Florida has more golf courses than any other state in America, over 1250 to choose from this articles explains the many choices available to help you choose.
Just to put that into a bit of perspective the UK has circa 2500 golf courses.
So, the state of Florida alone has approximately half the amount of golf courses as the whole of the UK – astonishing really isn’t it?
What I would say is that even though there is a large number of golf courses in Florida to choose from to play on a golf holiday is a number of courses you may want to play are private clubs that you can’t just ‘book a tee time’ – for example the one and only Donald Trump has 3 completely different golf sites in Florida alone but only the one Trump National at Doral is available to play for the general public.
Not only does Florida have an astonishing number of golf courses, a huge number of them are full blown ‘resort courses’ perfect for a golf break with mates or a golf holiday with friends and/or family.
What us golfers generally do not consider sometimes is that Florida could be an ideal place to go with family and friends if you are a keen golfer obviously it has a vast amount of high quality golf courses to play (which I will go on to look at in depth later on) but if you have a family (which I do) then a lot of the time I am looking for somewhere which can incorporate my desire to play golf on excellent courses, along with something to occupy my Wife and children whilst I am hacking around. When I look at Florida, I see what could possibly be called ‘Golf Holiday PLUS’ with all the excellent and also vast amount of theme / water parks no one could ever be bored.
There is also one distinct advantage at looking to go on a family golf holiday, and you have young children is that golf breaks in Florida are usually cheaper in the summer months because it is seen as the low season with peak golfing / golf break season being October – May where temperatures are between 20c and 30c. So, you can book up for the summer holidays and potentially get a better deal.
There is also a common misconception that long-haul flights are ‘expensive’ but depending on what time of year you want to go and probably a bigger thing when you actually book flights, they can be reasonable. I have seen flights to Orlando for £300 return in the past and to give an example I have looked today and have seen flights for next summer (August 2019) and seen return flights for less than £500 per person and these were probably cheaper at some point, when first released. I have seen return flights to Spain more expensive that this in the summer months!
Known as the sunshine state Florida is the perfect destination for a long-haul golf holiday with its all year round ‘good weather’ the other thing about golf in Florida is that most golf courses are predominantly Bermuda grass golf courses which has its benefits - I personally loved playing golf on Bermuda grass. The ball sits up on the lush dark green fairways where I always felt I was going to get a pure connection, Slightly trickier on or around the greens though. Bermuda grass can be quite ‘sticky’ for chipping purposes so you’ll need to remain aggressive and greens can be very awkward the later in the day you play them – the grass will grow towards the sun so putts that look like they go one way can go the opposite so just make sure you take a real good look at the green before picking the line.
So, with all the above in mind, below are (in my opinion) the best golf resorts in Florida to escape and enjoy your next golf holiday or even golf holiday PLUS (not sure if that will catch on ??).
Streamsong Golf Resort and Spa
This is a place that for some reason is not that well known to us British golfers in comparison to some of the others on the list (maybe because it was only opened in 2014), but would be for me the first place I would be looking at going if I was after a golf holiday in Florida.
Streamsong has three 18-hole golf courses red, blue and black. All three courses both being rated inside the top 100 golf courses in America – phenomenal. This whole estate is like nothing I have seen before surrounded by nature as far as the eye can see. The resort was built on an old phosphate strip mine adding to its surreal landscape. Both courses even though designed by different people (one being Ben Crenshaw) are similar but with subtle differences (the red course has significantly more challenging water hazards), the fairways are as wide as you like and the greens which I have heard described as ‘interesting’ are extremely quick and true – not something always associated with golf in Florida.
These courses will test you and all aspects of your game, not easy by any stretch but incredibly enjoyable none the less. A real shot makers resort!!!
If looking to reside here for your golf holiday the resort has over 200 rooms which are of exquisite standard with floor to ceiling glass to be able to take in some amazing views of the water. There is a lakeside pool area along with other activities including fishing and clay shooting. Located approx. 90 mins from Orlando International airport it is also not the longest commute after a flight.
I don’t think there is any other resort I have seen that can boast having 3 magnificent and well-regarded golf courses and to think it is only 4 years old!
All in all, this resort is quickly becoming a firm favourite in America and I am sure that this will not be the last time you hear of it or of its wonderful courses.
Reunion Golf and Spa Resort
Again, another ‘not that well known’ or heard about place which I find incredibly strange considering it has three 18-hole championship style golf courses designed by none other than Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson with the courses all being named after them in the Nicklaus, Palmer and Watson.
Built on a huge 2300-acre property and located in the Kissimmee area of Florida this could be a perfect example of the golf holiday PLUS that I mentioned earlier (is it catching on ??)
This huge resort has its own 5-acre water park and 10 inside and outside swimming pools coupled with tennis courts and other activities ready to occupy your family whilst you are coming to terms with what Jack, Arnie and Tom have built. It is also just around the corner from Disney at approximately 20 mins by car.
This resort was built to such high standards it has been used on the LPGA tour hosting the Ginn Open in 2006,2007 and 2008.
Palmer Course 6916 yards, par 72
Surprisingly for Florida this course is thoughtfully placed on hilly terrain, the course boasts dramatic elevation changes creating a unique variety of risk/reward shots.
There are six tee locations on each hole so playable in length for all levels of ability, a variety of natural preserve areas, generously wide fairways and strategically placed bunkers across all 18 holes.
Nicklaus Course 7219 yards, par 72
This Parkland-style layout is smooth and flowing, elevated tee boxes and greens. This Nicklaus Course, a Signature Design by Jack Nicklaus, can be as deceptive as it is beautiful with it tempting you into taking on shots that maybe you wouldn’t normally try. Get a game plan and stick with it!
Watson Course 7154 yards, par 72
Firm and fast wide fairways coupled with extremely large greens and strategically well-placed bunkers makes this Watson course more about strategy and club selection than it is about length.
I have said it once and I will say it again this for me is a perfect golf holiday PLUS destination, what more could you ask for?
From two maybe not so well-known resorts to us British golfers to probably the most famous golf resort in Florida. TPC Sawgrass is the home of two beautiful Pete Dye designed courses and more famous than the resort itself the Alice Dye (Pete’s wife) designed 17th hole on the stadium course. All that water to an Island green is enough to give anyone sleepless nights – just ask Aaron Baddeley (Sorry Aaron).
The stadium course has seen many alterations over the years following from pro’s dissatisfaction of different elements, but it now seems as though they have the right balance.
I suppose tuning in to watch tournaments such as the Players over the years makes you really want to play on the same course you have seen the greats play and then being able to sit back on your sofa for years to come and know exactly how they are feeling stood on that 17th tee or even stood in the middle of the 16th fairway (if you are lucky) a reachable par 5 knowing you have to commit to the shot or you are probably carding an eight at best!
The big thing to understand when playing any Pete Dye designed course is that he is the master of the visual intimidation and more often than not the course is a lot more playable than it looks, the Stadium course is no different. If there is one thing above any other to have when you play the Stadium course is your best putting game, when you look at all the past winners and how they managed to win they all putted well. The greens are so undulated and quick, to be honest I would be delighted to just be on the greens in a sensible number but to shoot a good score you will need to on the right level and definitely underneath the hole.
Whatever score you shoot it should be a delight to play this wonderful course steeped in history and would be another ideal golf holiday destination. If you come to Florida to play golf surely playing here is a must? And one to tick off the list.
As I mentioned earlier there are two courses here at TPC Sawgrass the other being Dye’s valley course. Unfortunately for the younger sister of the Players course it does not really get the credit it deserves for being such a brilliant course in its own right. Host of the Web.com tour championship in 2013,2014 and 2015 it clearly is an excellent championship course –
some would say a nicer and friendlier course, but let’s face it if you have played the players the day before anything is going to seem more forgiving. The one thing that the valley course has is water, water everywhere, on every single hole and you can always see it! Good news is that if you are a fader of the ball you should be fine but if you have a hook in you then watch out! majority of the trouble is on your left.
Not only does TPC Sawgrass have two world class golf courses but it also has the fabulous Sawgrass Marriot hotel and spa with pristine private breach, multiple pools - including a surf stream wave machine to allow you a bit of practice before heading out into the sea. The resort also has 7 restaurants and lounges for you to be able to eat and relax after a hard day on the course.
Rosen Shingle Creek
Here at Shingle Creek I think I have found something for everyone’s golfing holiday (dare I say a possible golf holiday PLUS destination). A truly huge resort hotel with a mind boggling 1501 plush guestrooms and suites in a magnificent 230-acre estate. Set between Orlando and Kissimmee only 10-15 mins drive from Orlando International airport this is an ideal place to be with easy access to all the best attractions, International Drive and restaurant row (Shingle Creek has 15 restaurants so unless you are here for 3 weeks, I don’t see how you would have the time). The resort has even been awarded the most coveted AAA Four-Diamond rating. The resort has 4 heated pools, Fitness centre and full spa facilities. Now, tell me this isn’t a perfect place for a golf holiday.
There is only the one golf course here at Shingle Creek however it has just been completely re-designed by the Arnold Palmer design company and what a course it is now!
Par 72 -7213-yard championship golf. You can get lovely buggies with surprisingly accurate GPS yardages, there is even an on the course food and beverage delivery service.
What is apparent here is that during the re-design the aim was to make this course a fun, enjoyable experience, a course playable for all levels and ability which is just what you want when on a golf holiday. There is now such a great mix of risk and reward driveable par 4’s which is very now on all tour’s but us amateurs love them just as much! Along with length par 4’s and 5’s. If you are a fan of undulating greens and/or having to play a variety of different shots around the green this course could well be right up your street. There are humps, bumps and swales complimented by closely mown run off areas. The redesign of the course by the Arnold Palmer design company has really brought the place to life.
The Hammock Beach Resort
Only one place to start and that is with the Jack Nicklaus designed Ocean course, one of two highly rated courses on the estate.
On the PGA champions tour circuit for 2 years in 2007 and 2008 hosting the Ginn championship won by Bernard Langer. As its name would suggest the course is built next to the Atlantic Ocean with a 3rd of the holes practically on the beach, as well as winding through the wetlands and sparling lakes. The final four holes are something to behold referred to as ‘The Bear Claw’ a testing finale to a truly remarkable ‘modern classic’ course. Once ranked as the 7th best Nicklaus designed course to play! not a lot more you can say with Nicklaus designing over 400 courses worldwide, another to consider a ‘must’ if in Florida on golf holiday.
Moving onto the ‘Brutal’ sister course designed by 5-time British Open Champion Tom Watson.
The conservatory course a true ‘Monster’ at 7746 yards from the back tee’s (don’t panic there are 7 tee’s) is a truly unique design especially in the sunshine state of Florida. Tom Watson had a vision of building an inland links course and that is exactly what he has delivered albeit a signature hole of a 170-yard par 3 with an island green flanked with palm tree’s is not something you would be used to in any form of links type golf. One tip for playing this course which will become more apparent if you play this course after any other on this list is the greens are a lot slower – in true links style.
The resort hotel and facilities are 1st class from all accommodation in the main hotel tower having an ocean view with choices of 1 bed suites - 4 bed suites (all suites also have their very own kitchens, if eating out every night isn’t for you) to the exquisite 20 room lodge barely a pitching wedge away from the Atlantic Ocean. Many many options for what ever you are looking for in your golf holiday to Florida.
Love or hate the man, Donald Trump has a standard of excellence in his resorts and with a money no object approach (evidenced by the fact he paid $150m to purchase the property in 2012 and then a further $200m to renovate the property) you would not be disappointed if having a golf holiday in his resort you would probably be trying to rebook before you had even left.
The resort is most well known for hosting number world golf championships in recent history where the best golfers in the world compete in a limited field for the biggest title(s) outside of the 4 major championships. The course that those world golf events were played is the Blue Monster, but the resort is also home to 3 other courses that do not get anywhere near the same amount of publicity for the obvious reason that they have not hosted any televised tour events recently albeit the Red Tiger hosted the LPGA tour Office Depot championship in 2001 but all are still of fantastic quality.
Completely different to its siblings on the resort and quite simply not a usual sunshine state course. Very narrow fairways which could be a bonus to any straight hitters out there considering nearly everything else out there has mile wide fairways. Seen as the lesser of the 4 courses but still enjoyable and worth playing if stopping in the resort on your golf holiday.
Red Tiger Course
This is a test but a very enjoyable one at that and one that can be played by everyone. There is water in play on nearly every hole but at only approximately 6000 yards one of the shorter courses and because of this many people prefer this over the Blue Monster.
The Golden Palm
Described by many as an Australian / Florida mix type course which I can imagine it being in the summer months. The course often used for the Tour School Qualifying, you know that like the rest of the resort it is going to be of high standard. There is a lot of water to contend with on approach shots so club selection is key around this Golden Palm.
What I would say about the blue monster is the same of any thing in life, if you expect too much from it you can easily be disappointed. Obviously, the course is not the same as you have seen it on tv (they never are) but as a golf lover to play a course that has staged such a prestigious event is a real treat. For me a true reflection of any golf course is always the greens and at the Blue monster they are like carpet so true making every putt a science (I’m sure Bryson Dechambeau would have loved it)
Overall this resort has everything you could ever want in golf holiday getaway it even has 18 private cabanas and a 125 ft slide (yes slide) at its Royal Palm Pool. The prestigious 800-acre resort has 643 rooms and multiple restaurants serving Trump signature wines.
Trump National is also committed to being one of the most child friendly resorts with the ‘Trump Kids’ programme so with that in mind this could also be towards the top of any golf Holiday PLUS list.
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Written by Dan Parker for Golf Holidays Direct, Golf Travel Guru