Beware the sand traps at the Rookery at Marco, Naples.
Florida’s vast geography encompasses many rugged and beautiful places, so it’s no surprise that the golf courses here reflect this natural landscape. These 10 layouts give you much more than manicured holes of golf; they immerse you in the state’s rich and bountiful flora and fauna.
You’ll feel as though you stepped back in time to Old Florida as you spy roseate spoonbills and herons stalking prey in the still marshes. Surrounded by cypress trees, palmetto groves and stately pines, this flowing, elegant Jack Nicklaus “Signature Design” features natural cart paths that take you around purple-topped grasses and gracefully contoured fairways.
There’s no development around this course, just rolling meadows, native pines and natural wetlands. Featuring more than 60 feet of elevation changes, this is beautiful, old-school terrain.
Situated off a lonesome highway in the middle of the “Forgotten Coast,” Wildwood is surrounded by more than 1,000 square miles of protected land. After golf, explore local waterways the Ochlocknee and Wakulla rivers, and Apalachee Bay. Watch for yellow-billed cuckoos, loons and my favorite Florida birds, purple gallinules.
The route to this secluded course passes cattle, hunters and open fields that look like they’ve never been touched by the hand of man. Once you arrive, the fairways and vistas blend in perfectly with the wilderness.
A pristine island environment with seven saltwater lakes, not to mention crocodiles and iguanas, this top-notch, municipal layout is adorned by palms, mangrove and other diverse tropical growth.
This work of art sits in a natural coastal setting along Highway 30A in one of the most scenic and pristine areas in Florida. Travel + Leisure Golf magazine named Camp Creek “Florida’s No. 1 Course of the New Millennium.”
The resort sits along the Crystal River, a waterway as beautiful as its name. The area has phenomenal wildlife, including red-wing blackbirds, scissor-tailed flycatchers, sandhill cranes and alligators – and you can see it all from the golf course.
Located on a narrow barrier island with sparkling, white dunes, this layout meanders through lush wetlands and murky swamps. The coquina shell cart paths merge seamlessly with the surrounding coastline and sun-speckled woods.
Set in the wide, open spaces of rural Polk County, Diamondback was cut from virgin terrain of arresting swamps and sandy, rolling hills. The fairways are bordered by thick woods where wild things dwell, including the club’s reptilian namesake.
Perched on the edge of the Ten Thousand Islands, you’ll play through native, purplish-pink muelhi grass, yellow dune daisies and brilliant red firecracker weed. Wide marsh views offer glimpses of varied wildlife such as lanky wading birds standing statuesque against the pastel backdrop.
To most students of golf architecture, the name Donald Ross stands above all others. Ross is a Scot who emigrated to America and designed around 400 courses in his career, including the famed Pinehurst No. 2 and the highly-acclaimed Seminole Golf Club here in Florida.
The Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg has an "Escape Golf Package" going on now.
The exclusive Sanctuary on Sanibel Island is clearly one of the classiest golf clubs in southwest Florida, a lush layout in pristine condition that is a joy to play. Riding a golf cart over its fairways is like gliding over a plush carpet. You also get views of the spectacular "Ding" Darling National Wildlife refuge.
Venetian Bay is a must-play golf course if you're anywhere near the New Smyrna Beach area, especially if you're one of those golfers who loves big, bold layouts where you can swing your driver like you're Babe Ruth.