Jacksonville, Florida: Pretty fair golf on three budgets

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With more than 30 golf courses to choose from in a 75-mile stretch that includes Amelia Island, Clay County, Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach, St. Augustine and Flagler County, golfers have a wide selection of options in the Jacksonville area. Warm weather, mild winters and plenty of price points add to the allure.

The thing is, you don't have to spend a lot for a Jacksonville-area golf vacation. But if money is no object, this is a pretty good place to be as well.

Here's a glance at golf in the Jacksonville area on three different budgets:

If you've never played there before, the bucket list course in the Jacksonville area is the Players Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. Home of The Players Championship, and one of Pete Dye's very best, it's a classic American modern golf course that might cost you north of $300 to play, but you won't forget it. Known for the most famous par 3 in golf, the island-green 17th suggested by Alice Dye, it's an experience golfers never quit talking about -- no matter how they played. Plus, sort of like the Masters, the so-called fifth major is played on the same course year after year, so most golfers know every hole before they get there.

As a bonus, there's the 77,000-square-foot, Mediterranean-style clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass. The clubhouse, which doubles as a museum for the PGA Tour and its Championship, has tons of memorabilia and artwork displayed throughout. There's a terrific happy hour and fantastic dining. The same holds true for the Sawgrass Marriott, which features several excellent restaurant options, a full-service spa, comfortable modern rooms and suites and a beach club right on the Atlantic.

The Stadium Course isn't the only tour course there, by the way, Dye's Valley Course at Sawgrass (about half the green fee of the Stadium Course), which is home to a Web.com Tour event, is pretty salty as well and recently underwent a renovation. And if you stay at the Sawgrass Marriott, you have six more golf courses you can play, including Sawgrass Country Club, a terrific Ed Seay design that hosted The Players from 1977-1981.

Other really good high-end courses in the area include the oceanfront Ponte Vedra Inn & Club and its Ocean Course and Lagoon Course, which also underwent recent renovations. And if you stay there, check out the spa at this century-old luxury resort.

There is luxury golf away from Ponte Vedra Beach, of course. For that, you might want to check out Amelia Island and the Ritz-Carlton.

Mid-range Jacksonville-area golf

A little south of Ponte Vedra Beach, near the historic town of St. Augustine, is the World Golf Village. Not only is that the location of the World Golf Hall of Fame -- a must for every avid golfer –- but there are also a couple of pretty good golf courses there, plus a PGA Tour Academy. World Golf Village's King & Bear Course and Slammer & Squire Course feature design collaborations by four World Golf Hall of Fame members and both courses have hosted professional tournaments. And be sure to check out the Murray Brothers Caddyshack at World Golf Village for dinner or drinks. It's right across from the World Golf Hall of Fame (another must for first-time visitors) and packed full of history. Owned by actor Bill Murray and his five brothers, the inside of the joint is full of memorable photographs of the family and memorabilia from the movie "Caddyshack."

Or if you head east of Jacksonville toward the Florida/Georgia coast, you can find some other nice mid-range options. One is the Golf Club at Fleming Island Plantation, which has a diverse landscape that allows for two distinctly different nines. The front nine of the golf course is wide open with waste areas and wetlands to create a classic links feeling. Or check out the Omni Amelia Island Plantation, which still offers the Pete Dye-designed Oak Marsh Course. (The other course at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation, the Ocean Links Course, was recently closed.)

A few for the money

For the value golfer, there are some pretty good options as well. The Champions Club at Julington Creek, designed and owned by PGA Professional Steve Melnyk, offers a challenging but playable experience for the advanced and average golfer. Or check out the Arthur Hills-designed Windsor Parke Golf Club, located between the Jacksonville Beaches and Downtown Jacksonville, only minutes from the Jacksonville International Airport.

Another good option is the Country Club of Orange Park, which provides a scenic challenge with a diverse landscape of protected wetlands and towering oak trees.

And finally, the newly revamped Jacksonville Beach Golf Club, built in 1959, is one of the only public-access courses on Jacksonville's Beaches. Originally designed by Sam Snead, it won't make you forget the TPC Sawgrass, but you sure won't be much lighter in the wallet, either.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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Jacksonville, Florida: Pretty fair golf on three budgets