My 10 favorite Florida golf courses (so far)

A look back at the best of the first 100 golf courses I've played in the Sunshine State.
The first hole on the back nine at Streamsong Black is a 548-yard par 5 that is certainly reachable for strong players.

I passed a personal milestone recently. Kicking off a trip to Miami, the Soffer Course at Turnberry Isle Country Club became the 100th Florida golf course I've played.

Living in Florida as I have since 2014, I've been fortunate to travel fairly extensively throughout the state, sampling its surprisingly broad suite of golf course offerings.

Sure, there are plenty of courses with flattish, palm- and palmetto-lined fairways, lots of water and blinding white-sand bunkers. But there are also plenty of fun, classically playable layouts that any golfer would be glad to play every day (from about October through April, at least). Public, private, resort, municipal...there are compelling examples of golf courses of each stripe in the Sunshine State.

Based on my travels so far, leaving out the private courses and only nominating one course per facility, here's an eclectic, alphabetized list of my favorites:

Biltmore Golf Course - Coral Gables

At the shortish par-4 4th, flanking fairway bunkers may make players think twice about bashing a drive within wedge range of the green.

Accessible, classic golf is tougher to find than we golf fanatics would prefer, but thanks to architect Brian Silva's brilliant restoration of Donald Ross' 1926 original south of Miami, a walkable, strategic delight awaits members, guests of the classy Biltmore Hotel and outside visitors alike. Architecture buffs will find it a masterclass in fairway bunkering. $180-$280 peak green fees.

You have never played a hole quite like the short par-4 12th at Brooksville Country Club before. You can either lay up into the bottom of the quarry and face an uphill approach or carry the quarry rim to the left and have a short iron or pitch down to the green.

World Woods gets most of the attention in this hamlet an hour north of Tampa, but for my money, Brooksville just beats it out for pleasant parkland golf with a twist. That twist comes in the form of a quartet of holes that Bobby Weed routed through an old quarry. They'll take your breath away, along with a golf ball or two. You have to see this stretch of golf to believe it. $42.

The approach to the par-5 13th at Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne.

Crandon is a such a throwback to the 1970s that I wonder whether disco balls descend from the coconut palms when night falls. The Robert von Hagge/Bruce Devlin design is pretty straightforward off the tee, but meandering greens and profuse (though shallow) bunkering makes for some strategic intrigue. The hundred-yard-long runway tees on several holes are eye-catching, too, as is the volcano-style par-3 eighth. $176.

The 12th at Fort Myers fits in perfectly with the Donald Ross-designed course, but it is actually a Steve Smyers original.

Municipal golf is in the midst of something of a renaissance over the past decade, and "The Fort" is its Southwest Florida representative. Steve Smyers breathed new life into the historic Donald Ross design in 2014, and now the course does upwards of 70,000 rounds under the direction of Richard Lamb, who has overseen the course for more than 40 years. $50-$75.

The par-3 17th is one of six holes on the Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort in Florida.

Florida resident Jack Nicklaus has left his mark at several facilities across the state, and Hammock Beach has a gem of a Jack track. With half a dozen holes with greens, tees or more set on the Atlantic Ocean, the Ocean Course is scenic and quite playable; the windy site likely prompted Nicklaus to lighten up on the greenside bunkering a bit. Finishing up on either the ninth or 18th holes is hard to top for scenery. $160.

Another example of the new bunkering on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort comes on the par-4 ninth.

Playing courses the PGA Tour plays is fun, especially when they're reasonably playable for us mere mortals. Copperhead is tough, but the Larry Packard layout's straightforward nature and large greens means that mid-handicap players can get around the surprisingly (to the first-timer) hilly terrain. Visitors will also discover superlative holes that seldom make the TV broadcast, like the up-and-over par-5 fifth. $250.

PGA Golf Club (Dye Course) - Port St. Lucie

The fairway bunker right of the seventh fairway at PGA Golf Club's Dye Course is a work of art.

Every time I make the 30-minute drive from my home in Vero Beach to play the Dye Course, I both discover some unnoticed nuance of the place and get to lap up the features I've enjoyed from the very first play, like the sublime bunkering along the fairway of the par-5 seventh hole. Superintendent Dick Gray, who has turned disappointing conditions into near-perfection throughout the facility, deserves a tip of the hat for helping the course become its best self. $170.

Streamsong Black - Bowling Green

Any of Streamsong's three courses could justifiably be named someone's favorite - it's one of golf travel's great debates - but my favorite is the Black, for its audacity. Architect Gil Hanse turned the green sizes and contouring up to about 15 here, and the result is the most strenuous workout your putter is likely to ever get. Thankfully, the tee-to-green formula is milder than at the Blue or Red courses. $275.

7 Min Read
March 5, 2018
Tom Doak, Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, and Gil Hanse have all designed stellar courses at Florida's Streamsong Resort. Our experts rank their efforts.

Bandon Ginella takes dead aim at Winter Park.

Golf Advisor's own Matt Ginella deserves credit for helping his home borough of Winter Park invest in its quaint, old golf course a few years ago, and architects Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns deserve wide acclaim for executing a design vision that turned a 2,400-yard routing into a course that is on the cutting edge of the game, specifically because of some traditional golf values - the ground game, the walking game, the community game. $21.

The only water hazard golfers must negotiate on an approach shot is at Rolling Oaks' par-3 eighth.

Brooksville Country Club is a revelation, but World Woods is what golf media and visitors have come to regard it as: an expansive golf nut's haven, with two "big" courses, a huge driving range and a short-course/practice-loop/putting-course complement that was well ahead of its time. As for the main attractions, I prefer the Rolling Oaks Course to the more famous Pine Barrens (for reasons of greens, terrain and course flow), but reasonable golfers can disagree. $119.

1 Min Read
December 31, 2018
The best golf courses with public access you can play in the state according to your reviews.

Wish list

There may be some seemingly controversial omissions on this list. In some cases, they're well-known courses I've played that I like, but don't love as much as some. In others, I simply haven't made it to several of Florida's other top-flight layouts. Here are 10 courses I've noted in my research that I sense might give the above 10 a run for their money, and I'd love your thoughts on them and others as well:

- Gasparilla Inn & Club
- Juliette Falls
- Ocala Golf Club
- Palatka Golf Course
- Streamsong (Red)
- TPC Sawgrass (Players Stadium Course)
- TPC Sawgrass (Dye's Valley Course)
- Trump National Doral (Blue Monster)
- Victoria Hills Golf Club
- Windswept Dunes Golf Course

Are you a Florida golf connoisseur? Give your own personal ranking of the state's courses below!

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
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Hands down — southern hills country club (in brooksville as well) Love this Pete Dye design, which makes it eye popping, hard, but not too punishing.

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Please take the time to Che k out Skyview at Terra Vista, part of Citrus Hills golf complex. You will be both challenged and very pleased by the Tom Fazio design and playability you will experience. It makes World Woods seem absolutely out dated. And, the price will surprise you. It is the vest kept "non-secret," in Citrus County.

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Can’t believe Mountain Lake in Lake Wales is not on anyone’s list. It’s very private and hard to get on but well worth the effort. A Seth Raynor original with all the McDonald-Raynor characteristics. A true encyclopedia of design.

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Steve, as I wrote in the article, I left out the private courses I've played from consideration (may do a private-only list in future). If I had included private clubs, Mountain Lake would have made the list because it is the best place I have played golf at in the state.

Commented on

I might be a Limey (ie. English) but have played around 80 courses in FL

Most of my top 10 are mentioned somewhere above but honourable mentions go to :
Victoria Hills, LPGA Hills course, River Strand, King & Bear, Grand Cypress (New ... just for fun!), both OCN courses ... and 2 private courses: Grand Haven and The Concession, which is just about one of the toughest exams I've ever played, but was a great experience

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Played Brookesvill CC last month for the first time, unbelievable! Its 15 minutes from my parents house and I was always going to World woods. WW is great but for 40 bucks, I dont think there is a better course ANYWHERE, never mind just Florida. Another for the list is Lakewood Ranch. This is an awesome course with some of the most incredibly fast greens you will play in florida.
As for a private course, check out Black Diamond ranch...no matter what they say at the pro shop, you can get on it and you wont forget the quarry course!

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Dave, glad you share in the Brooksville CC love. I put it up with Deltona and Riviera for the best sub-$50 golf in the state that I've seen so far. Lakewood Ranch has a bunch of courses, including Lakewood National, which I haven't seen but have heard is nice. I have played Black Diamond Ranch-Quarry and really like it, too; for the purposes of this list I did consider it "private" because ordinarily outsiders need to stay on site in order to play.

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You are right about Black Diamond. The Lakewood course I played just last month, right before they hosted the Web event was Lakewood National. It may be my top course that I have played as far as greens go. I am not a real fan of typical bermuda grass so these 18 greens of, I think, Championship Tif Dwarf were unreal! The course layout was no laydown either. If they can keep the homes filled and get the other course built there, this getaway will be an all time favorite in Florida for many, I believe. BTW, it was "The Kings" last layout so it makes it all the more special to play. Also, they only chared 37 bucks to REPLAY!!

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Another, Grand Cypress, ALL courses there. Especially the New "old course," great fun!

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My top 10: Bay Hill, Palm Beach Par three (Think WP 9, but on ocean), Pablo Creek, Panther Lake at OCN, Camp Creek, Old Corkscrew, Sawgrass Country Club (East, West rotation), Timuquana Country Club, Isleworth, Winter Park 9

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Nice list, Alex! Timuquana would definitely be on my top 10 if I had included private courses. I played it prior to the most recent work done there, so I expect it's even better now.

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I liked Diamondback better than Southern Dunes, although I only played each course once.

Diamondback was across the street from Grenelefe, but a quick look at google maps suggests that it has shut down.

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Southern Dunes, in Haines City, is definitely in my top 2 or 3 in FL !

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John, good call on Southern Dunes. I played it a couple years ago (not since they redid the greens) and, to speak in March Madness terms, it would be on my "First Four Out" list, which is to say I definitely enjoy the course as well.

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