What's new in Florida golf in 2023? Here's what traveling golfers need to know

From massive muni updates to resort refreshes to private club nips and tucks to all-new courses coming online, there's much to look forward to for a golfer venturing to the Sunshine State in 2023.


Cabot Barrens at Cabot Citrus Farms is being redesigned by Kyle Franz.

A Jekyll-and-Hyde 21-hole short course. America's next highly-touted "super-muni." The world's flattest putting green.

Florida golf is booming again.

A constant stream of sunseeking retirees and younger folks looking for a lower cost of living virtually ensures the state with more courses than any other is always a hotbed of golf development, course renovations and new-idea implementation. That trend has kicked into high gear so far in the 2020s.

This promises to be an epic decade that raises the average quality of courses across the state considerably. New courses are coming online, existing ones - from local munis to high-end privates - are receiving or about to receive major upgrades and several of the state's entrenched, popular resorts are on the upswing, too.

Here's what traveling golfers need to know as they plan golf trips to the Sunshine State in 2023 and beyond:

Local golf's 'Munaissance' continues in Florida

At St. Johns Golf Club near St. Augustine, Erik Larsen reimagined a pedestrian layout into something with character for the local community.

The old West Palm Beach Golf Club had a strong run from 1947 to 2018 on a piece of land that, despite being surrounded by industrial and dense residential zones, boasted rippling terrain and sandy soil, making it one of the best spots for a golf course in the state. Its well-heeled backers have been enjoying the course on select days since the first weeks of 2023, but come April, it will be unveiled to all as the West Palm Golf Park, fully redone by Gil Hanse, with an Australian Sandbelt-inspired new-look 18-holer, a 9-hole par-3 course and an expansive putting course to create a vertically-integrated community golf experience. The idea, backed by PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh and other golf heavy-hitters, has been to charge out-of-towners premium rates while locals get to play for $50 or so.

On the other side of the state, the Fall of 2023 will see another muni rebirth: Sarasota's Bobby Jones Golf Club, which architect Richard Mandel has been restoring to its Donald Ross roots. And 90 minutes north, another Ross muni, Dunedin Golf Club, is set to begin a muti-year restoration project helmed by Ross expert Kris Spence soon.

In northeast Florida, former Arnold Palmer Design associate Erik Larsen has overhauled St. Johns Golf Club, a county course, from 27 cramped holes down to an 18-hole routing with more space to breathe. Larsen used linear, squared-off features inspired by C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor to give the new-look course a throwback feel. Locals pay less than $45 - $30 to walk - even at peak times, while out-of-state green fees max out below $60.

Other smaller but nevertheless important projects are ongoing throughout the state. One of them: a new par-3 course at Rogers Park Golf Course in Tampa, a member of Florida's Historic Golf Trail and a haven for Black golfers since the 1950s. And a new 19-hole par-3 layout adjacent to Palm Beach Gardens' Sandhill Crane Golf Club is set to open soon.

Visiting golfers may not have munis on their mind, but there's no better way to immerse yourself in the golf culture of a place. If you enjoy visiting beloved local restaurants on a golf trip, local municipal courses are must-see, too.

Florida public and resort golf courses on the upswing

The Lodge at Streamsong Resort will preside over the to-be-built Chain, the property's first short course.

Demand for golf travel has caused several of the Sunshine State's golf resorts to experience unprecedented occupancy levels, prompting them to think about adjusting and expanding their footprints in order to accommodate greater traffic. Streamsong Resort is starting to build The Chain, a Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw-designed short course that will unfurl at the foot of the property's sleek, 216-room Lodge. More accommodations seem to be in Streamsong's future, as well, especially in the wake of its recent $160-million purchase by several of managing company KemperSports' primary investors.

About 100 miles north, a challenger to Streamsong's popularity and success is being assembled. The old 36-hole World Woods property, which for decades was a hit among budget-minded golfers in the state due to its relatively hands-off management, is now Cabot Citrus Farms. The popular 18-hole Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks courses are being redone by architect Kyle Franz, while Mike Nuzzo (whose Wolf Point/TX0 in Texas is one of the most underrated courses in America) fashions a fascinating 21-hole short course out of the property's old, oversized practice area, as well as lending a hand to Franz at Rolling Oaks alongside Ran Morrissett. Cabot will add lodging, restaurants and a real estate component, with the goal of wringing as much promise out of this exciting property as possible. Cabot Citrus Farms aims to open by the end of 2023.

Just an hour south, near Tampa, Innisbrook Resort plans its own golf updates. The Copperhead Course, an annual PGA Tour stop, is as formidable as ever, but the resort is wisely looking to make some adjustments to the rest of its golf footprint. Mainly, the North Course is set to be reimagined from a tight, awkward 18-hole layout into an exciting 12-hole short course, with excess acreage being devoted to further real estate development. This will add a new dimension to the Salamander-owned property. Nearby, Saddlebrook Resort is looking to reduce its golf footprint from 36 to 27 holes, but significantly upgrade its courses in the process, while also building a brand-new practice facility.

The most radical recent reinvestment on the Florida golf resort side belongs to PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens. Since buying the resort in 2018, new owners Brookfield Asset Management have infused more than $100 million into updating virtually every square inch of the property. On the golf side, they turned the tired Squire Course over to architect Andy Staples and he returned them the radical and fun Match Course, plus a terrific 9-hole par-3 loop called The Staple.

In the very northeast corner of the state, another short course, the Beau Welling-designed 10-hole Little Sandy, has given the Omni Amelia Island Resort a new amenity for golfers to enjoy as well. In addition, Long Point, a private Tom Fazio design that is playable by Omni guests, is in the midst of its own comprehensive course renovation project.

There's always plenty of activity around Orlando golf resorts. Currently, that includes Walt Disney World's flagship Magnolia golf course. Architect Ken Baker has been in charge of the overhaul, which is mostly finished; 14 holes opened in December 2022, with the final four holes incorporating some of the most significant changes, including reconfiguring the pars of the closing holes. Disney-bound golfers will also be excited to see the opening of the new Evermore Resort, which will also include the unveiling of the overhauled (by Nicklaus Design) former Old Course of Grand Cypress. Meanwhile, the popular Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate is adding more than 100 new guestrooms to its impressive hotel. Northwest of town, the recent sale of Mission Inn Resort & Club, which had been family-run for generations, raises some interesting questions about the future of a property with one of the state's oldest golf courses, which has long been a favorite not-so-expensive choice for visitors.

For flyers: Quick Florida airport updates

  • Orlando (MCO) - Unveiled a brand-new, state-of-the-art terminal in September 2022. Hopefully it will ease some of the pressure on its typically stuffed security checkpoints...
  • Fort Myers (RSW) - An ongoing $330 million update includes expanding and consolidating TSA checkpoints and a new concourse.
  • Melbourne (MLB) - Formerly only accessible from Atlanta (ATL) and Charlotte (CLT), this small airport on the Space Coast may be a viable alternative to Orlando soon, as a just-finished $72 million terminal renovation added 86,000 square feet of space, with new destinations including Minneapolis (MSP) coming online.

Florida's daily-fee golf scene continues to improve as well. Bobby Weed's Stillwater Golf & Country Club, at the heart of a 55-plus real estate community, blends the architect's Pete Dye-influenced style with a creative routing that enables golfers to play loops of as little as three holes if 18 should seem too arduous or time-consuming on a given day. Weed's work can be found all throughout northeast Florida, including at TPC Sawgrass, where he was Pete Dye's main associate for the construction of the Dye's Valley course.

Closer to the center of the state, just south of Ocala in the town of Lady Lake, Architects John Sanford and David Ferris recently unveiled their Seth Raynor-inspired renovation of Water Oak Country Club, a sporty, mid-priced course not far from The Villages behemoth. With rates maxing out at $70 for non-residents ($54 to walk), it may emerge as one of the state's hidden-gem value courses for adventurous visitors.

Back in Orlando, architects Justin Carlton and Lee Marshall recently unveiled a renovation of Ventura Country Club, an under-the-radar daily-fee on the eastern side of the city. Carlton and Marshall updated all of the 5,700-yard, par-70 course's bunkers and green complexes, hoping to kick off a new era of prosperity for "The Vent." Public rates top out at $61.

In Sarasota, one public course has designs on a future as a resort layout. Heritage Harbour, originally an Arthur Hills layout, recently completed a significant overhaul of its course, including the building of four new holes. The architect: Nick Campanelli, whose big break into the business came when he won a Golf Digest magazine "armchair architect" contest back in 2010. Campanelli focused on making Heritage Harbour more playable by reducing the amount of bunkering and increasing fairway-length grass around the greens. The next phase of the makeover: a boutique hotel and block of vacation villas to create the first all-out golf resort in Manatee County. For now, visiting golfers can play the renovated Heritage Harbour for under $80.

Private Florida golf course updates continue to roll

It's starting to feel like the mid-2000s again in Florida. At least a dozen brand-new private courses are in some stage of development or construction, and many of them are concentrated around the Palm Beach area. At the heart of a massive development called Avenir in Palm Beach Gardens, Swiss millionaire Dominik Senn is developing Panther National, where Jack Nicklaus is overseeing the development of a high-end private club alongside two-time major champion Justin Thomas. Other new golf courses by Tom Doak, Gil Hanse, Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw and Kyle Phillips are planned or underway, as is the first design foray of former USGA CEO Mike Davis, at a three-course club called Apogee.

Existing area clubs are coming into their own, too. At Tesoro Club, a poster-child club for the excesses of pre-Recession speculative real estate, the recently-closed Palmer Course is back open, as the new owners of the club seek to capitalize on the over-the-top groundwork original developer Bobby Ginn laid - 90,000-square-foot clubhouse and all. At a time when many area private clubs have years-long waiting lists, Tesoro is actively seeking new signups. Once the membership hits 150, the new owners plan to revive the now-fallow Tom Watson-designed course, bringing Tesoro back to full strength.

In nearby Palm City, another private club is looking fresh. The former Fox Club has been rechristened The Cape Club of Palm City. It becomes the first Florida outpost of an ownership group that currently counts two Massachusetts courses in its stable: The Cape Club of Sharon and The Cape Club of Falmouth. Tree clearing, new greens and renovated bunkers have the Palm City course looking better than ever; it is also a little less scary off the tee, which is a welcome improvement.

Just south, one of Palm Beach Gardens' pillar clubs, BallenIsles, continues to improve. Its East Course, where Jack Nicklaus won the 1971 PGA Championship, recently reopened after a significant renovation from Nicklaus Design. The routing and bunkering remains consistent with original architect Dick Wilson's vision, but the greens are all nouveau-Nicklaus, with heaving contours and tiny shelves where nasty hole locations can lurk. But there are also plenty of gathering features that clever golfers can use to their advantage. The club is also completing a new learning center, which will include state-of-the-art teaching and fitting technologies, as well as "the world's flattest putting green," a grass surface that members and club pros can use as a diagnostic tool.

Other notable private course renovations around Florida include the Cypress Course at Bonita Bay East outside Naples; Bear Lakes Country Club's Lakes Course in West Palm Beach; Broken Sound Club's Old Course in Boca Raton; John's Island West, Grand Harbor and Indian River Club in Vero Beach; Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville; Indian Creek Country Club in Miami; and several others.

There remains a great deal of mediocre golf in Florida, but with every year, the average quality of course rises across the board around the state. That's great news for all golfers, from private club types to muni lovers and everyone in between.

Visiting Florida soon? You might be interested in one of these golf packages:

Golf Packages
Winter Garden, Florida
FROM $77 (USD)
Golf Packages
Palm Harbor, Florida
FROM $247 (USD)
Golf Packages
Orlando, Florida
FROM $187 (USD)
Golf Packages
Naples, Florida
FROM $327 (USD)
Golf Packages
Coral Gables, Florida
FROM $297 (USD)
Golf Packages
Delray Beach, Florida
FROM $257 (USD)

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Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
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What's new in Florida golf in 2023? Here's what traveling golfers need to know