Play golf near Florida's college football capitals: Kick it off and tee it up

During fall, football is king in Florida. Jumbo shrimp on the grill and smoked tuna dip at tailgate parties, the smell of sunscreen in the air and crazed fans decked out in tank tops and halter tops in team colors are just a few of the images of football in the Sunshine State.

Before or after the games are played, guess what, there's golf to be played.

Luckily, there are some excellent golf courses situated near some of Florida's football havens.

Golf in Gainesville

From Steve Spurrier and Jack Youngblood to Tim Tebow and Danny Wuerffel, the Florida Gator tradition is legendary in college sports. Gator Nation congregates at the 90,000-seat Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field ("The Swamp").

Top choices to tee up in Gainesville are Haile Plantation Golf & Country Club, a Gary Player design set in a master-planned community; Ironwood G.C., an impressive municipal course with century-old pines and beautiful lakes; and Meadow Brook Golf Club, a short-but-challenging Steve Smyers design.

Golf in Tallahassee

The reigning BCS National Champions are the toast of Tallahassee and Seminole fans everywhere. Seminole Nation gathers at the 84,409-seat Bobby Bowden Field at Doak S. Campbell Stadium to execute the tomahawk chop and cheer on their 'Noles.

When it's time to switch from the chop to a golf swing, head to Southwood Golf Club, a Fred Couples/Gene Bates design laid out on rolling hills framed by stands of moss-draped oaks, or to Killearn Golf & Country Club, a 27-hole complex that once served as the site of the PGA Tallahassee Open.

Golf in Orlando

The 2014 Fiesta Bowl Champion University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights play their games at Brighthouse Networks Stadium, nicknamed "The Bouncehouse," on campus, about 14 miles northeast of downtown Orlando. In downtown, the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium annually hosts the Capital One Bowl and Russell Athletic Bowl games.

For tee times, try one of these three economically priced options: Casselberry Golf Club, a venerable favorite built in 1947 with water in play on 12 holes; Rio Pinar Golf Club, once the site of the PGA Tour's Citrus Open which evolved into the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill; and Country Club at Deer Run, a Ron Garl re-design with new TifEagle Bermuda greens.

Golf in Miami

Whether you love the Miami Hurricanes, the NFL's Miami Dolphins or both, the place to catch all the action is 75,540-seat Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, about a 20-minute drive north of downtown Miami. It also serves as the annual site for the Orange Bowl.

Fortunately for golfers, the stadium is near lots of courses in areas such as Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale and Miami Lakes. Near the stadium, tee up on The Senator Course at Don Shula's Golf Club. Other possibilities include Trump Doral-Great White and Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne.

Golf in Tampa

The University of South Florida (USF) Bulls and the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers play their games at Raymond James Stadium near downtown Tampa. Known as "The Ray Jay," the 65,908-seat, multi-amenity stadium has hosted two Super Bowls and is the annual site for the Outback Bowl.

Popular nearby places to play are the well maintained and affordable courses managed by the Tampa Sports Authority and owned by the city of Tampa: Babe Zaharias Golf Course, Rocky Point and Rogers Park. For rabid USF fans, a must-play is The Claw at USF near Busch Gardens Theme Park, where the Bulls' golf teams play their matches.

Golf in Jacksonville

Home to the Florida-Georgia college football rivalry game, an annual weekend of revelry and the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, Jacksonville has a long and storied pigskin legacy. The gridiron action takes play at the 76,867-seat EverBank Field, which also serves as the site for the TaxSlayer Bowl (formerly the Gator Bowl).

Golf is not just a recreation option in Jacksonville, rather, it's a way of life with dozens of great course choices. Near the beaches, tee up at world-renowned Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, Queen's Harbour or Windsor Parke Golf Club. On Amelia Island, a 30-minute drive north of the stadium, the possibilities include the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort's Oak Marsh Course and Ocean Links Course and the 27-hole Fernandina Beach Golf Club, one of the best municipal facilities in the nation.

Ed Schmidt, publisher of The Golf Travel Guru Blog, is the author of two books on Florida golf and more than 2,500 articles and columns on golf resorts, courses and destinations around the world. Follow Ed on Twitter at @golftravelguy.
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Play golf near Florida's college football capitals: Kick it off and tee it up