Destin and Fort Walton Beach, Florida, are major vacation and golf destinations. The main draw is that these two cities have more than 24 miles of beachfront on Florida's Emerald Coast, where the Gulf is a beautiful turquoise color, the sand is sugar-soft, and the seafood is delectable. For golfers, there's even more. These two coastal cities boast great golf weather most of the year, more than 1,100 holes of golf set on some of the finest courses in Florida, and several dozen hotels, resorts, and time-shares that offer a variety of fine lodging.
Along Choctawhatchee Bay is Regatta Bay Golf and Yacht Club, one of Golf Digest's Top 15 Courses in Florida. It is appropriate for all golfers, no matter your skill level. The course's architect, Robert C. Walker, said:
"When designing this course, the owner wanted every hole to be unique, challenging, and dramatic. Therefore, no two holes are alike, ultimately keeping golfers on their toes throughout the entire round.”
Kelly Plantation offers splendid golf; it's ranked No. 1 on GolfAdvisor.com. But its stunning scenery will give you a whole different kind of thrill. Located on Choctawhatchee Bay, the course's native magnolias and palmettos dot its waterfront and bayous. So while you're standing around waiting for others to take their shots, you can take in a quintessentially beautiful Florida Panhandle scene.
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, which goes from the beach to the bay in Sandestin, has four courses: Raven Golf Club, Baytowne Golf Club, The Links Golf Club, and the private Burnt Pine Club. Each one is different, with its own kind of appeal. Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort has won more than 30 awards.
Emerald Bay Golf Club spreads out along Choctawhatchee Bay between the Beaches of South Walton and Destin. It was fully renovated in 2014, and its clubhouse has a bar and restaurant with outside seating that looks out over the 18th green. If you're in Destin when it's on the cool side, you'll enjoy the outdoor fireplace while you have a bite to eat after your golf game.
Indian Bayou Golf Club has two nine-hole courses: Seminole and Choctaw. Seminole has wide fairways and some water hazards while distance is a major characteristic of Choctaw. Its bar and grill have a wide menu, and you'll dine surrounded by large windows with full views of the courses.
Fort Walton Beach has two public golf courses, the Pines and the Oaks. Both are championship courses and named for the predominant natural features you will find on them. The Pines is laid out through an upland pine forest, and the Oaks has water hazards and narrow fairways that are lined with, of course, oaks. If you're hungry or thirsty, drop into the Two Trees Restaurant, which you can find at both courses.
Lakes, coastal dune lakes, tall pines, rolling hills, and stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico are hallmarks of Seascape Golf Resort. Of its 18 holes, only three do not have water features. It offers the option of playing nine holes on afternoons, so you can enjoy this course even if you have a packed vacation and not much time for golf. Prices for tee times also change depending on the weather and local events. You might find a deal at this breathtaking course.
Shalimar Pointe Golf Club is the real deal, with gorgeous greens and large, old trees on a course that looks out over Choctawhatchee Bay. Shalimar, about three miles from Fort Walton Beach, is a hidden gem where you'll find fewer crowds and less waiting time on the course.
This course, about a half hour's drive from Destin, covers 750 acres that are lined with white sand dunes. It has large fairways and wide greens, and you can practice amid the dunes, too. Golf Magazine has named Windswept Dunes No. 5 of the Top 10 courses you can play.