Choosing the best golf courses in Florida is not an easy exercise. Indeed it is rather like trying to single out the best wine-growing regions in Southern Europe, or the coldest settlements in Siberia.
The are just so very many of them that to a large degree it comes down to personal taste.
But that having been said, even amongst all the sought-after resorts in the Sunshine State there are those which stand apart, whether for the experience and the luxury which they offer or for the exceptionally high quality of the sport.
Suffice it to say that the best courses in Florida automatically have a shout to be considered amongst the best courses in the US and indeed the world.
Although geographically it is only the 22nd largest state in the USA, Florida is the third most populous. It borders both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, spans 65,000 square miles and boasts a population of some 21 million. Its largest cities are Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville, and its climate ranges from humid subtropical to tropical.
Perhaps less well-known is that the state includes over 4,500 islands. And it is very famous indeed for its golf courses.
Florida Golf Courses
The state hosts more golf courses than any other in the United States. The PGA of America has its headquarters at Palm Beach Gardens, the PGA Tour at Ponte Vedra Beach and the LPGA at Daytona Beach. Five PGA Tour events are played in Florida – the Players Championship, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Honda Classic, the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the Valspar Championship.
There are over 1,300 private and public golf courses in Florida, most of them of the very highest quality. Here we list just twenty which are considered to be among the best:
Located five miles south of Jacksonville beach, the Tournament Players Club Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra Beach was created to be the home of the Players Championship. The famous 17th hole on the Stadium Course, a short par-three, features an island green surrounded by water. The outcome of many a game has been determined at this landmark.
McArthur Golf Club
A sandy ridge forms the basis of this private par-72 Hobe Sound golf course, which was designed by Nick Price and Tom Fazio. Unusually this club bears the logo of a milk bottle, reflecting the fact that the property is owned by the famous McArthur dairy family, who also have a majority shareholding in the club.
Seminole Golf Club
Founded in 1929, this Donald Ross design on the Atlantic-facing Juno Beach has the unusual feature of having each hole playing in a different direction to the preceding one. Exclusive to members and their guests, the golf course was renovated in 1957 and again recently. The venue played host to the Walker Cup in 2021.
A private golf course in Orlando said by the legendary Arnold Palmer to be “the best course in Florida”. In fact so impressed was he that he bought it in 1974. Originally designed by Dick Wilson, Palmer made some discreet alterations to some of its features. Also much favored by Tiger Woods, Bay Hill hosts the annual Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Located at Hobe Sound, some fifteen miles north of West Palm Beach, this private course includes Tiger Woods among its members. Designed by Pete Dye and “The Shark” Greg Norman in 1995, Medalist recently hosted “The Match” between Woods and Phil Mickelson. Some further tweaks by Bobby Weed ensured that the course retained much of its original character in spite of changes introduced by Norman.
Jupiter Hills Club
A joint initiative between George Fazio, industrialist William Ford and comedian Bob Hope. It has two courses, Hills which was designed in 1970 and Village which came later in 1978. Situated in south-east Florida fifteen miles from West Palm Beach, Jupiter Hills is uncharacteristically hilly considering the overall flatness of the Sunshine State. Membership is famously exclusive.
Trump National Doral Miami (Blue Monster)
Over 7,500 yards in size with water hazards aplenty generously deployed, this great course was founded in 1959 and staged the PGA Tour just three years later. It was bought by the Trump organization in 2012 and was redesigned. One of four courses at the resort, Blue Monster is the nickname. The closing hole is viewed as one of the toughest ones on the PGA Tour circuit.
Calusa Pines Golf Club
This golf club near Naples, Florida, opened in style with $1 million worth of dynamite blasting through rock to create the necessary changes in elevation. This private course in the south of Florida is one in which membership is highly sought after and not freely available. The total number of members is said to be below 300, and joining will set you back a cool $150,000.
Streamsong Resort (Red)
An hour’s drive from Tampa, the Red course is one of three at Streamsong and one of two initially designed by Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Doak. Opened in 2014, it carries more water hazards than either of its sister courses. Golf Magazine rates this as one of the finest courses in the whole of the United States.
Streamsong Resort (Blue)
The second of the two “earlier” courses, the Blue is known to be particularly playable, with wide fairways. The 5th is widely celebrated as one of fascinating design – 157 yards long and 75 yards deep. narrow and guarded on both sides by a whole series of bunkers. Green fees range between approximate $100 and $300.
Newer and larger than its two partner courses, this third top ranking course at Streamsong was designed by Jim Wagner and Gil Hanse and opened up in 2017. Located to the south of the Red and the Blue courses, it features a rather special 586-yard 18th hole which wraps around a lake before concluding with a small green.
Seminole Golf Club
First designed by Donald Ross in the 1920s, this superb example of course routing is located at Juno Beach, on the Atlantic side of the Florida coastline. Coore and Crenshaw carried out a renovation in 2017, taking away some tree and rebuilding existing bunkers. Seminole played host to the TaylorMade Driving Relief event in support of Covid-19 charities in 2020.
PGA National Resort & Spa
Noted for its Champion course, one of five at the Palm Beach resort, which hosted the Ryder Cup in 1983 and the US PGA Championship in 1987. It is also the venue for the annual Honda Classic. Originally the work of George and Tom Fazio, the course was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 1990 and again in 2002.
Indian Creek Country Club
On Indian Creek Island, between Bal Harbor and Miami Beach. This highly security-conscious venue, designed back in the 1930s, is extremely exclusive and membership is much sought after. As well as being noted for its world class sport, the club is particularly famous for its stylish clubhouse with its Italian architecture complete with loggias and terraces.
Tiburon Golf Club
The Black Course is the most sought-after at the Tiburon golf club, because it presents a great challenge thereby demanding the very best attentions of the player. Lined by trees and water hazards, any errant shot could place the golfer in trouble and threaten to disrupt the flow of the game, changing the order of things and possibly even the outcome.
The Palm Harbor focus of the annual Valspar Championship, the last three holes of the popular Copperhead course are collectively known as The Snake Pit and are said to comprise one of the toughest finishes anywhere on the PGA Tour. Not just water hazards but also significant changes in elevation make this one of the most challenging of the major Florida golf courses.
At the Orange County National Golf Center. The Orlando home of the PGA Tour’s final qualifier, again this is a course which majors on sudden elevation changes and undulating fairways. In addition to its sporting appeal Panther Lake boasts some breathtaking scenery.
Hammock Beach Resort
Formerly the Ocean Hammock Golf Club, this is the only beachfront property on the Atlantic coast. In a part of the world where exclusivity is the name of the game and a decent round of golf is by invitation only, golf here is available to anybody who is a paying guest at the resort.
Isleworth Golf and Country Club
Close to Windermere on the lakes and to Orlando, this is a near neighbor to Bay Hill which, like this course, was upgraded by Arnold Palmer. Providing the venue for the annual Tavistock Cup charity match, Isleworth as a resort exudes wealth and opulence in a way that is equaled by few.
Located at Bonita Springs, between Fort Myers and Naples on the west coast, this residential development offers a whole five 18-hole courses two of which, like so many in Florida, were designed by Tom Fazio. Many of the fairways are defined by an abundance of palm and pine trees.
The state of Florida offers so much in terms of golfing, and there are a great many other courses which would also be considered to be amongst the best in the USA and indeed the world.
It enjoys sun all the year round – hence its nickname – and offers unrivaled luxury and hospitality as can only be found in the United States, as well as stunning scenery. Florida is truly the jewel in the crown of the American golfing experience.