An introduction to Florida

Epic Florida, the Sunshine State, is an immensely popular destination for holidays and tourism. And this is before we even delve into the golf courses in Florida.

The most southeastern state in the US, Florida has over 1,350 miles of stunning coastline. On one side is the vast Atlantic Ocean and on the other the Gulf of Mexico. That’s around 500 miles more than California! 

Miles upon miles of pristine sandy beaches make for great holidays. But they also bode well for golf courses, of which there are over 1,250 in the state. Golf and beach holidays aside, Florida is super-popular for its theme parks. These include the likes of Walt Disney, Epcot, Universal Studios and many more. Most are located around the city of Orlando in Orange County. 

See also: What are the best golf courses in Orlando?

To the west of Orlando is the city of Tampa on the Gulf Coast. Tampa is popular for its historic architecture, Latin-American cultural influences and modern landmarks including the sunshine skyway bridge.

See also: What are the best golf courses in Tampa?

In the south of the state lies the iconic metropolis of Miami. A city famous with A-list celebrities and renowned for its wide palm lined beaches, boardwalks and art-deco architecture.

Traveling north up Florida’s Treasure Coast, you pass some other major conurbations. Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and finally the self-anointed jewel of the Treasure Coast, gorgeous Port St Lucie.

See also: What are the best golf courses in Fort Lauderdale?

Elsewhere, Jacksonville in the north east of the state is a fantastic place to visit. Its seamlessly blends the beach town vibe with a city life feel. It has a deep-rooted culture and history, modern attractions alongside miles upon miles of pristine sandy beaches.

See also: What are the best golf courses in Jacksonville?

The best golf courses in Florida

Streamsong (Red)

One of three golf courses onsite at the truly special Streamsong resort, the Red course was the brainchild of the architectural duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

The Red course opened for play in 2014 and has already broken into the US’s Top 50 golf courses. This is no mean feat considering its relative youth.

Running around the periphery of the resort, the Red course has been expertly designed. The previous tenant of the site was a vast phosphate mine. Subsequently the design takes full advantage of the decade-old sand spoils. Some of these sand spoils have formed dunes rising up 100 yards, which is pretty impressive and unique. 

Natural bunkers, expansive lakes, bermuda grasses and massive multi-tiered greens are just some of the features you’ll encounter. The list of accolades just keep coming. Golfweek, Golf Digest and Golf Magazine can’t get enough of this publically accessible Top 100 course.

The Bear’s Club

The Bear's Club, Jupiter, Florida - Photo credit Magnus Ljungman
Photo credit Magnus Ljungman

The Bear’s Club was conceived by Jack and Barbara Nicklaus. It is the fruit of Jack’s ambition to create a first-class golf course in his adopted home of south Florida.

No expense was spared in this creation and through the exacting commitment to top-quality design. What has resulted is a true masterpiece of a course.

Bear’s Club opened for play in 2000 and was routed on a special parcel of land. It is full of natural pines, century-old oak trees, natural vegetation and cypress trees. Alongside this, and a very common feature in Florida golf courses, were considerable areas of wetlands and large sand ridges, which Jack added to.

The result of all this painstaking work is an exacting championship golf course with 102 bunkers! Many of which are high-banked, inspired from a trip to Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia many years previous. The greens are large, undulating and demand precision to ensure you’re not faced with a monstrous putt back.

Voted as one of the world’s best elite private member’s clubs, many of us can but dream of gracing the fairways. 

The Concession Golf Club

Concession Golf Club, Fort Myers, Florida

The Concession golf club was a joint project between Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus. It was named after one of the greatest acts of sportsmanship ever witnessed in the 1969 Ryder Cup. Jack Nicklaus conceded a putt to Tony Jacklin to halve the hole. This was the first time a Ryder Cup had been halved and the act was henceforth known as ‘the concession’.

Many years later Tony Jacklin invited Jack Nicklaus to come and take responsibility for the design. Although Tony was involved, it was primarily more of a ‘supervisory’ role. The course they produced is outrageously tough and tips out at over 7,500 yards from the backs. It winds through wetlands and meadows, many of which need to be carried from the tees. 

The bunkers throughout are superb, heavily contoured and well shaped. Some say they were inspired by those at Sebonack where Tom Doak was overseeing another golf course birth.

With no housing surrounding the course, it really is just you and nature, just how golf was meant to be. In 2021 it hosted its first major competition, the World Golf Championships, which was won by Colin Morikawa.

Black Diamond Ranch (Quarry)

Black Diamond Ranch, Florida

Black Diamond Ranch is located in a private-gated golf community in Lecanto. This is a small town in Citrus County, about an hour and a half’s drive from both Orlando and Tampa. It is here the renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio designed 45-holes of impressive and quite unique golf.

Unique because this is one of very few golf courses in Florida built around numerous elevation changes. It without doubt an anomaly in this relatively flat state. This is particularly visible on the impressive back nine. The holes skirt through deep pits, weave through limestone cliffs and circumnavigates large quarries. 

One of the signature holes is the 13th, a par-3. You stand on an elevated tee box looking out to the green some 180 yards away. It just so happens that between you and the green is a vast quarry some seventy feet beneath you. Truly a great hole and one of the best par 3s out there.

The 1,300 acre plot is quite special with thousands of magnolia trees, dogwoods and myrtles. This unique site and special course go some way to explaining why the Quarry layout at The Black Diamond Ranch continues to receive plaudits of the highest kind.

Seminole Golf Club

Seminole Golf Club, Florida - Photo credit Peter Riedesel
Photo credit Peter Riedesel

Just north of the buzzing West Palm Beach, is this square 250-acre plot on Florida’s Atlantic coast. Here is the outstanding Seminole golf club, many people’s number one golf course in Florida. 

Originally designed by Donald Ross and open for play in the 1920s, this is a sensational golf course. It blends seamlessly into the landscape and is golf course routing at its finest. 

It’s fair to say the course today has changed pretty radically from the one Ross originally laid out. Both the greens and the bunkers have been completely redesigned by various architects over the years. The most recent change was overseen by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw of Streamsong fame. 

Large sand dunes run through the site and both dunes and bunkers are an ever-present danger. The small greens are incredibly well defended, invariably running from front-to-back and stray shots will inevitably be penalized. 

One of the best golf courses in the United States, and one of the best golf courses in the World. Seminole is something special.

Streamsong (Blue)

Streamsong Blue Golf Course, Florida

The second of three courses at Streamsong Resort, The Blue course was the design of course architect Tom Doak. Doak’s reputation is to work in harmony with the natural environment, using existing elevations and undulations to fit his ideas.

The Blue course, like the Red, opened for play in 2014. It has received copious accolades from all the respected golf course publications. And like its sister course, it has been ranked as one of the United States’ Top 100 golf courses. 

The routing is simply divine, with spectacular bunkers half carved out of immense sand dunes. There is naturally rolling terrain and contours, huge greens and deep ponds. Add to that numerous carries off the tee, many of which are to elevated wide fairways.

It would come as no surprise if this course was to continue climbing the Top 100 golf course rankings.

McArthur Golf Club

Photo credit Alan D Hinson

Nestled along Florida’s Treasure Coast between the hubs of Port St Lucie and West Palm Beach, is McArthur golf club. It is in esteemed company with some high-profile neighbors. These include the likes of the Greg Norman designed Medalist golf club. There is also the George & Tom Fazio creation Jupiter Hills, not far away. 

McArthur is a Tom Fazio design, albeit aided in the project by ex-pro Nick Price. It opened for play in 2002, so relatively new in some respects.

The layout is built on a sand ridge which runs along the coastline. This same sand ridge characterizes many of the neighboring courses. McArthur’s site is largely made up of prairie wetlands and sand pine scrub. Throughout the build, much of this was meticulously moved and shifted to allow for the routing of the glorious fairways.

Fairways are flanked by huge sand dunes and ridges, an ever-present aesthetic and hazard. What is pretty unique for a Florida golf course in such a populous part of the state, is the fact there are absolutely no homes or accommodation surrounding the course, a rare sight to behold. Like many courses on this list, befriend a member to stand a chance of playing here.

Calusa Pines Golf Club

Calusa Pines Golf Club, Naples, Florida
Photo credit Monica Anne Pedano

This absolute blast of a course is positioned on a lofty site not far from the city of Naples. It opened in 2001 and was the vision of a Chicago venture capitalist. In his vision to make a unique Florida course, he employed the architectural duo Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry.

Tons upon tons of rock were moved and displaced to create deep lakes and vast elevation changes. Already this allows it to stand apart from so many other golf courses in the state of Florida.

Hundreds of oak trees, palms and pine trees were planted on the site. Colossal bunkers line the sensational Bermuda grass fairways and protect the rapid greens.

Despite its relatively young age and the amount of displacement when building the course, Calusa Pines feels like it has been there centuries, not decades.

Anyone who gets the chance to play this private club should be amped. Sadly, unless you befriend a member, most of us will just dream of playing it.

Jupiter Hills Golf Club (Hills)

Jupiter-Hill-Golf Club
Photo credit Tyson Mayers

Weaving along the coastline north of West Palm Beach is the sensational private member’s club of Jupiter Hills. The Hills course came into life back in 1970. George Fazio, aided by his son Tom, was commissioned to design one of the most spectacular private member’s courses in the area. 

The plot of land chosen to house the club was chosen for its spectacular natural geography. There is a whopping sand ridge running from north to south, as well as the fact there was already an element of elevation change endemic to the site. 

The fairways weave through oak trees, palmettos and numerous pines with immense bunkers and sandy run-offs permeating the course from all angles. Greens are narrow and well defended. Many greens are made more difficult due to the drastic changes in height, some of which are imperceptible from the fairways.

A strictly private member’s course playing here remains but a pipedream for many. The course is regarded so highly it has on some rankings just creeped into the Top 100 golf courses in the United States. This would be an accolade it would thoroughly deserve.

TPC Sawgrass (Stadium)

TPC Stadium Coursem Jacksonville, Florida
Photo credit Steve Racine

So much has been written about the Stadium course here at TPC Sawgrass and for good reason. Host venue to the PLAYERS championship and considered one of the world’s Top 100 golf courses. It is also one of the best, if not the best golf course in Florida. 

It’s fair to say going back to the early 1970s when this whole site was just boggy swampland, one may not have appreciated it would be the site of one of the world’s best golf courses. To also consider it is host to one of prime-time TV’s most watched golf tournaments. Well time has changed since then.

The Stadium course feels like it has been built on steroids. There are huge carries off the back tees which stretch the layout to just under 7,300 yards. Greens are mightily defended with trees, lumps of vegetation, water hazards and vast bunkers. 

The iconic 17th needs no introduction. There are no bailouts available…just a lot of water and a simple, very small looking green from the tee box. Many golfers, including tour professionals, punch a shot in the sink here…don’t be disillusioned to hear the ‘plumpf’ sound.

One of the few golf courses on this list which accepts non-members. Make sure if you are in the neighborhood of Jacksonville, to pop this little Pete Dye nugget on your must-play list.

Mountain Lake Golf Club

If you were to stick a pin as central as possible in a map of Florida, chances are you would stick it right where Mountain Lake is located. At the epicenter of the Sunshine State, the club is as far as it is from Tampa as it is from Orlando, in the heart of a private community. 

The course is one of Florida’s originals, with the first nine-holes built back in 1917 by the golf course architect Seth Raynor. The second nine holes were constructed four years later, so the full 18-holes opened for play in 1921. 

Mountain Lake is quite different in style to many of Florida’s courses. For starters there is barely any water, a feature so commonplace due to Florida’s wetland topography. Mountain Lake on the other hand has some glorious elevation changes as well as some classic golf course architecture. This includes a punchbowl green (essentially a sunken green), a biarritz green (green preceded by a deep gully or swale), an Alps hole (green obstructed by huge hill) and so many more. 

This is such fun to play and is really a gem of a find. Despite the quirky architecture and constant challenges like the Redan green on the 11th, the greens aren’t overly taxing. Assuming you can circumnavigate the other hazards and keep the ball in play, you should score OK. 

John’s Island Club (West)

This quite spectacular course has a pretty special location. It is positioned on an inlet with on one side the vast Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River on the other. It’s fair to say water is an ever-present feature here.

There are three golf courses onsite built by some of golf’s most infamous architects including Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus. But it is the awesome Tom Fazio designed West course we’re interested in. 

Built on a natural sand ridge, the course has some radical elevation changes. Nearly every hole has a slightly different feel and challenge, really testing your shot-making choices. Not overly long with a few of the par 4s and one of the par 5s reachable, this is strategy golf at its best. Infact, the course is considered one of the most challenging in the country, which is no mean feat. 

A prominent feature throughout is the number of elevated tee boxes which offer superb views across the unwinding fairways. As tempting as it is to bomb a drive down, bunkers and water will do their best to collect stray balls. 

What is the best golf course in Florida?

The best golf course in Florida is Seminole golf club, in Juno Beach on Florida’s east coast. This Donald Ross masterpiece has been around for over a century. It is consistently ranked as the best course in Florida.

Completing the top 3 of Florida’s best golf courses is; the Blue course at Streamsong, designed by Tom Doak, and the host course to the Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass. There are many great golf courses in Florida, but these are the top 3.

How many golf courses are there in Florida?

It is estimated there are 1,250 golf courses in Florida, nicknamed the Sunshine State. As golf courses open and close, this number is always an approximate. 

The cities with the most golf courses in Florida include; (going clockwise around the coastline)

  • Jacksonville
  • Orlando
  • West Palm Beach to Miami
  • Naples
  • Fort Myers
  • Tampa.


There really are so many amazing golf courses in Florida. I could have happily reviewed another ten or twenty top class layouts. Regardless of where you are in the state, there is so much choice. 

However finding quality can sometimes be tricky with so much quantity on offer. Even finding a course not surrounded by property can be a challenge in some places. But with a bit of digging around and befriending the right people, you can unlock the doors to some of the world’s most remarkable golf courses.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply