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The state of Florida, nicknamed the “Sunshine State”, offers more than just beaches and wet outdoor activities for your enjoyment. Due to its year-round sunny weather, it has established itself as one of the go-to places for those who love all sorts of outdoor recreational activities without having to worry about bad weather possibly bumming them out.
Tallahassee is the state’s de-facto capital city, but the majority of the population actually reside in the cities of Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa with an estimated combined population of approximately 1.9 million.
Florida is teeming with amazing sceneries and a diverse terrain ranging from ridges and highlands to exotic swamps, plains, and breathtaking beaches. Combining this geographical diversity with the perennial sunny weather, great food, and wonderful people makes Florida a prime location for many of the most beautiful and challenging golf courses in the country.
There are approximately 1,400 golf courses in the entire state of Florida. More than half of them are public, or semi-private courses that allow non-member access after payment of green fees and other charges. In this guide, we will provide you with a list of the top ten best public golf courses in Florida.
Best Golf Courses in Florida
Location: Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,245 yards
Located in southeastern Jacksonville, the Tournament Players Club (TPC) at Sawgrass has a reputation of being among the most challenging and complex golf courses in the world.
TPC at Sawgrass consists of two courses: The Stadium Course and the Valley Course. Designed by renowned golf architects, Pete and Alice Dye, it was among the earliest Tournament Players Club courses ever constructed when it opened in 1980.
TPC Stadium Course is intended to provide a colosseum-like ambiance where the fans can watch the players and the action from afar. The stands are designed to hold up to 36,000 viewers at any given time.
TPC is distinguished by its stunning signature hole on the 17th simply called the “Island Green”. The par-3, 125m hole features a small peninsula surrounded by water in the middle of a collection of trees that actually contributes to the difficulty in landing the ball during uncooperative weather conditions. It is estimated that over 100,000 balls are collected from this water hazard annually.
TPC’s Stadium Course at Sawgrass is generally acknowledged as one of the best golf courses in Jacksonville. It has been ranked by Golf Digest as the 12th Best Public Golf Course in America in 2017-2018.
Location: Fort Meade, FL
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,148 yards
Located about an hour’s drive from Tampa, or an hour and a half from Orlando is the beautiful yet somewhat isolated Streamsong Resort. Any weariness you may be feeling from your drive quickly wears off once you arrive at the site and begin to take in the stunning view and landscape of this upscale resort.
They offer a bevy of outdoor sports activities, including three golf courses that you can choose from: The Red, Black and Blue Courses.
Among the three, I highly recommend the Red Course. This Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-designed course has a complex yet playable layout that makes for an exciting and satisfying game for players of all skill levels. The course is in impeccable shape and features numerous forced carries and elevation changes. The signature hole is the par-3 16th, a picturesque hole where you are forced to carry approximately 170 yards over water.
The scenery is just breathtaking. When you combine all these factors with the other outdoor activities that the resort offers, together with their top-notch service and well-appointed accommodations, there is no question that this is a trip that you just have to make if ever you are near the area. Hands down, Streamsong Resort’s Red Course is the best golf course in Fort Meade.
Bear in mind that golf carts are only allowed from April to September as part of course maintenance. For those who do not wish to walk, it would be best to schedule your trip within this period.
Location: Brooksville, FL
Holes: 18 Par: 71 Length: 7,259 yards
World Woods Golf Club is a 45-minute drive north of Tampa. It has two championship golf courses, namely: The Pine Barrens Course and the Rolling Oaks Course.
Designed by famous golf architect Tom Fazio, the Pine Barrens Course has a relatively lengthy but tight layout due to the abundance of bunkers and waste areas located on the periphery of most fairways. It is rated no. 26 on GolfWeek Magazine’s list of America’s Best Modern Courses.
The signature hole is the 526-yard par-5 4th hole which can be considered a ‘poster hole’ for risk-reward playmaking if ever there was one. Cautious players can play it safe by laying up their tee shot towards the left side of the fairway and be satisfied to go out of there with a par. The more adventurous ones, however, can attempt to carry the vast waste area in front and land towards the right of the fairway nearer to the green. They will be rewarded with the possibility of reaching the elevated green in just two strokes if they manage to pull off this daring maneuver.
Pine Barrens is a course that will surely test your mettle, physically and mentally, which is why it is considered the best golf course in Brooksville and among the best in the entire state of Florida.
Location: Palm Harbor, FL
Holes: 18 Par: 71 Length: 7,209 yards
Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club is a hotel resort located northwest of Tampa. They boast of four Larry Packard-designed golf courses, namely: The Island, Copperhead, Highlands North and Highlands South courses.
The most famous and highly-regarded among the four is the Copperhead Course. The PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship is played every year on this course and many of the PGA Tour players profess their love for this course for various reasons.
Wonderful scenery, tall and mature pines lining up the fairways, constant elevation changes, and a challenging layout all add-up to a great round of golf. The course is always kept in immaculate condition. Even though it is quite lengthy at 7,209 yards, it takes more than just power to gather a good score on this course. All things considered, this course tends to reward players with better accuracy more than those who merely rely on their ability to hit long drives.
This is a course that rewards cerebral and strategic players, which could be one of the reasons why it is revered by many PGA Tour players. Combining the resort amenities, great food, excellent service and the opportunity to play all four courses in one trip, this is one destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
All of the above factors should be enough to make the Copperhead Course in Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club not only the best golf course in Palm Harbor but in the entire country. If it’s good enough for the guys on the Tour, it has to be good enough for the rest of us.
Location: Miami, FL
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,590 yards
Sometimes television just doesn’t do you justice. This is true for celebrities and it’s also true for golf courses.
The Trump National Doral Miami in Doral, South Florida has hosted numerous PGA Tour events so you may have already seen it once or twice on TV if you are a big golf fan. But nothing actually prepares you for the real-life visual and sensory assault once you set foot on this huge facility.
It boasts of four gorgeous courses, namely: The Blue Monster, Golden Palm, Red Tiger, and the Silver Fox courses. Among the four, the Blue Monster is the most famous as it has hosted numerous PGA Tour events over the years.
At 7,590 yards, the Blue Monster is a hyper-long course that is inundated with bunkers, water hazards, and fast winds that you will feel lucky to get out of a round with your typical score. Most players actually need two or three passes at this course to be thoroughly acquainted with its terrain and refine their strategies, before they can manage to eke out a decent score.
The Blue Monster Course is the best public-access golf course in Miami. A well-rounded offering of excellent rooms, the widest pro-shop selection that I’ve ever seen, great food, exceptional service and a chance to play the other adjoining courses should complete a perfect golfing getaway with friends or family.
Location: Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,045 yards
The PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida hosts a total of five 18-hole championship courses under its banner: The Champion, Estate, Palmer, Fazio, and Squire courses.
Among them, the Champion is considered the most exciting and challenging course. It has been chosen to hold several high-profile events throughout the years, such as the Ryder Cup in 1983, the 1987 PGA Championship, and the Senior PGA Championship for 19 consecutive years from 1982-2000.
Originally designed by Tom Fazio, the Champion course was redesigned twice by Jack Nicklaus who wasted no time in putting his own mark by incorporating the dreaded “Bear Trap” into the course layout.
If other courses have signature holes, the Champion actually has a signature stretch called the “Bear Trap”. It is a stretch of consecutive holes comprised of the par-3 15th, par-4 16th, and par-3 17th that is as treacherous as they are scenic - with its elevated narrow greens and water hazards that seem to lure balls to their doom like a siren call.
And just when you think you’re safe after you have passed the Bear Trap, the 556-yard par-5 18th hole that awaits you is no slouch either. This is a true must-play course that you should experience at least once if you are an avid golfer.
The Champion Course is not only the best golf course in Palm Beach Gardens but in the entire country, as proven by the numerous times that it has been selected to host some very prestigious events over the years. Avail of the different packages on offer so that you can play the other adjacent PGA courses and to maximize your experience during your trip.
Location: Palm Coast, FL
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,201 yards
Hammock Beach Resort’s Ocean Course has been ravaged by several hurricanes over the years and yet it impressively bounces back stronger every single time. Proof of its resilience is that it has been selected to host several high-profile PGA Tour events and have even managed to gather several prestigious recognition from respected golf publications such as Golf Week, Golf Digest and Golf Magazine.
It has an exciting mix of short and long holes that is appropriate for all skill levels, especially if you play from your most comfortable tees. This being an oceanfront course, you will not be disappointed with their six ocean-facing holes that are just absolutely stunning.
This award-winning course is designed by the great Jack Nicklaus. He doesn’t fail to provide his imprint once again on this course as he incorporates a stretch of consecutive difficult holes from the 15th to the 17th dubbed the “Bear Claw” (reminiscent of his “Bear Trap” signature stretch at the Champion Course of PGA National).
Once you have successfully negotiated past the Bear Claw, you will be rewarded with a great closing salvo as you close out your round by the sea with the 466-yard par-4 18th hole. The Ocean Course is constantly recognized as one of the best golf courses in the state of Florida by several reputable institutions and publications. Stay at one of Hammock Beach Resort’s luxurious rooms and book a schedule at the adjacent Conservatory Course to make your trip complete.
Location: Panama City Beach, FL
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,159 yards
Located on the west side of Panama City Beach, Camp Creek Golf Club is known for being daunting yet welcoming at the same time, which earned them the recognition as not only the best golf course in Panama City Beach but in the entire state of Florida.
Its elevated greens, white sand bunkers, and water hazards are strategically placed along the entire layout that you will have to be very strategic and accurate in order to come out with a good score once your round is over. Make no mistake, you will be constantly assaulted with water hazards, as they can be found in 11 holes all throughout the course.
The course is in excellent shape and they have a great practice facility and a beautiful clubhouse with friendly staff. Club rentals are also available from the pro shop. Credit cards are allowed but only for certain merchants.
Location: DeLand, FL
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,149 yards
Victoria Hills Golf Club is an 18-hole course located in DeLand, Florida, which is approximately 34 miles from Orlando and 23 miles from Daytona.
Don’t let the natural ambiance provided by the natural terrain and tranquil atmosphere lull you into thinking that you can just take it easy with this course. It cleverly utilizes water hazards, deep sandy bunkers, fast greens and a challenging layout to provide you with a great round of golf.
They also have a great practice facility. There are a few housing developments visible on the back nine but they do not interfere with course play. Overall, this is a very fun course to play and a real value for your money. This is definitely one of the best public golf courses in the Orlando/Daytona area. So be sure to make the short drive if ever you are in the vicinity.
Location: Key Biscayne, FL
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,301 yards
Located just 10 minutes from downtown Miami, the Crandon Park Golf Course on the “island paradise” of Key Biscayne is unlike any other golf course in Florida.
Originally designed in 1972 and then redesigned in 1993 by Robert Von Hagge is reputed to be among the most challenging and difficult golf courses in Florida which earned it the moniker “The Links at Key Biscayne”.
Majority of the holes are facing Biscayne Bay and the course incorporates several saltwater lakes into the layout. A cleverly-placed network of water hazards, sand bunkers and even mangrove thickets all add to the complexity of this course which makes it really fun to play.
At 7,301 yards, this is a relatively long course that assaults you from the get-go starting with the par-5 1st hole which requires careful navigation over mangroves and water, until you reach the par-5 18th hole which has water on each side of the fairway. By all definition, Crandon Park Golf Course is one of the best golf courses in Miami Dade County.
Fun fact: there’s a good probability that you may see some of the animals that are cared for by the facility. They have three crocodiles, countless raccoons and giant-sized iguanas that may nonchalantly share the course with you during your play. You may also encounter herons, ibises, egrets, and pelicans on the fairways or along the vicinity of the saltwater lakes.
Florida is blessed with a diverse landscape and good weather practically all year round. When you pair these with great food and amazing people, then you have a recipe for exciting outdoor sports activities. That is the reason why Florida is home to many of the most renowned and challenging golf courses in the country.
If you are an avid golfer, the courses we have listed here should be on your bucket list. But don’t just take our word for it. Go out there and experience these exciting courses for yourself. Either you will be yearning to come back and play these courses more than once, or you may end up making your own list according to your preference. The important thing is that you got to personally experience for yourself the best courses that Florida has to offer.