Experience a Florida Golf Vacation
By Caroline Brame
While Florida's tourism industry stemmed from its breathtaking beaches and world-renowned theme parks, it has established itself as a first-class golf destination. Although there are top golf courses to be found throughout the state, the areas of Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Miami are making the largest impact on the state's golf industry.
Tampa Bay Area
The Tampa Bay Area is the fastest growing golf region in the state although it has not quite established itself among the "greats" yet. The area is gaining notoriety with first-class resorts, upscale daily fee courses, and a number of public access facilities for any level or price range. If you are looking for a course with an old time Florida feel, spend a day on the Copperhead Course at Westin Innisbrook. It has been labeled one of the top golf resorts in the country due to its full character and challenging features. The course is lush and green with plenty of risk and reward opportunities. The Copperhead Course is open only to resort guests, members, and friends of members with greens fees of $160 for guests.
A new arrival to the Tampa Golf scene can be found just a short drive north of the city. World Woods Golf Club was recently developed with two courses, a nine-hole short course, and a state of the art practice center. The Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks courses provide two different golf experiences. Pine Barrens is uniquely challenging, making for an enjoyable round while Rolling Oaks is full of relaxing dips and peaceful climbs through Florida farmland. Both courses are worth a visit to this new golf club and with 700 hotel rooms within a 20-minute drive, you can make a vacation of it.
Although, historically, Walt Disney World and other theme park attractions have overshadowed the Orlando golf scene, the area is full of top-rated courses and first-rate golf resorts. There are between 100 and 150 courses in the area and Orlando is host to two PGA tour events. In an article about Orlando golf, one cannot overlook the Bay Hill Club and Lodge. One of the most prestigious semi-private clubs in the country, it has been a part of the PGA tour since 1979. The club has three nine-hole courses, the Challenger, the Champion, and the Charger. Bay Hill makes an effort to provide top of the line service by enhancing the smallest details. For example, each foursome at the club gets a forecaddie with no extra charge to haul clubs, rake sand traps, and provide tips on difficult shots. You must be a guest or resort member to play these courses with greens fees of $175 per round during peak season.
The North-South course at Grand Cypress Villas, designed by Jack Nicklaus, is one of the most well groomed courses in Florida. This combined with man-made rolling fairways and turtleback greens makes for very enjoyable play. The course has been labeled as roomy but challenging and is a must visit for any golfer in the Orlando Area. Greens fees run from $115 to $180, well worth a day away from The Mouse.
Jacksonville, one of the best-kept secrets on the East Coast, has a great waterfront setting and is a well-established golfing destination. The city and its surrounding areas are home to 68 courses, the PGA and Senior PGA tour headquarters, and the World Golf Village, just a few minutes down I-95. The courses in Jacksonville require accuracy but are known to provide plenty of variety. The world famous TPC at Sawgrass was built in 1981 and is the annual host of the Tournament Players Championship. The two courses, the Stadium and Valley, are maintained to remarkably high standards but are two very different golfing experiences. The Stadium Course, home to the infamous 17th island green, the most photographed hole in golf, is known for fast greens and tight fairways. This course can fool any level of golfer into a feeling of false security with hidden bunkers and tricky water hazards. The younger sibling, the Valley Course, is more technically extreme but is often overlooked. The larger greens and fairways make for a more lighthearted golfing experience. To play, one must be a guest at the Marriot at Sawgrass or a member. Greens fees range from $140 to $305 for the Stadium Course and $110 to $170 for the Valley Course.
The World Golf Village is home to two courses, both with two distinct nines, one open and one wooded. The King & The Bear, designed by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, has recently joined the Slammer & The Squire to offer great courses all designed by the best in the business. The Slammer & The Squire course has plenty of lakes with rolling fairways while the newer course focuses more on aesthetics without compromising the quality of play. Players with great short game execution will enjoy The Slammer & The Squire while The King & The Bear requires accuracy with distance and placement. These fine courses coupled with the World Golf Hall of Fame and all the attractions that accompany it are a great way to enhance your Jacksonville golf experience. Greens fees are $99 to $179 for the older course and $125 to $200 for The King and The Bear.
It is easy to add golf to any luxurious Miami vacation. With world-class resorts, infamous South Beach, and a host of semi-private courses in its back yard, Miami has become a top golf vacation destination. PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens offers golfers five tournament caliber courses all ranked by Zagat for "America's Top Courses." There is a course for every kind of player at PGA National whether you are a seasoned pro or someone just getting into the game. The Haig, The General, The Champ, The Squire, and The Estate are unique and offer something a little different. The Haig, the first course developed was intended to and does offer quality golf for all players. Qualities such as having no crossing water hazards evens the playing field regardless of skill. The newest course is The General, modeled after Scottish courses. Players will see these roots in its rising and falling fairways and common greens. The most renowned of the five is The Champ, offering the finest playing surface available anywhere in the world. For information regarding tee times and golf packages, visit the PGA National website.
Perhaps the most revered of South Florida golf resorts is the Doral Golf Resort and Spa. The Doral is home to 5 courses, nine pro shops, and a top-rated spa. The Blue Monster, The Great White, The Red, The Silver, and The Gold are world-renowned for fantastic golf and with water on over 60 of the 90 holes, they are also known for their challenge. The Great White, designed by Greg Norman, and The Blue Monster, one of the most recognizable courses in the country, are the top two courses at Doral. The Great White, framed by palm trees and white sand, is difficult to play and favors those who play position golf. The Blue Monster is known for huge water hazards, unforgiving rough, and an 18th hole that is one of the toughest finishes on the PGA Tour. The Greens Fees range from $100 to $225 depending on the course and season.
A Florida golf vacation can be enjoyed regardless of what destination you choose. From Jacksonville to Miami and Tampa to Orlando there are countless top rated golf resorts, clubs, and courses for you to choose from. These destinations, coupled with fantastic vacation rental homes make the Sunshine State a great place to stay and play.
Caroline Brame writes travel articles for RentalsExpress.com. For more information on Florida travel, as well as, other vacation destinations, please visit http://www.RentalsExpress.com.
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.