10 of the Best Golf Resorts in Florida
FLORIDA is one of the most popular American holiday destinations for Britons, and it is hardly surprising. The climate is perfect, the natives are friendly, the food is amazing, and there is plenty to do. We are taking a look at Florida from the point of view of golf resorts but bear in mind that there are amazing beaches, fabulous restaurants and friendly bars at almost every turn. Throw in Disney World, Universal Studios, the Everglades National Park, Kennedy Space Center, SeaWorld and countless other attractions and you have a perfect holiday destination.
They call it the Sunshine State, and for good reason. As long as you avoid the hurricane season (and you really do want to), you will find a perfect climate. Yes, it rains from time to time, but within minutes of it stopping everywhere is bone dry.
Increasing numbers of Britons are now travelling to Florida for golf breaks, and there are plenty to choose from. The quality of golf courses and hotels is astonishing. It hasn't been an easy task, but here we look at what we consider to be 10 of the best, based on the quality of the courses and accommodation. All of them are perfect for families.
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Innisbrook, Salamander Golf and Spa Resort
Located on Florida’s Gulf Coast in Palm Harbor, Innisbrook lies within 900 magnificent acres of rolling greens, lakes, and ponds, and features four championship golf courses. Copperhead, the most famous of the four, is the venue for the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship, and features tree-lined fairways and rolling terrain, with some breathtaking par fives. It is a long track with deep rough, so straight driving is essential.
The resort has six swimming pools, including the Loch Ness Monster Pool (which features a 15-foot waterfall), two water slides, beach areas, and a grill. There is also a stunning spa, catering for meditation, relaxation courtyard, treatment terraces, and steam rooms.
Trump National, Doral, Miami
Donald Trump bought Doral in 2012 and immediately invested $250m on a spectacular renovation programme to restore it to its former grandeur. Trump, his two sons, and daughter, Ivanka, were all heavily involved in the project. Until recently, it hosted the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Doral occupies 800 acres and has five championship golf courses, the most famous of which is the Blue Monster, with deep rough, lots of bunkers, and a variety of water hazards. The 471-yard, par-4 18th hole has been named one of the top 100 golf holes in the world by Golf Magazine.
For $150 a day, you can rent a cabana at the Royal Palm Pool. It comes with butler service, drinks, fresh fruit, and a huge flat screen television. The massive spa at Doral has 33 treatment rooms and offers more than 100 signature treatments.
Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa
Sawgrass, located at Ponte Vedra Beach, has two championship golf courses, The Players Stadium Course and the Valley Course, both designed by Pete Dye. The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass hosts the Players Championship, often referred to as golf's fifth major. The signature hole is the par-three 17th with its island green. It is a hole that has destroyed the hopes of many top professionals over the years. If you can find the green and walk off with a par then you will have achieved something special.
The accommodation is as spectacular as the course, with the villas featuring one- and two-bedroom layouts, with kitchens and outdoor seating on a patio or balcony. It is highly unlikely that anybody staying here will want to make much use of the kitchen though. The World Golf Hall of Fame, which celebrates golf’s greatest players and contributors, is located nearby and is a must for anybody who has ever played golf.
One of the daily highlights at Champions Gate is to sample the food in the amazing restaurant while watching the spectacular fireworks display that brings the day to an end at nearby Disney World. Everything about Champions Gate oozes class and quality, from the magnificent entry gate to the accommodation to the two 18-hole golf courses designed by Greg Norman. The golf resort also features a huge clubhouse which includes a pro shop, full-service banquet facility that accommodates up to 300 guests, and a bar. It is also the base for the headquarters of the Leadbetter Golf Academy.
Guests who stay at The Villas at Champions Gate get to enjoy all the resorts' amenities and facilities, including access to the spa and fitness centre, heated family pool and seven restaurants.
PGA National Resort and Spa
PGA National, in Palm Beach Gardens, has five championship golf courses: The Champion (host to the Honda Classic), The Palmer, The Fazio, The Squire, and The Estates, as well as a club-fitting lab and full Trackman facilities.
As good as the golf courses are, the food and wine on offer at PGA National are at least on a par with them. There are nine eateries, including pool- and spa-side options. But the jewel in the crown is Ironwood Steak and Seafood, featuring a mind-boggling wine list that is generally regarded to be the finest in Florida. It offers 36 different wines by the glass with 13 different varieties from 19 different growing regions and six different countries. It also features wines produced by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, and Luke Donald.
Reunion Resort and Club
Reunion is just six miles from Walt Disney World in Orlando and is the only golf resort on the planet where you will find three golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Watson. They are all stunning courses, wending their way through avenues of spectacular villas and they all feature plenty of water hazards and bunkers. Reunion is a popular golf destination, which means that the courses are used by a large number of golfers - don't be put off by that as they are maintained in spectacular condition. The pick of the three courses is probably The Palmer.
It is a perfect destination for families. If Dad wants to play golf, the rest of the family can happily spend the day at Disney World. And everybody can get together in the evening to watch the daily fireworks display at Disney's nearby Magic Kingdom.
Bay Hill Club and Lodge
Home of the Bay Hill Invitational, the resort is synonymous with the late Arnold Palmer. It is located in Orlando, and the course is one of the best on the PGA Tour. The course meanders along the shores of Butler Chain of Lakes. Apart from the championship course, it also boasts another nine holes. This is a 'proper' golf course and not for the faint hearted. Best to bring your A-game with you!
The 70-room lodge features a salon and spa, six tennis courts and a heated pool. There are three restaurants - and the food is spectacular. Palmer's influence, and image, dominates Bay Hill.
Amelia Island Plantation Resort
Located on a barrier island just off the coast, Amelia Island occupies 1,350 acres and features three courses, two of which, the Oak Marsh and Ocean Links, are classed as public. The third, the Golf Club of Amelia Island, is a par 72 that was designed by Mark McCumber and Gene Littler. The spectacular ocean views make this place stand out from many others in Florida - they are breathtaking. The resort is also classed as a wildlife sanctuary, so keep your eyes peeled.
Apart from golf, the resort offers bikes for hire, as well as kayaking and paddleboarding through the marshlands. If you are a sun worshipper, you will want to take advantage of 3.5 miles of beautiful beach. Amelia Island also has a nature centre, swimming pool, water playground, a teen lounge, Heron Cove’s Adventure Golf, and an adults-only infinity edge pool. And check this out - there is a teen concierge with whom your teenagers can text, email or chat via Twitter before and during their visits. What a great idea.
Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
Accommodation at Grande Lakes is split between the luxurious Ritz-Carlton and the JW Marriott, and you can expect to find some very high quality rooms and food. The golf course was designed by Greg Norman, the former world number one, and is recognised as a wildlife haven - be sure to take time to look around and drink it all in. Grande Lakes also features a Golf Caddie-Concierge Programme which pairs each group with a professional attendant who will help with course navigation, hole descriptions and target lines,finding your golf ball, yardage statistics, cleaning golf golf clubs, strategy tips and attending the flag. In other words, like having your own professional caddie.You will also find a children's club and an award-winning spa at Grande Lakes, cabanas for hire and world-class dining. Guests at both hotels have access to all the facilities at the resort.
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
Sandestin occupies 2,400 acres that stretch between the Gulf of Mexico and the Choctawhatchee Bay on Florida’s Emerald Coast, featuring miles of beaches and beautiful, unspoilt coastline.
With more than 1,000 rooms, we are talking about a seriously big resort. But don't let the scale of the place put you off. There may be plenty of guests, but customer service is a priority. Sandestin features four golf courses: Baytowne, The Raven, Burnt Pine, and The Links. Burnt Pine is the pick of the bunch, measuring 7,001 yards and featuring perfectly-manicured undulating fairways and many two-tiered greens. The front nine is frame by huge pine trees and spectacular mansions, while the second nine features breathtaking views along the Choctawhatchee Bay.
The resort is separated into four areas, Beachside, Bayside, Lakeside and the Village. The Village is where it all happens, with shops, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars.
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