Your Guide to Year-Round Golfing in the Sunshine State

    Florida Golf | I-4 Exit Guide

    While many golf courses are winding down for the season, don’t pack away your clubs just yet. Florida is the perfect destination for golfers to enjoy year-round, picture-perfect conditions on the course. It’s no wonder so many PGA golf pros choose to design signature courses in Florida and play at some of the region’s top championship greens. With more courses than any other region in America, the Sunshine State is a golf mecca. Here are some of the top places to tee-off in Florida, where golf is always in season.

    Home of the PGA TOUR
    Golfers looking to swing around with the PGA pros should pay a visit to Florida’s Historic Coast, where over a dozen championship golf courses are open year-round. Many PGA golf pros live in and play around TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, including Fred Funk, Vijay Singh, and Jim Furyk. At TPC Sawgrass, golfers can live the PGA Tour lifestyle, walking the same fairways as their golf heroes and teeing off from the very spots where history is made each year during THE PLAYERS Championship. At World Golf Village Resort, golfers can create their own golf history on the King and Bear, the only collaboration between golf’s greatest legends, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Did you know…not only is the PGA TOUR headquartered in Ponte Vedra, but the World Golf Hall of Fame, which honors those that have contributed to the game, is located just a few minutes away in St. Augustine.

    Palmer’s Paradise
    Soak up the sun while playing courses designed by one of the greatest players in professional golf history. Tampa’s Saddlebrook Resort is home to golf legend Arnold Palmer’s two 18-hole championship courses. Palmer’s signature courses feature rolling fairways, well-maintained greens, along with wilderness areas full of cypress, pine and palm trees. Did you know… Saddlebrook Resort offers golf training for juniors and adults. Saddlebrook’s Golf Academy is one of Florida’s best golf schools lead by professional instructors, while the 16-acre Saddlebrook Golf Training Center offers a multifaceted training facility for resort guests, visitors and touring professionals.

    Tee-off at the Ranch
    Tommy Bolt, the winner of the 1958 U.S. Open, called Black Diamond Ranch home for several years. Citrus County’s Black Diamond Ranch makes an exception to the rules of Florida golf. Rarely, if ever, will you find a golf course with as much diversity as the Quarry Course, including dramatic changes in elevation, expansive natural sandy areas, occasional water features, gnarled live oaks, magnolias, palmettos and free flowing contours throughout. The 14th, 15th and 16th holes on the Quarry Course are carved over and around canyon walls of an abandoned limestone quarry. Did you know…there are 45 holes at the Club, all designed by Tom Fazio, one of the most respected golf course architects in the world. The Ranch Course is the second 18 at Black Diamond and features a pattern for the holes to flow across and through the changes in elevation. The 9-hole Highlands Course is as worthy and engaging as the Quarry and Ranch Courses, with its own distinctive character and charm.

    A Hole in One Made Easy
    Plantation on Crystal River recently announced the conversion of their ninehole Lagoons Course into a TaylorMade and PGA backed “Hack Golf” course – the only course offering the variation of the game in North Central Florida, and only one of the few courses statewide. At the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show, Mark King, former CEO of TaylorMade Clubs, initiated the idea of “Hack Golf” to entice more players to a less frustrating, challenging, and therefore more enjoyable, game of golf. The first and most popular effort is transitioning courses from the standard four and one quarter inch cup to a much larger 15 inch cup. Did you know…the Plantation on Crystal River’s Original Golf School™ is among the top golf schools in Florida thanks to PGA Pro Jay Morelli, who has directed the school since it was founded in 1978. Originally from the North, Morelli has been rated the #1 Professional Instructor in Vermont and “New England PGA Teacher of the Year” by Golf Digest.

    Golf on the Gulf
    Play golf where the pros learn to play at Tanglewood Golf and Country Club. Do the names Boo Weekley, Bubba Watson and Heath Slocum ring a bell? These three pros, all graduates of Milton High School, all debuted simultaneously at The Masters Tournament in 2008, and began their junior careers at Tanglewood Golf and Country Club, in Milton, Florida in Santa Rosa County. Get to know the area and environment that gave rise to their careers – not just on the golf courses but all of Florida’s Playground from Historic Milton to the sugar-white sands of Navarre Beach. Did you know…you can “gulf” in the area, which is home to one of only ten national seashores? For eight pristine miles, the beaches of the Gulf Islands National Seashore remain untouched by development and are home to towering dunes, nesting sea turtles and other wildlife. With three great golf courses in the area including Tanglewood Golf and Country Club, Tiger Point Golf and Country Club, and the top rated public course in northwest Florida, The Club at Hidden Creek, you’ll have your fair share of picturesque fairways and awe-inspiring views to choose from.

    Florida’s Golf Capital
    The Palm Beaches is Florida’s Golf Capital®. Golfers of alllevels have 160 public and private courses to tee off. Many of these courses include the United States’ most acclaimed golf resorts, pro-designed executive and championship courses, leading PGA-sanctioned tournaments as well as being a haven for some of the world’s most famous golfers. The PGA National Resort & Spa is one of the top golf courses and resorts in The Palm Beaches. Originally designed by Tom and George Fazio for major tournament play, The Champion course at PGA National Resort & Spa was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 1990 and now hosts the Honda Classic each spring on the PGA Tour. Each of the resort’s award-winning courses were recently updated with new turf, rebuilt bunkers, and expanded tee and green complexes. Did you know… the Palm Beaches have a nice collection of golf courses within designated parks? The Audubon International certified Osprey Point Golf Course is a 27-hole layout that opened in 2010 in Palm Beach County’s Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park. Palm Beach Gardens Municipal is carved out of the Loxahatchee Nature Preserve and was renovated in 2013. Meanwhile, the Red Reef Executive Course is adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean in Boca Raton’s Red Reef Municipal Park.

    PGA History
    St. Petersburg and Clearwater’s challenging and beautiful courses offer PGA-approved fairways and a historical past. Innisbrook: A Salamander Golf & Spa Resort features the Copperhead course, where Jordan Speith, PGA Tour Player of the Year, won this year’s Valspar Golf Championship. Innisbrook’s five courses offer rolling hills, challenging elevations, and trees draped with Spanish moss to add to the ambience. For a course with a rich history, tee off at the Vinoy Club. Located in Snell Isle, one of St. Petersburg’s most picturesque and upscale neighborhoods, the course is just a mile-and-a-half away from the world-famous Vinoy Renaissance Resort. The 18-hole, par 71 course dates back to 1927, when Babe Ruth and his buddies were known to get in a few rounds during Spring Training. The Vinoy course was re-designed by renowned golf course architect Ron Garl, and put back into play in 1992. Did you know…the Dunedin Golf Club hosted 18 Senior PGA championships on its 18 holes, and was home to the PGA of America from 1945 to 1962. Designed by legendary course architect Donald Ross and opened on Jan. 1, 1927, Dunedin Golf Club has hosted a who’swho of links legends — Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Babe Zaharias among them.

    1,220 Holes on Florida’s First Coast of Golf
    Golfers looking to take advantage of pristine course conditions, affordable rates, and comfortable weather all year will need to look no further than Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, also known as Florida’s First Coast of Golf. 72 public and private courses on over 1,220 holes of golf await you to create unforgettable experiences and memories that last a lifetime. So bring your clubs and tee off at area courses designed by PGA greats. Golfers can retreat to traditional designs of the past on the Champions Club course at Julington Creek Golf Club, designed by PGA pro Steve Melnyk and Bob Walker. The Championship Club offers a challenging but playable experience for the advanced and average golfer, delivering quality golf to the public without sacrificing high standards and gracious amenities. Did you know…you can golf on the highest point in the Greater Jacksonville area at Hidden Hills Country Club? Redesigned by Arnold Palmer in 1986, Hidden Hills is carved into a hilly area that is the highest point on the map in the Greater Jacksonville area, with elevation and rolling fairways that are rarely seen in the Sunshine State.

    Amen to Golf
    Sunny Hills Golf Club in Washington County offers a traditional layout designed by golf legends Gene Sarazen and Ken Venturi. They have wide landing areas, large greens and the ability to “run the ball up” on all approach shots. Not to mention, the “Panhandle’s best golf value”, with overseeded fairways, tees and greens. The club features an extensive pro shop offering everything you need for a day out on the course and an excellent practice facility. Did you know… Unique to Sunny Hills Golf Club would be the golfers ability to play the Amen Corner where holes 7, 8 and 9 are set up to replicate the three most famous holes in golf, Amen Corner.

    PGA Owned and Operated
    Port St. Lucie’s PGA Golf Club is owned and operated by The PGA of America, offering course conditions and service levels that commensurate with the PGA Brand. The PGA Golf Club recently underwent a massive overhaul and debuted a 20,000 square-foot revamped clubhouse. The facility has more than doubled in size from the original clubhouse, which first opened its doors in 1996. The expanded clubhouse features elements of style that reflect the PGA of America’s rich history, including a “PGA Gallery” which exhibits notable trophies and artifacts that trace nearly 100 years of PGA’s legacy. The new facility boasts added dining space, a new pub, covered outdoor seating and gorgeous course views. The Wanamaker Course, named in honor of Rodman Wanamaker, who in 1916 inspired the birth of The PGA of America, also underwent recent enhancements, with celebration grass added to its fairways. Did you know…PGA Golf Club is one of the best resorts to learn more about the game of golf? The PGA Golf Club has the best in golf training and teaching at the state-of-the-art 35- acre PGA Learning Center. The course offers golfers daily clinics and instruction by PGA Professionals. Those seeking a history lesson can visit the PGA Museum of Golf to learn all about the PGA’s storied existence.

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