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There are many and varied reasons for visiting Florida. The Sunshine State has a multi-faceted profile in the attraction stakes, and you can pick from any of 10 great motivations as to why people choose this for their holiday year after year.
The basic variety is often top of the pops for many. There is simply SO much to do, and on such a broad front, that you just can’t go wrong. But one reason that goes overlooked by many – but not the sporting cognoscenti – is Florida’s great history and modern track record in Golf.
The sport of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino – to name three golfing greats who have all taken the state into their hearts – has been a major component of the local scene in every region for longer than you’d think, but it has really become a modern staple since the 1970s.
Just to start with, Florida’s golf heritage dates back to the 1890s – among the oldest in the USA – with the development of the railroads and hotels in the state, and it quickly became associated with the best experiences on offer, from Jacksonville to Key West, and just about everywhere in between. No other state has more courses (over 1,500, and counting), and, in simple terms, you can hardly go anywhere in Florida without falling over an excellent course.
You will also find some of the most immaculate golf in the country, in general terms, as well as a handful that are rated among the very best. The use of eye-pleasing water features is widespread, and you will also need to bring your best bunker play with you, as sand-traps feature equally widely. And, whether you’re in the North-West or South-East; Miami or Panama City, there will be a course to challenge your game within a very short drive (of both your car and a four-iron).
Florida’s best golf courses
It’s clearly a subjective matter to highlight the ‘best’ of Florida’s golf in a short overview like this, especially when there are more than 1,500 courses, and there are others being added every year. But we can certainly point out the ones that garner national (and international) praise, and which attract awards year after year.
Seminole Golf Club, Juno Beach
Seminole Golf Club, in Juno Beach (just north of Palm Beach) is rated Florida’s best by Golf Digest, and has plenty of admirers, including Rory McIlroy. It dates back to 1929 and is one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, hence you usually need to know someone just to get in the door. But, if you are fortunate enough to play a full round, beware the green bunkers, as they are some of the most fiendish in the business.
TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra
Also in the same rarefied air is TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach (just south of Jacksonville), the home of The Players Championship, the unofficial ‘fifth Major’ and a wonderfully scintillating course. The island green 17th hole is one of the most photogenic in world golf and, if nothing else, you should look in to the clubhouse here and soak up the atmosphere.
Calusa Pines Golf Club, Naples
The other one of Florida’s Big Three is Calusa Pines Golf Club in Naples, south-west Florida. This exclusive corner of the state boasts one of the most distinctive courses in this 7,203-yard monster that was built as recently as 2001, on a dead flat piece of land that was extensively terraformed with mature oaks, pines and sabal pines. The fairways are lightning fast, hence the course’s length, but it still invites a huge challenge.
Play Golf in Florida
If those are the headline acts. If you want to play golf in Florida there are literally scores of other courses, in huge clusters around Orlando, West Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, as well as to a lesser extent in south-west Florida, around Naples and Marco Island. Every course offers golf carts and GPS positioning systems as standard, as well as sumptuous clubhouses, usually with a great bar and restaurant. The winter is peak season, hence rates drop off from May-October, but you’ll need to be fit to put in a full 18 holes in a typical Florida summer afternoon!
If you’re just looking for some historic places to play, then the following should all be on your ‘to do’ list:
Bobby Jones Club, Sarasota (established 1927)
Winter Park Country Club, Winter Park, Orlando (established 1914)
Ponte Vedra Country Club, St Augustine (established 1928)
Biltmore Golf Course, Coral Gables, Miami (established 1926)
Eglin Golf Course, Niceville, near Fort Walton Beach (established 1923)
Our recommended Florida golf courses
When it comes to resort golf, Florida is in a class of its own. With the huge tourist influx every year (around 115 million, and counting), the need to provide excellent facilities in addition to the course itself is paramount. This has meant the growth of some of the finest resort complexes in the country, catering for just about every mod con you can shake a four-wood at.
Once again, they are spread far and wide throughout the state, but you can be absolutely sure you will find several in all of the prime tourist areas, notably Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Naples, Sarasota, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Fort Walton Beach, St Augustine and Amelia Island.
Streamsong Resort in Bowling Green, Tampa
You’ll also find some in unexpected places, like the immaculate Streamsong Resort in Bowling Green, just south-east of Tampa. This reclaimed former mining site has been extensively rebuilt and re-shaped to include two of the state’s Top 10 courses, in addition to its hotel, which boasts other activities (including archery and fishing), exquisite dining and its own Spa. Put in one neat package, there is arguably no equal anywhere in Florida.
Innisbrook Resort, Clearwater
Mind you, Innisbrook Resort, on the Gulf Coast north of Clearwater, gives it a good run for its money, with a level of comfort, convenience and charm that are also top drawer, as well as being home to an annual professional tournament each March in the build-up to The Masters.
Grand Cypress Resort, Orlando
Grand Cypress Resort in the heart of Orlando is another with style to burn, especially as it boasts no less than 45 holes of diverse golf, a highly distinctive resort hub, great dining and gorgeously-appointed villa accommodations. Travel just to the south of Orlando and both the Reunion Resort and Omni Orlando Champions Gate have multi-course set-ups (designed by the likes of Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer) that feature a dazzling array of high-quality facilities to ensure golfers get the best treatment both on and off the course.
Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast
Head to Palm Coast in the north-east, just south of St Augustine, and you’ll find Hammock Beach Resort, with a magnificent oceanfront location to go with its luxurious style. Head north to Amelia Island and there is the Omni Plantation Resort, with its wooded acres, Pete Dye-designed course and immaculate hotel. To the south, in West Palm Beach is The Breakers, not just one of the state’s most distinguished, and historic, hotels, but home to great golf at its own two courses, including The Ocean Course, which was originally laid out in 1896, and the Rees Jones Course, dating back to 1968. The Breakers is an attraction in its own right, and golfers here get the best of both worlds.
The Marriott Sawgrass Resort and Spa, Ponte Vedra
The Marriott Sawgrass Resort and Spa at Ponte Vedra Beach is another that would get into many Top 10 lists for the combination of golf and hotel facilities in Florida, and the newly refurbished LaPlaya Beach and Golf Resort in Naples is in the same mould, with all the creature comforts the modern golfer needs, and more besides!
We could go on listing fine resort possibilities throughout the state – like Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, the WaterColor resort in Panama City, and the Waldorf-Astoria and Four Seasons in Orlando – but we would quickly run out of space.
Discover Florida’s golf courses
The bottom line – as with just about everything else that Florida has to offer – is that you simply can’t go wrong. Just get out there give it what fore!
Contact Our Golf Holiday Experts
If you would like to find out more about golfing holidays to Florida then please contact contact our team who will be happy to help plan the perfect golf holiday for you.
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To tailor your own unique Florida holiday call one of our travel experts today on 0800 669 6409 or click the link below and we can make your dream become a reality.
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America First Coast Travel is uniquely positioned as the only specialist UK holiday company to focus entirely on Florida and the surrounding coastline. We passionately believe that Florida offers a once in a lifetime unique destination experience and have made it our business to create a luxury Florida holiday for you and to share our knowledge and experience with travellers looking to experience Florida with a difference.
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