Ten reasons for a golf trip to the Space Coast in Florida

By Ed Schmidt, Contributor

COCOA BEACH, Fla. -- Stretching 72 miles along Florida's Atlantic Ocean, the Space Coast encompasses the Kennedy Space Center and beach towns like Cocoa Beach, Melbourne and Palm Bay.

Viera East Golf Club - 10th hole
Notable designers like Joe Lee have built courses on Florida's Space Coast. Viera East is shown here.
Viera East Golf Club - 10th holePort CanaveralKennedy Space Center
If you go

Away from the sandy shores and the space program attraction, the area has a line-up of 25 golf courses in different settings. Better still, it's less than an hour drive from Orlando and easily accessible from Daytona Beach and Jacksonville.

Here are 10 reasons to plan a golf excursion to the Space Coast in Florida.

1. Golf course variety

From golf courses at impeccably landscaped and well-planned residential communities to exceptional public facilities managed by the Brevard County Parks and Recreation Department, the Space Coast has an impressive selection for visiting golfers. Utilizing palm and palmetto dotted terrain, wetlands, pine forests and native foliage, designers have fashioned a collection of scenic and challenging layouts. One of the Space Coast's main appeals for golfers is its inventory of courses appealing to the cost-conscious golfer.

2. Big-name designers

Iconic golf legends Arnold Palmer (The Majors Golf Club) and Gary Player (Baytree National Golf Links) have designed courses on Florida's Space Coast. Other notable designers include Joe Lee (Viera East Golf Club), Ron Garl/Lee Trevino (La Cita Country Club) and Donald Ross/Bill Amick (Crane Creek Reserve Golf Course). The headliner course in the region is Player's highly rated Baytree National, which incorporates several lakes and marshes, split fairways, risk-reward doglegs and PGA Tour-quality course conditioning.

3. Affordable green fees

The Space Coast has a superb selection of moderately priced golf courses such as the Cocoa Beach Country Club, The Savannahs Golf Course, Mallards Landing Golf Course and The Habitat Golf Course. Other options include the Duran Golf Club, Great Outdoors Golf Club and Royal Oak Golf Club.

4. Golf and cruise possibilities

Port Canaveral near Cocoa Beach is a cruise terminal offering three-, four-, five- or seven-day cruises to exotic locales on Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International. Victory Casino Cruises has five-hour cruises twice daily from Port Canaveral. Courses within a 25-minute drive of the terminal include The Savannahs, Viera East Golf Club and Cocoa Beach Country Club.

5. Great beaches

"Life's a Beach" is the rallying cry on the Space Coast, a favorite spot for surfers, boogie boarders and water-sports enthusiasts. A wealth of amenity-laden beachside parks makes the beaches accessible and enjoyable. The Canaveral National Seashore is the longest stretch of undeveloped, undisturbed beach on the East Coast. If you want to do ride the waves, head to the Cocoa Beach Pier, where surfers congregate.

6. Kennedy Space Center

Located on Merritt Island, this attraction is a must visit for space enthusiasts. From the bus tour of the Saturn V Center to the amazing exhibits and memorabilia and the Astronaut Hall of Fame, visitors can learn all about America's space program in an entertaining way.

7. Easy access from Orlando International Airport

It's only about a 40-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport to Cocoa Beach via SR528 (The Beachline), which connects to Interstate 95.

8. Fantastic fishing

Beyond the exceptional deep-sea fishing in the Atlantic Ocean, the Space Coast is home to the legendary waters of the Mosquito Lagoon, a 20-mile flats fishing paradise stretching from the southern tip of New Smyrna Beach to the north end of Merritt Island. It's often referred to as "the redfish capital of the world."

9. Excellent restaurants

Whether you want a rustic oyster bar, crab shack, waterfront restaurant or a classic steak house, you'll find it in this region, which has more than 1,400 restaurants. Local fresh seafood is a staple on many menus with selections like garlic lime shrimp, bacon wrapped scallops and grilled yellowfin tuna.

10. Fun off-the-course entertainment

After a round of golf, there are lots of things to do on the Space Coast. Some of the popular possibilities include kayaking the Indian River Lagoon, shopping at the expansive Ron Jon and Cocoa Beach Surf Company beach stores in Cocoa Beach, walking the quaint streets of historic Cocoa Village and visiting the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a national park where you can see wildlife like the Florida Manatee, Bald Eagle and Gopher Tortoise.

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.

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