Guide to Florida Golf
Florida is the golf capital of the world, with some 1,100 courses in every corner of the state, and just waiting to challenge everyone under the sun.
A Florida golf experience can be whatever you need it to be. Just as there are options galore for picking the perfect beach, resort or fishing hole, there are also many ways to create the perfect Florida golf trip.
If you want sparkling Florida coastlines to be your companion, golf with waterfront views longs to be discovered. The Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast offers a half-dozen holes on the Atlantic, while the short-course paradise Palm Beach Par 3 hugs the same coastline. If your vibe is the Keys, America’s only Caribbean golf course awaits with the Key West Golf Club.
How about conquering the water? Head to Ponte Vedra Beach to take on golf’s most famous hole, the island-green par-3 17th at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course. More than 100,000 balls are rinsed there every year, so just consider yourself part of the club if your shot falls a bit short (or left, or right, or long). At the Nicklaus Course at Bay Point Golf in Panama City Beach, the par-4 fifth hole requires a shot to an island fairway before attacking the green.
Speaking of Nicklaus, he’s one of many famous players to put his design stamp on Florida courses. At Orlando’s Reunion Resort, he designed a course, as did Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson. Greg Norman handled both courses at Tiburon in Naples, which like many great Florida resorts also boasts a world-class hotel on-site. Elsewhere in the state, you’ll find some of the finest work from acclaimed architects Pete Dye, Donald Ross, Tom Doak and Gil Hanse.
No two golf courses are alike in Florida, indeed some are spectacularly different. Palm Harbor‘s Copperhead course at the Innisbrook Golf Resort features elevation changes and tree-lined fairways. The Blue Monster at Trump National Doral is a lengthy challenge among South Florida palm trees and lakes. Streamsong Resort in rural Bowling Green is like nothing else anywhere, with three courses spread among dunes left behind from long-abandoned mines. It’s worth setting your GPS for.
If you really love golf — and if you’ve come this far, you do — the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine should be on the itinerary. The history of the game is told through exhibits and interactive displays, while each Hall of Famer has his or her own space in the Member Locker Room. (Find out which players have a lunch box, fly-fishing rod and harmonica in their lockers and get back to us.) And naturally the Hall of Fame has two courses, one named the King and Bear, the lone co-design by Mr. Palmer and Mr. Nicklaus.
In Florida, you can play the best courses and see the best take on those same courses. Every year the professional tours jet all over the Sunshine State, with the PGA Tour’s PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass, Arnold Palmer Invitational at Orlando’s Bay Hill and Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens‘ PGA National Resort & Spa Champions course just three of several events where the game’s top players try to make history. The PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour are based in the state, because they know what you know — Florida is the golf capital of the world.