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|The 2,400-acre Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort has four golf courses. (Courtesy of Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort)|
DESTIN, Fla. -- Tucked away in the corner of the Panhandle of Florida is a different kind of golf vacation. Prime season isn't the middle of winter, and summers aren't the offseason. This part of Florida isn't like the rest of the state; it's on the Gulf Coast, more a part of the South than citrus country.
This is the Emerald Coast, home to arguably the whitest beaches in America set against the aqua blue waters of the eastern Gulf of Mexico. At the heart of it is the 2,400 acres of the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort.
Not only does the resort feature four excellent golf courses, but there are loads of other things to do -- biking, snorkeling, fishing, hiking, dining out and, of course, nothing at all, if that's what you choose to do.
Best of all, the folks at Sandestin (for which there is an app for your smartphone), can match you up with the accommodations and budget that fits your lifestyle.
Guests of the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort have four golf courses from which to choose, including the private Burnt Pine Golf Club, designed by Rees Jones. Overseeded wall to wall in the winter, this championship course built around the Choctawhatchee Bay is both challenging and beautiful.
Another great option at Sandestin is the Raven Golf Club, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. The Raven, which once hosted a Champions Tour event, is a 6,900-yard par 71 with plenty of water, sand and tough holes, including a collection of par 5s that will keep your attention.
The other two courses at the resort have plenty of teeth as well. Sandestin's Links Course, on the other side of the bay, has water on 15 holes, and the Baytowne Course has the majority of its holes on the beachside of the resort, closer to the ocean.
Sandestin has some 1,800 accommodations and vacation rentals that are grouped into four resort areas: Beachside, Village, Lakeside and Bayside. As you might guess, Beachside is on the Gulf of Mexico, offering high-rise accommodations with access and views of the beach. Rack rates range from as little as $119 a night for a studio to $1,500 for four-bedroom penthouses in spring and summer.
Another overnight option is the Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin, a quaint waterfront hub located along the Choctawhatchee Bay. Reminiscent of an old-world village with modern day charm, guests as well as visitors can enjoy the quaint shops, charming eateries and lively nightspots these make up the Village around these Sandestin Florida rental condos. The Village also regularly features concerts, festivals and family-friendly attractions.
And finally, for a straight hotel experience, there's the Grand Sandestin, the resort's signature luxury-condominium hotel. With Southern-inspired architectural design and detail, the Grand features a sweeping, two-story veranda, landscaped gardens and water fountains surrounding a poolscape. Guest rooms in the Sandestin vacation rentals are fully furnished with either a kitchenette (studios) or a full kitchen, living and dining areas.
Speaking of the Baytowne Wharf, there are more than two dozen venues there, including restaurants, bars and nearby Marina Bar and Grill. Restaurants include Another Broken Egg Café for breakfast, the Bistro Bijoux for authentic New Orleans cuisine and live blues performance at the Funky Blues Shack.
There's also the Elephant Walk Bar and Grill (formerly Finz), which serves appetizers, entrees and desserts featuring the citrus and spice flavors from the Gulf of Mexico region. In addition to the restaurants, there are more than 30 retail shops at the resort with many of them located at the Baytowne Wharf.
The resort is also well connected with bicycle trails, and guests can rent bikes to use throughout the resort. Other recreational activities include beach volleyball, catch-and-release fishing, stand-up paddle boarding, sailing and sunset dinner cruises.
There's also a world-class tennis center featuring hydro-clay courts. These courts are watered from underneath, so they've always got the right amount of moisture. With its own separate tennis shop and several pros on staff, the center not only offers great playing conditions but lessons, clinics and regular round-Robin tournaments.
The resort also has more than 65,000 square feet of meeting space, a day spa and something called the Joelee Island Nature Park.
As one of the largest resorts in the country, there's almost no limit to the things you can do at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort. It's also very family-oriented, with so much more to do than play golf.
The real star here is the beach, pure white sand against the beautiful blue waters of the Gulf. In truth, these may be the best beaches in Florida and some of the best in the country.
But the golf is not to be underestimated. Burnt Pine and Raven are top-notch, but The Links and Baytowne courses are nothing to sneeze at either.
Then you add in the variety of accommodations and price points, and it's easy to see why there's a golf vacation for everybody here.
February 15, 2013
Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before joining the TravelGolf Network team in 2008, he held positions at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Read Mike's golf blog here and follow him on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Like many other private country clubs, the International Golf Club & Resort 45 minutes west of Boston is in the midst of a transition. Once only a private club, the International has gotten creative in attracting new members and new business. While the Pines Course remains exclusively private, the club recently began offering public tee times after 9 a.m. on the Oaks Course, its newer, more forgiving Tom Fazio golf course.
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