This is my updated list of the top 10 golf courses and resorts in Florida. At one time or another, I have visited all of them. In fact, I have visited more than 100 of Florida's golf resorts, from one end of the state to the other. And I've visited even more of the Sunshine State's more than 1,300 golf courses. That being so, I have developed my own list of top 10 golf resorts in Florida. Please bear in mind that these are my personal choices and, yes, I have left Walt Disney World off the list - the courses are great, but the resorts are too crowded for my taste. Enjoy!
Marriott Sawgrass Resort and Spa - Ponte Vedra Beach
Number 2 was almost as difficult to pick as number 1. As Florida golf resorts go, though, they don’t come much better than the Marriott Sawgrass Resort and Spa at Ponte Vedra Beach in northeast Florida. Marriott claims it’s “the perfect marriage of sun, sea, sand and golf,” and it’s tough for me to disagree. The resort is a combination of worlds within a world. Moss-draped oaks, sweet-smelling magnolias, warm sunshine and balmy breezes that waft across the beaches, a diversity of wildlife, pools and golf courses - the famed TPC Sawgrass and Dye's Valley Courses - to make the Marriott Sawgrass Resort and Spa a veritable paradise on the outer reaches of Greater Jacksonville. It's right up there, folks.
PGA National Resort and Spa
Picking Number 1 for this list was something of a problem. I chose the PGA National Resort and Spa for several reasons, not the least being its five terrific golf courses, including the Champion, home to the PGA TOUR's Honda Classic. I have visited the resort three times, and never have I had a bad experience. It's family friendly, golf oriented (of course) and one of the best managed and maintened facilities of its kind I've ever come across. I highly recommend it, its golf courses, and its facilities.
Doral Golf Resort and Spa, Miami, Florida
Doral Golf Resort and Spa joins the list at number three (it was almost a toss-up between Doral and Sawgrass for the number 2 spot). I love Doral, the home of the World Golf Championship. I have a couple of visits under my belt. It's an amazing golf destination, famous for its magnificent Blue Monster golf course. But, as we all know, there's more, much more. The Blue Monster is only one of five championship golf courses at Doral Golf Resort, the latest of which, the Jim McLean Signature Course, opened in 2010 to rave reviews. Add The Great White, a Greg Norman desert layout, and you have what is, perhaps, the quintessential golf travel destination.
Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes
The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes is a unique destination, upscale and opulent, that offers a extraordinary level of service unique to the brand. With a luxury 584-room Ritz-Carlton and deluxe 1,000-room JW Marriott, an 18-hole Greg Norman designed championship golf course featuring the Golf Caddie-Concierge Program, as well as a 40,000-square-foot spa and extensive meeting facilities, Grande Lakes is not only ideal for a golf getaway, it’s also a great family destination and an ideal venue for corporate outings. Guests at both hotels have access to all the facilities at the resort.
LaPlaya Beach and Golf Resort enters my list at number 7. One of the state's most popular golf and beach resorts, aside from its excellent golf course - a Robert Cupp design - the resort offers a variety of high-end amenities, including its magnificent stretch of Gulf Coast beach, beautifully landscaped grounds, spa, and BALEENnaples is one of the best dining experiences in the Southeast.
Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast, Florida
Hammock Beach Resort enters my list of Top 10 Golf Resorts in Florida at number 4. Highlights include luxury accommodations, world-class dining, a full-service luxury spa, tennis courts, miles of beach, and a water park and, of course, its two magnificent championship golf courses: The Conservatory Course – Tom Watson; The Ocean Course – Jack Nicklaus. All of this makes the Hammock Beach Resort an obvious choice, not only for a golf getaway, but for a family vacation, honeymoon, or corporate convention.
Amelia Island Plantation, Amelia Island, Florida
The number 6 spot is occupied by the Amelia Island Plantation resot located on the southern most of the Atlantic barrier islands in extreme northeast Florida, and across the St. Mary's River from Georgia, is one of Florida's premier resorts. Nestled among centuries-old Live Oaks, a maritime forest, vast tracts of salt marshes on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Island Plantation is an old-world luxury resort with an AAA Four Diamond designation. A world-class facility, it stands on 1350 pristine acres overlooking the blue waters of the Atlantic to the east and the beautiful marshlands of Intracoastal Waterway to the west.
World Golf Village, St. Augustine, Florida
Number 8 on my list of top 10 golf resorts in Florida is World Golf Village in St. Augustine. Not only one of the best in Florida, it's also one of the world’s most popular golf vacation destinations. Home to World Golf Hall of Fame, World Golf Village is located just to the south of Jacksonville on Florida's northeast coastline – the Palm Coast.
Saddlebrook Resort, Tampa, Floria
I have to admit, it's been quite a while since I was last at Saddlebrook, more than 10 years in fact. I include it here at number 9 mainly because of the lasting impression it had on me. Saddlebrook Resort course is conveniently located at the center of the resort complex next to the guest accommodations, restaurants, spa and Superpool. The course is a lush world of evergreen fairways set in a quiet hammock of cypress and oak. Gators and turtles, Blue Herons, Wood Storks and White Egrets compliment the natural beauty of the Florida foliage and adjacent ponds
I have very fond memories of Tiburon: it was here in 2008 I first one of my all-time idols: Arnold Palmer. Tiburon is an old-world golf club turned Ritz-Carton resort, and it comes woith all the amenities you would expect to find at such a facility. Beyond all of its superb amenities, however, Tiburón's main attraction remains its two superb golf courses, the Gold and the Black, both designed by golf legend Greg Norman. The courses feature unique stacked sod wall bunkers, coquina shell waste bunkers and the absence of conventional rough. Greg is well-known for his commitment to the environment, and to maximizing the natural beauty of the land upon which his designs are built. Tiburon is number 10 on my list of golf resorts in Florida.