ORLANDO, May 11, 2012 — In the American mind, it’s hard to pry golf apart from Florida. The climate, the land, the vistas, the heritage, all of it has conspired to make golf and Florida go together as naturally as Fred and Ginger, Lucy and Desi and even mac ‘n cheese.
If you want to have some fun, get some sun and hit the links, just about any course in Florida will get the job done. But if you’re ready to step up your game and play some world-class golf, you may want to be just a bit more selective. Golfers who covet quality courses and want to test themselves against the very best, should zero in the top courses in Florida.
Here is a list of some of the Sunshine State’s finest…all open to the public:
Wyndham Bay Point Resort in Panama Beach City features two 18-hole courses. One of them, the Nicklaus Course, is the only golf course in Northwest Florida that Jack Nicklaus’s esteemed company Nicklaus Design Associates designed, which is one of the main reasons Travel & Leisure Golf dubbed it one of the country’s most notable debuts. The design features distinctive landscaping that highlights the area’s native scrub oaks, pines and salt-water mashes.
Tucked between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, TPC Sawgrass in Ponta Vedra Beach has been ranked number 9 among resort golf courses in the United States and Golfweek magazine calls it the best course in Florida. It’s built for pros, but caters to everyone. Golfers here eschew swagger in favor of the swing. This low-key spot is treasured among serious golfer for its unassuming feel.
Tom Fazio has called his two-for-one golf course World Woods (Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks) in Brooksville his best work ever. “This is like having Pine Valley and Augusta, plus the best practice facility in the world - in the same location,” he told Joe Black, past President of the PGA of America. And if the number of golfers who flock to this course are any indication, plenty of golfers seem to agree.
Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando is a clubby course. Although it is open to guests staying at the Bay Hill resort, the feel is decidedly intimate. That’s probably driven by the fact that most of the golfers on the course will be locals, who have bought memberships. In addition, to the golf course, The Arnold Palmer golf academy is there.
Ginn Hammock Beach (Ocean) in Palm Coast boasts spectacular ocean views, which make it a favorite of travelers. Designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, it takes advantage of the natural beauty of its setting. But this course is more than just a pretty green. It also presents serious challenges to golfers, which is why it has been chosen to host PGA Tour events.
Innisbrook (Copperhead) has been named by Golf Magazine as one of the “Top 100 You Can Play.” Every March the PGA Tour plays this course. Amateurs love the fact that they do not need to be members to play this esteemed course. In fact, many golfers stay at this resort so that they can attend the golf academies that are offered throughout the year.
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