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Three days in Jacksonville, Florida: Surprise sophistication, superb golf

By S. Adam Cardais,
Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village
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The Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village is a true golfer's paradise. (Courtesy of worldgolfrenaissance.com)

Take a drive down the Georgia coast and over the Florida border, and after a little while a seaside city with glistening skyscrapers and a beautiful waterfront unexpectedly appears. This is Jacksonville.

At first sight Jacksonville can be a shock, but a pleasant one - especially at night, when the downtown lights reflect off the water. Often overshadowed by Charlotte and Atlanta, Jacksonville is a rich, dynamic city that can compete with its Southeast neighbors in both golf and culture.

"You don't have to be a golfer to experience cultural shock and awe in Jacksonville," Tim McDonald wrote in a story for FloridaGolf.com. "You can find just about anything on the cultural barometer, including an NFL team, enough barbecue joints to stuff a hog factory, an equal amount of upscale and downscale bars and restaurants."

It all adds up to a great place for a long weekend. Here are a few tips on what to do on and off the course during a three-day Jacksonville-area stay.

Jacksonville lodging

Home to two of our recommended courses, World Golf Village in St. Augustine makes a good base. At the 300-room Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village, bellhops greet guests in traditional golf knickers. There is also a spa, pool and fitness room.

The Sawgrass Marriot Resort & Spa is also a good option, with its proximity to downtown Jacksonville and St. Augustine. It has five golf courses, including the famed TPC Sawgrass Stadium course, and six restaurants and lounges.

Where to play golf in Jacksonville

Start off on Friday with the easier of the two courses at the World Golf Village, the Slammer & Squire. Not that the course, designed by Bobby Weed in consultation with Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen, is a breeze, but its large greens and manageable rough make it accessible to a range of skill levels.

On Saturday get a look at a rare course that can actually be called a collaboration between great golfers, World Golf Village's King & Bear course. Designers Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus reportedly walked and even played the layout together. The result is a course that reflects the preferences and strengths of both.

"That this is a 'driver's' course should come as no surprise as both Palmer and Nicklaus wielded awesome power games in their primes," Derek Duncan wrote in FloridaGolf.com review.

End the trip with a relaxing round at the TPC Valley course at Sawgrass. Often referred to as sidekick to the revered and feared Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass, the Valley has wider fairways and greens and more manageable hazards than its big brother, making it more accessible to a wider range of players.

Jacksonville dining

Replenish the calories you burn off on the course with a double porterhouse at Morton's steakhouse in Jacksonville. If you're worried about being weighed down the next day, err on the side of caution with a single-cut filet mignon.

For a more relaxing dinner atmosphere, check out Dave & Busters, an all-in-one restaurant, bar and arcade.

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JacksonvilleSlammer and Squire at World Golf VillageThe Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass
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