Launch your golf game in Daytona Beach and the Space Coast

By Ed Schmidt, Contributor

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Billed as the "beach within reach" because of its proximity to Orlando, which is about an hour drive away, the Daytona/Space Coast region on Florida's east coast is easily accessible, offering a combination of great Atlantic Ocean beaches and an excellent menu of golf courses.

Walkabout Golf Club
Walkabout Golf Club in Mims is a design collaboration by Perry Dye and Jan Stephenson.
Walkabout Golf ClubLPGA International G.C.
If you go

When you put away the clubs for the day, there's much to see in do in the area like surfing in Cocoa Beach, climbing Florida's tallest lighthouse in Ponce Inlet or attending a NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway.

Golf in the region -- which includes Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Titusville, Melbourne, Viera and Ormond Beach -- is diverse with competitive green fees.

Golf architects like Gary Player, Rees Jones and Joe Lee have designed courses in a variety of settings, utilizing native marshlands, natural lakes and palmetto and palm dotted terrain.

Rest assured, after a round of golf, there's always a beach nearby so you can rejuvenate and recharge before the next day's tee time.

Golf in the Daytona Beach area

Gentlemen and ladies, start your golf carts.

Known for world-renowned auto and motorcycle races at Daytona International Speedway, this area also has some impressive golf options.

Since 1994, the two golf courses at LPGA International, an expansive residential community and home to the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), has challenged residents, visitors and aspiring female golfers who test their skills in the LPGA Tour Qualifying School.

The Legends Course at LPGA International, designed by Arthur Hills, is the quintessential target golf experience with narrow fairways framed by oak and pine trees, stands of palmetto and wetlands. Hills demands that you put the ball in the fairway or you'll be unzipping your bag regularly and reaching for more golf balls. If you love to think your way around a course and execute shots with movement, you'll thoroughly enjoy the Legends.

The Champions Course at LPGA International, a Rees Jones design, is much more open with a links-style quality, providing a better choice for high-handicappers. It's no pushover, though, with a mix of exaggerated mounding, natural marsh areas and undulating greens providing challenge and beauty.

In New Smyrna Beach, Venetian Bay Golf Club, a design by Clifton, Ezell and Clifton that debuted in 2008, is celebrated for its superb conditioning, expansive green complexes with a variety of shot-making options and exceptional par 5s.

For Jack Nicklaus design fans, Grand Haven Golf Club in Palm Coast, 32 miles north of Daytona Beach, is worth the drive. Evoking the feel of a low-country Carolinas design, Grand Haven is dotted with oaks, pines and magnolias. The course winds along the Intracoastal Waterway and concludes with a challenging par 5 near the water.

Golf in Cocoa Beach and Melbourne

Definitely pack your bathing suit along with your golf clubs when you visit this area, which is brimming with award-winning beaches and highly regarded surfing spots.

Situated in a master-planned community, the Viera East Golf Club is a classic Joe Lee design devoid of gimmicks with undulating greens, visible hazards and innovative bunkering. Lee's design philosophy was a simple one: "I start with the premise that golf should be enjoyable, not a chore. Golfers want a challenge, but they want a fair one." He fulfilled his promise at Viera East.

Other options include the Baytree National Golf Links in Melbourne, a Gary Player Signature Course with PGA Tour quality course conditioning; Majors Golf Club in Palm Bay, an Arnold Palmer design dominated by creeks, lakes, preservation areas and natural wetlands; and Cocoa Beach Country Club, a municipally owned and operated layout with reliable paspalum greens located on a peninsula surrounded by the Banana River Lagoon.

After a day of golf, head to some of the area's more popular attractions, which include the Cocoa Beach Pier, where you can see surfers; Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, home to the Canaveral National Seashore; and downtown Melbourne, with its shops, restaurants and art boutiques.

Titusville golf

America's space program is the main attraction in Titusville. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers visitors guided, behind-the-scene tours, interactive flight simulators, IMAX theaters, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, a rocket garden and Apollo/Saturn V Center.

When you're ready to launch some golf balls, you don't have to travel far.

Walkabout Golf Club in nearby Mims is a design collaboration by Perry Dye and former LPGA player Jan Stephenson. Unique mounding, rolling fairways, lakes and native vegetation provide golfers with a challenging yet fair landscape to test their skills. An engaging aspect to the experience is the bonus 19th green par 3 shaped like the continent of Australia, a tribute to Stephenson's home country.

An economically priced option in Titusville, the Dick Wilson-designed Royal Oak Resort & Golf Club has been a fixture in the local golf scene since its opening in 1963.

Ed SchmidtEd Schmidt, Contributor

Ed Schmidt, publisher of The Golf Travel Guru Blog, is the author of two books on Florida golf and more than 2,500 articles and columns on golf resorts, courses and destinations around the world. Follow Ed on Twitter at @golftravelguy.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Course Name Correction

    Dominick Leone wrote on: Jun 26, 2012

    I read where you have Baytree National Golf Links as a Gary Player "Signature" Course and The Majors as an Arnold Palmer "Design" Course. The writer of this article has the course backwards - BTNGL is the "Design" course and TMGC is the "Signature" Course. Both are owned and operated by the same corportion.


  • Daytona Area Golf Courses

    Kate Minnock wrote on: Jun 21, 2012

    Nice coverage, but you forgot to include the course that the Daytona Beach News-Journal has chosen as the Best Around course in 2011 and 9 other times since 2000. CYPRESS HEAD GOLF CLUB ...a public course owned by the City of Port Orange and managed by Kemper Sports. Cypress Head partners with 30 hotels and condos in packaging golf holidays. The course was designed by Arthur Hills and Mike Dasher.