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|Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort boasts courses by Rees Jones, Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Tom Jackson. (Courtesy of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort)|
Florida has lots of competition from other celebrated golf-happy states that are both contenders and pretenders, but it's still the king of the golf resort concept.
Whether you're seeking a resort in an urban area or an isolated venue where you wake up each morning to soaring seagulls and crashing waves, you'll find it in Florida.
Here's a sampling of Florida's exceptional golf resort menu:
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is set on 2,400 acres on both the Intracoastal Waterway and Gulf of Mexico in Destin.
Its self-contained setting includes 1,800 hotel rooms and vacation rentals, a marina and the Village of Baytowne Wharf with dozens of shops, restaurants and nightclubs.
Highlighting the resort's four-course lineup is Baytowne Golf Club -- a Tom Jackson design with elevation changes that extends from the beach to the Choctawhatchee Bay -- and Raven Golf Club, a wonderland of high-impact water features, wetlands, marshes and thick stands of pine trees.
Seascape Resort in Destin screams "bring your family" with condos and villas dotting the 300-acre complex and a long list of recreation amenities such as multiple swimming pools and water sports rentals.
Designer Joe Lee did a superb job of incorporating water in the resort-style golf course at Seascape, which has scenic views of the Gulf of Mexico and numerous fresh water and coastal sand dune lakes.
The 319-room Bay Point Wyndham Resort set on a 1,100-acre wildlife sanctuary nestled along St. Andrews Bay in Panama City is semi-isolated with easy access to the Gulf of Mexico beaches.
The Nicklaus Course at Bay Point is a classic risk/reward layout with plateaus, elevation changes and bay views. The Meadows Course is a bit easier, but challenge lurks with narrow landing areas, dogleg holes and lots of water hazards.
TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach has on-site accommodations at the 506-room Sawgrass Marriott Resort and Spa and access to the palatial 77,000 square foot clubhouse.
TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course -- the Pete Dye masterpiece with the signature island hole at 17 -- is world-renowned, and its sister course, Dye's Valley Course, was also designed by Dye with Bobby Weed and Jerry Pate.
The 1,350-acre Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, located on a barrier island 29 miles from Jacksonville International Airport, has 54 holes of championship golf, 300 villas and 249 oceanfront rooms.
Amelia Island Plantation, a 36-hole configuration designed by Pete Dye and Bobby Weed, includes tidal marshes, magnificent live oak trees, the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal waters. Tom Fazio's private Long Point Course, which is available to guests, has a private-course ambiance.
Orange Lake Resort in Kissimmee has one-, two- and three-bedroom villas along with a lakefront beach, seven swimming pools and spas, and an 80-acre lake.
Orange Lake's Legends Course is an Arnold Palmer design with a wide-open front nine and a back nine with winding fairways and abundant water hazards. Highland Reserve Golf Club, designed by Mike Dasher, is framed by wetlands and well-preserved native foliage.
The 720-room Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate in Kissimmee has two-and three-bedroom villas, a European-style spa, five restaurants and a lazy river.
Inspired by courses in his homeland of Australia, Greg Norman designed the International Course with deep pot bunkers, grass-topped dunes and huge, rolling greens. Championsgate's National Course is the quintessential resort course that's less of a challenge than its counterpart.
The 190-room family-owned Mission Inn Resort & Club, 35 miles northwest of Orlando, has a high service level and amenities such as a spa, a fitness center and 1930s' river yacht.
Saddlebrook Resort's walking-village concept puts guests within a short walking distance of accommodations, two golf courses, restaurants, swimming pool and other major amenities. It's located 30 minutes north of Tampa International Airport.
Saddlebrook's Palmer Course has rolling fairways and terrain peppered with several lakes, streams and ponds, while the Saddlebrook Course has tighter and flatter fairways with a definite target-golf feel.
The 275-room Biltmore Hotel set in the affluent Miami suburb of Coral Gables is a Spanish-style property oozing with opulence and luxury. The rooms feature rich tapestries, plush Egyptian-cotton bedding, stone-tiled floors and oversized windows.
The Biltmore Golf Course -- an 18-hole Donald Ross design built in 1925 -- was thoughtfully restored by architect Brian Silva. The greens appear reasonably accessible from the fairway, but beware of the subtle dips and contours that force you to carefully read every putt.
The 137-room Grand Palms Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort in Pembroke Pines is situated on 500 acres with 27 holes of golf, a spa and fitness center and tennis complex.
Excellent greens and lush, palm-dotted terrain are the draws at Grand Palms' Sabal, Grand and Royal Courses.
November 19, 2012
Ed Schmidt, publisher of The Golf Travel Guru Blog, is the author of two books on Florida golf and more than 2,500 articles and columns on golf resorts, courses and destinations around the world. Follow Ed on Twitter at @golftravelguy.
Finding a golf course to play in the Sarasota/Bradenton area 45 miles south of Tampa is easy. World-ranked beaches, European-style boutique shopping and al fresco dining, and a fantastic circus museum are just a few of the choices available for off-course entertainment.
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