The Florida Swing, as it’s known on the PGA Tour, is in full flow now after the first event of the season to be played in the Sunshine State was completed on last week at the amazing PGA National Resort in Miami.
A relatively unknown player, Michael Thompson, walked away from the stunning Champions Course with the trophy in hand while the likes of Tiger Woods failed to make a serious impact and Rory McIlroy…well…we all know what happened there!
The low profile nature of the winner got us thinking about lesser known golf courses and resorts in Florida that might get overlooked by golfers travelling to the Sunshine State. We know all about the likes of Doral (The PGA Tour is there this week), Sawgrass and the PGA National Resort but what of Florida’s many hidden gems? Well…for anyone looking to book an American Golf Holiday in the not too distant future here are 5 of the best…
Built in 1926, the Biltmore is now considered to be a National Historic Landmark and offers travelling golfers an infinitely luxurious base from which to enjoy the golfing jewels of Miami. The hotel is a AAA Four Diamond Awarded establishment and as such luxury is guaranteed throughout. Rooms are spacious, beautifully furnished and supremely well equipped and the dining options – four to be exact – are tremendous. Throw in a luxury spa and your time away from the golf course is well and truly taken care of!
The Bitlmore is one of the most impressive hotel resorts in Florida.
The Biltmore Golf Course is located adjacent to the hotel. Designed in 1925 by Scotsman Donald Ross who previous works includes the famous Pinehurst No. 2 Course, Oakland Hills and Seminole Golf Club, Biltmore is one of the best resort courses around having attracted movie stars, sports personalities and dignitaries throughout the years. The par of 71 is generous for golfers of all abilities, when playing well of course, measuring in at 6,800 yards from the tips.
Downtown Miami is also within touching distance of the resort meaning travelling golfers can also cut loose at night should they wish to let their hair down.
The PGA Village Resort is owned and operated by the PGA of America, and features in Golf Digest‘s “75 Best Golf Resorts in America”. 54 holes of championship golf created by Pete Dye and Tom Fazio, – two of the most prominent modern course designers going – the PGA Learning Centre academy facility, an extensive golf museum and multiple accommodation options combine to offer golfers visiting Florida truly immersive golfing experience. There are few resorts with such an embarrassment of riches.
Tom Fazio’s creation, the Wannamaker Course, was the first golf course named in honour of Rodman Wanamaker, who in 1916 inspired the birth of The PGA of America. This is a classic Florida layout so expect plenty of water, massive, gleaming white bunkers and lightning fast greens. Set against a backdrop of wetlands, palm trees and palmettos, the Wannamaker is considered by many to be one of the Sunshine State’s most beautiful courses.
The Dye Course at PGA Village.
The Ryder Course was also designed by Fazio and was named after Samuel Ryder; the man behind golf’s greatest show, the Ryder Cup. Like the Wannamaker Course there is plenty of water here but that seems to be where the similarities stop. The Ryder Course has a distinct Carolina feel to it thanks to towering pines and sweeping undulations and it plays slightly differently too. There is more room from the tees which allows you to give it a rip with the driver which, let’s face it, is always fun! Beware of the par 3s though as they are long and will really test your mettle.
Pete Dye’s course – predictably named the Dye Course – is unsurprisingly the toughest of the three at PGA Village; after all it was designed by the man who once said, “Golf is not a fair game, so why design a course that is fair?” The Dye Course features pine straw roughs, vast coquina waste bunkers and frequent humps, bumps and grass bunkers that add hints of the classic links courses of the UK and Ireland. Tough but visually stunning, the Dye Course will test one and all to their limits.
First class accommodation joins forces with a fantastic resort course at Naples Beach to offer travelling golfers a real taste of the Sunshine State. The resort sits right on the beachfront and prides itself on providing each and every guest with deluxe service through acute attention to detail. Rooms are stylish and well equipped and thanks to a range of facilities and the resort’s enviable location an array of leisure activities are at your fingertips.
Of the many dining options, the Strip House, an award-winning New York steak house, is a consistent favourite with golfers.
But what of the golf?
Naples Grande Golf Club is a fantastic course, chock full of inherent Florida golf features.
The Naples Grande Golf Club boasts an championship course designed by Rees Jones whose has previously worked on such courses as Cog Hill and the amazing Torrey Pines in California. As with many a Florida golf course, Jones’ layout at Naples Grande features plenty of water and as such accuracy is the order of the day.
Naples Grande is one of the finest golf courses in the area. It scored 4½ out of 5 in Golf Magazine, and made its way into the top 100 Resort Courses in the US, rated by Golfweek. The course is challenging but playable for most and the service is the real icing on the cake. Play golf here and you’ll feel like a tour pro for the day!
Emerald Greens is one of the premier golf complexes in the Tampa Bay area. One of the few to boast 27-holes of superb championship golf, Emerald Greens offers an eclectic mix of golf that will appeal to the scratch player and handicap golfer alike.
Three nines, the Pine, Cypress and Meadow courses can combine to offer a variety of layouts with water coming into play on no less than 20 of 27 holes, accuracy and strategy rather than brute force and ignorance is just what the doctor ordered. As well as the water, golfers must try to avoid the many bunkers and although the greens are large and relatively easy to hit, two putting is no formality thanks to their speedy and undulating nature.
The Meadows Course at Emerald Greens
The resort’s suites, each of which has two bedrooms and a separate living area, are designed specifically for golfers and as such guarantee all the comfort and luxury you could wish for. Fully equipped kitchens, deluxe beds, flat screen televisions, private terraces and full hotel-style servicing are among the facilities and services of the suites at Emerald Greens, and away from the golf course, guests can enjoy the resort’s amazing tennis complex, swim a few lengths in the pool and relax in the luxurious day spa. An excellent restaurant and bar are both on site and for night owls out there, the sights and sounds of Tampa Bay are never too far away.
Conveniently located in near I-95 in Daytona Beach, the LPGA International Club boasts two top class golf courses which have played host to the LPGA Tour on numerous occasions. Needless to say the courses are up to scratch and the practice facilities are simply world class.
The Champions Course, designed by Rees Jones, has welcomed many a LPGA Tour event and can be played from to a yardage in excess of 7,000 yards right down to a more manageable 5,131 yards, making it challenging and enjoyable for a great range of players. A large number of bunkers, natural marsh areas and great expanses of water add a considerable challenge and, as you may expect, the course is usually in tip top condition.
LPGA International is a haven for serious golfers thanks to its two courses and some of the finest practice facilities in the USA.
The Legends Course joined the LPGA International party in 1997 and is very much a classic Floridian layout. Expect natural wetlands, narrow tree lines fairways and strategically placed water hazards throughout. The putting surfaces are relatively small compared to other courses in the Sunshine State so greens in regulation should yield some good chances for scoring.
Accommodation can be found at the nearby Hilton Daytona Beach Resort which enjoys a privileged beachfront location along the Ocean Village Walk; one of the most popular seaside holiday spots in the world.
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