NFL football and golf: A look at the courses of the AFC South

Fall, of course, is for football. But it's also terrific for golf. The leaves start to change, the weather cools and the courses generally look their best. Of course, if you're not a big football fan, game time is often the best time to play.

"We hate those 1 o'clock starts," said B.G. Winings, director of golf at The Trophy Club in Lebanon, Ind. "There have been times when we've had a beautiful Sunday afternoon, but if the Colts are playing, nobody's out here. Of course, if it's a blowout, we start getting the calls."

Okay, so if your team is playing the early game on Sunday, schedule an early round, and follow the round with a couple of cold ones in the clubhouse and watch the game.

Of course the ultimate would be following your favorite team to away markets and taking your golf clubs. So with that in mind, we've broken down the NFL by divisions. Here's a look at the AFC South and where our readers are recommending that you play:

Indianapolis Colts

Top rated courses on Golf Advisor: Indiana in general has a lot of terrific value courses, so any trip to the Indianapolis area is going to yield some great options, especially if you're willing to go out into the suburbs. For example, northwest of the city is The Trophy Club, which Golf Advisor readers rate at nearly five stars. The course is a championship links-style layout with wide fairways, closely mowed surrounds and flawless greens, set along Prairie Creek. Purgatory Golf Club, a stellar links-like design by Ron Kern in Noblesville (there is a 750-yard par 5 from the back tees), is another gem in the area. Other highly rated courses in the metro area include Prairie View Golf Club and Plum Creek Golf Club in Carmel, Bear Slide Golf Club in Cicero, and Buffer Park Golf Course, a terrific nine-hole design in Indianapolis.

Close to Lucas Oil Stadium: Just four miles from where the Colts play is Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where you'll find the Brickyard Crossing, a historic course redone by Pete Dye. It includes four holes inside the oval of the famous track with the other 14 adjacent to the backstretch. This top-100 course is very popular, so reserve your tee times early.

Houston Texans

Top rated courses on Golf Advisor: Again, the highest rated courses are out in the suburbs, so if you don't mind driving a little, you can score some real gems. Leading the pack is Wilderness Golf Club, a terrific Jeffrey Brauer design on a beautiful piece of property near Lake Jackson. Eagle Pointe Golf Club in Mont Belvieu, east of Houston, is also a great value and highly rated, as is the all-paspalum Moody Gardens Golf Course in Galveston and the 36-hole BlackHorse Golf Club just northwest of the city in Cypress. BlackHorse features two championship-level golf courses designed by Jim Hardy and Peter Jacobsen, the North and the South.

Close to NRG Stadium: Wildcat Golf Club is not only close to where the Texans play, but it also has great views of the stadium. Designed by Roy Case, the club features two courses that are very different from each other -- the links-style Highlands Course and the Lakes Course. Also fairly close to NRG Stadium is Memorial Park Golf Course, one of the best municipals in the country and home to the Greater Houston City Amateur.

Tennessee Titans

Top rated courses on Golf Advisor: Among the best public courses in the Nashville area are the two layouts at Hermitage Golf Course in Old Hickory, just east of the city. President's Reserve is a Denis Griffiths design that runs along the Cumberland River, and General's Retreat is a Gary Roger Baird layout that used to host an LPGA Tour event. Other top-rated courses in the area include Windtree Golf Course in Mt. Juliet, County Hills Golf Course in Hendersonville and Pebble Brook Golf Course in Greenbrier.

Close to Nissan Stadium: Just a couple of miles from the stadium is one the first municipal courses in Nashville at Shelby Park. Shelby Golf Course is a 1924 Donald Ross design with elevated greens, lots of hills and inexpensive green fees ($28).

Jacksonville Jaguars

Top rated courses on Golf Advisor: With the home of the PGA Tour nearby in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., there's no shortage of golf for those going to Jaguars games. Among the top rated courses in the area are, of course, the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, and the Slammer & Squire and King & Bear golf courses at World Golf Village in St. Augustine. The top rated course in the area, however, is the Golf Club at North Hampton in Fernandina Beach, east of Jacksonville. The Arnold Palmer course, which has been around since 2001, is a 45-minute drive that most golfers say is worth the trouble, and it's not the only good layout in the area. The Ocean Links (with several holes on the Atlantic) and Oak Marsh at Amelia Island also rate favorably, as does Amelia River Golf Club. A little closer to Jacksonville, Eagle Landing in Orange Park, a semi-private linksy layout by Clyde Johnston, is a local favorite.

Close to EverBank Field: While most of the good golf is 30 minutes or more from the stadium, one course that's a little closer, Hyde Park Golf Club, is definitely worth checking out. Located about nine miles southwest of the stadium, Hyde Park is a 1925 Ross design that one reviewer called the "best course in Jax for the money." This former host of the Jacksonville Open is eminently walkable, too. Also, if you've got time for just nine holes, check out Brentwood Golf Course at The First Tee of Jacksonville, which is also less than 10 miles from EverBank Field.

Mike Bailey is a former Golf Advisor 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. He has also been on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

Related Links

Fall, of course, is for football. But if your team is playing the early game on Sunday -- schedule a morning round and watch the game. Here's a look at the AFC East and where Golf Advisor readers recommend you play.
Here's a look at where our readers recommend you play if you are heading to an NFL game this fall at the home of an NFC East team.
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NFL football and golf: A look at the courses of the AFC South