport Golf Club, Windy Harbor Golf Club is a military course that is a part of the Mayport Naval Station. The name change is derived from the blustery winds that sweep across the course, courtesy of its seaside location. The challenging layout features narrow fairways lined with trees and fast greens that are subtly sloped.
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.
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.
The 18-hole Bent Creek Golf Course in Jacksonville, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1989. Designed by Bobby Weed, Bent Creek Golf Course measures 6420 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 136 and a 71.
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.
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.
There are two championship golf courses available at Highland Ridge, an upscale residential community that is one of central Florida's most popular golfing destinations. Both courses enjoy a beautiful tropical setting situated next to a nature conservancy and a 260-acre freshwater lake. Highlands Ridge's North Course is known for its excellent conditions and the more challenging South Course is one of the heartland's toughest layouts. The South was even voted the area's best golf course in 2012.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Indian River Preserve Golf Club was a collaboration between LPGA Tour champion Jan Stephenson and Perry Dye. The course is an homage to Stephenson's Australian heritage. It gets its name from a term signifying a rite-of-passage ritual of the Australian Aborigines. The layout wanders across a verdant, rolling landscape, abundant with native vegetation and wildlife.
DeBary Golf & 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.
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 18-hole Indian Bayou Golf Club in Destin, FL is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1978. Designed by Earl Stone, Indian Bayou Golf Club measures 7078 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 132 and a 74.
Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club stretches along the shores of South Walton's pristine white sand beaches. It's the only course in the Destin area with two holes that back up to the Gulf of Mexico, providing scenery unlike any other course nearby.
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.
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.
Two 18-hole courses rest on the 900-acre retreat that is all about golf -- not condos or summer homes. Panther Lakes is the flashier of the two designs at Orange County National, most say, because no two holes are the same.
Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort Orlando (formerly known as Osprey Ridge) winds its way through pine, oak, and cypress tree hammock. Florida swamp and numerous backcountry duck ponds serve as stage settings and as framing for many of the holes. Fazio designed this course to be in unity with the environment, but this trek through nature is no walk in the park.
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.
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 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.
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 Palm Beach Par 3 Course is situated right along the beach, offering stunning views of the Atlantic and the Intracoastal Waterway. The tropical setting is perfect for a round. Originally opened in 1961, the golf course underwent a major redesign in 2009 headed by Hall of Fame golfer Ray Floyd to make it more challenging and improve its playability.
The Champions Club at Summerfield is an 18-hole championship course ingeniously routed through a briny wetland three miles from the Atlantic. This Tom Fazio design meanders through natural marshes and vegetation. Its 6,800 yards from the tips and each hole features multiple tees for players of all skill level.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Hibiscus Golf Club is one of the few 18-hole courses in Naples that are open to the public. The course is player enough for beginners and while it may not be what you're looking for if you're in search of a formidable test, it's good for some casual practice for the more advanced player.
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.
Carved from forests of towering oaks and pines, Old Corkscrew Golf Club exhibits all of the superior characteristics that define Nicklaus Signature courses. The absence of houses around the golf course adds to the secluded and peaceful feel that is provided by the dense thickets of trees that surround it.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 Ocala Golf Club in Ocala, FL is a public golf course that opened in 1920. Designed by Lloyd Clifton, Ocala Golf Club measures 6552 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 125 and a 71.
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.
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.
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.