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Golf Travel Guide: Florida

Written by  on Sunday, 25 September 2011
Golf Travel Guide: Florida

Home to many of the world's best golfers, around 1,250 courses, and the state that hosts the PGA Tour's flagship event, THE PLAYERS Championship, nowhere in the golf-mad United States is the sport bigger than Florida.

Whether you choose to base yourselves on the Gulf coast near Tampa or Naples, on the shores of the Atlantic in Daytona Beach or Jacksonville, or inland near Orlando, a feast of golf awaits you. Some of world's best courses are on offer, and with fantastic weather to boot, a golfing holiday in the Sunshine State promises to be unforgettable.

Courses

With well over 1,000 courses in Florida, it is impossible to list all of the golfing treats you can find in Florida, but the ones we recommend below are too good to be missed.

TPC at Sawgrass, from $308 (£190)

Outside of Jacksonville, this taxing course will not yield your finest scores but an opportunity to play the 'Island Green' par 3 17th. Golf's most famous hole and the scene of some of its most dramatic moments is surely too good to turn down.

There is much more to Sawgrass than one nerve-wracking hole, though. The rest of the Stadium Course is a true test of skill and there is also the Dye's Valley course, itself one of the top-ranked courses in the state where the golf is just a little more forgiving. While in the Jacksonville area, look out for other fantastic courses like North Hampton or Cimarrone.

Southern Dunes, from $35 (£22)

Orlando is considered by many to be Florida's best golfing destination. The spectacular Arnold Palmer designed Bay Hill Club & Lodge rightly attracts much of the attention, but we have chosen to champion the incredibly well-priced Southern Dunes.

This is one of the absolute best courses in the state, with undulating fairways that allow links style approaches while the legion of testing bunkers also call on the precision of the best parkland tests. The money you save playing this hidden gem or the similarly priced Highlands Reserve and Orange County National could be reinvested at one of the more glamorous tracks, like Shingle Creek or the Disney Resort courses.

World Woods, from $40 (£25)

Connected by Interstate 4, the journey south and west from Orlando to the Tampa area is a simple one and it should be possible to sample the finest golf both areas have to offer in one trip. Much of the Gulf coast's best golf is to be found between Tampa and Naples. But, our pick for the area's best course is a little off the beaten track. About an hour north of Tampa, you will find World Woods' two brilliant courses, Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks.

The club is infused with hospitality, though perhaps the staff are just making up for Pine Barrens, a stern test for all golfers, with tree-lined fairways and expansive bunkers. Playing these beautiful courses back to back might be the best day's golf you ever have.

Elsewhere in the South West, the Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club and the Greg Norman-designed Tiburon are fantastic choices.

Accommodation

For golfers looking to holiday in Florida the best bets for accommodation are the numerous resorts throughout the state. These offer fantastic comfort and a range of leisure opportunities, including some of the best golf anywhere in the world.

Many of the top courses, Sawgrass for example, are part of a resort complex and, while in most cases it is not necessary to be a guest at the resort to sample the golf on offer, often there will be preferable rates.

Hammock Beach Resort, from $223 (£135)

Sixty miles south of Jacksonville is one of the US's very best golf resorts. There are two courses available. The Conservatory, designed by Tom Watson and the wonderful Ocean Course, the brainchild of Jack Nicklaus. The superb quality of the golf is reflected throughout the resort where there is a wide range of accommodation from suites to self-contained condominiums to villas. There are seven restaurants and a host of activities other than golf.

Grand Cypress Resort, from $175 (£108)

The Walt Disney World Resort offers a huge range of accommodation and very good golf but the neighbouring Grand Cypress Resort is even better. There are 45 holes designed by Jack Nicklaus, including the New Course, the Golden Bear's tribute to the Old Course at St. Andrews. The golf school on the resort is one of the best in the US so you can iron out any kinks in your game. In terms of accommodation, you can stay in one of the luxurious villas or in one of the rooms or suites of the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, a resort in itself with eight restaurants and four bars.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites New Tampa, from $95 (£59)

For something completely different, the Holiday Inn Express in Tampa offers simple but very affordable accommodation. There is a good sized pool, the rooms are large and very clean and the breakfasts are excellent. The ideal place to base yourself when exploring the fantastic golf on offer to the north and south.

Travel

Orlando's position in the centre of the state, and its popularity among tourists, makes is an ideal destination to fly into. Virgin Atlantic offer direct flights from London which start at £388, while Delta's flights, which involve a stopover in Detroit or Miami start at £370. Prices for flights to Tampa International are comparable.

For £125, holiday autos offer an intermediate-level car like the Oldsmobile Alero for a week.

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James Cornish

James qualified as a PGA pro in 2000 and joined Chart Hills as Director of Golf in 2004. In 2011 he opened a golf academy at Chart Hills along with a highly qualified staff of experts in the field of psychology, strength & conditioning, nutrition and golf technique coaching.

 

He understands the importance of focusing on the whole of your golf game and at the Leaderboard Golf Performance Centre they address everything, be that technique, overcoming negative thought or working on overall fitness.