An introduction to Vero Beach
Another stunning city on Florida’s Treasure Coast, here we look at the best golf courses in Vero Beach. Just 135 miles north of Miami, Vero Beach is yet another gorgeous city to visit on Florida’s Atlantic coastline.
There are two parts to this small city. The central downtown area on the mainland and the other part over the Indian River Lagoon on the barrier island.
Like many of the cities along the Treasure Coast, Vero Beach is renowned for its beautiful and plentiful beaches and wide variety of cultural and nature-oriented activities.
One of the most popular of these is the McKee Botanical Gardens, which is quite simply one of the most impressive botanical gardens in the state.
And if you want to visit America’s first national wildlife refuge, then Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge on the Indian River is the place to go. This is a nature lover’s paradise.
Or is retail therapy more your thing? In which case the Vero Beach Outlets are the place to go.
Let’s now take a look at some of the best golf courses in Vero Beach.
The best golf courses in Vero Beach
1. John’s Island (West)
Located on the barrier island across the Indian River from the mainland, is the private member-owned club of John’s Island. The club is literally nestled between the Indian River Lagoon and miles of magnificent beaches on the Atlantic Ocean.
There are three top class championship golf courses here. These are the West designed by Tom Fazio; the North designed by Pete Dye. And finally the South designed by Jack Nicklaus.
So good is John’s Island, it was named as one of ‘America’s Top 25 Golf Communities’ by Travel + Leisure Golf. Although this is great publicity for the club, unfortunately for us mere mortals, it is a distinctly private club. Unless you know a member, enjoy salivating over the course photos instead.
Yet it is the West course here which is on a pedestal and considered in Florida’s Top 10 golf courses. It was designed by Tom Fazio and opened for play in the early 1990’s.
The course has a very natural feel with large sand ridges pervading throughout the site. Elevated tees give variety whilst a litany of bunkers, both large and small keep you on your toes. The greens are sensational and on another level. Whilst playing conditions are second to none. This really is one of Tom Fazio’s finest designs.
But it is no walk in the park. Although only 6,800 yards from the tips, this is a shot-maker’s course. Driving accuracy has to be spot on whilst course management is critical. A round can be made or ruined by how you work with the wind, which inevitably will be blowing strongly in some direction!
The North and the South Courses both hold their own, although they are nowhere near as good as the West. In fact, as both of these sit closer to the main clubhouse, they are arguably more popular with the membership which is relatively elderly.
If you get yourself an invite here, drop everything and enjoy.
2. The Moorings Yacht & Country Club (The Hawk’s Nest)
Many people have spoken of this and no doubt many will continue to. But although Florida has some of the finest golf courses in the country, there is an ugly head which is sadly omni-present. And that is how many of these play second-fiddle to housing developments.
Fortunately though, there remain some which are what golf was always meant to be. Just you, the golf course and nature. Jim Fazio’s superb Hawk’s Nest in South Beach on Vero Beach’s barrier island is one of them.
This sensational course has been covered in accolades, with Top100GolfCourses ranking it in the top 30 in the state.
Unique in as much as there is no housing surrounding the course. But also unique in how much elevation change you will encounter. Many of the holes are undulating with elevated tee boxes providing visual appeal.
Fairways are flanked by large sandy waste areas which require some accuracy off the tee but won’t completely penalize you if you do land here.
The greens are top class whilst the par 3s are spectacular. Right from the second hole, you have a picturesque par 3 over water to contend with. And as the round goes on, they seem to get better and better.
Jim Fazio is an underrated course architect. Yet at Moorings with The Hawk’s Nest course, he delivered a knock-out punch.
3. Quail Valley Golf Club
Six miles inland from the Atlantic, is the spectacular Quail Valley Golf Club. The course forms part of the private Quail Valley club which has two more properties in the heart of the beachside district.
This 280 acre masterpiece came to life in 2002 and was the work of Tommy Fazio and Nick Price. Tommy Fazio, the nephew of the great Tom Fazio, has built up quite an impressive C.V. of work. Yet Quail Valley is arguably up there as his best.
He worked alongside the former PGA Tour and world number one Nick Price.
Price was a remarkably successful golfer and since beginning his architectural career, has a fine portfolio of golf courses attributed to him. None more so than McArthur in Hobe Sound, one of the top 5 golf courses in Florida.
What was formerly quite flat citrus groves was transformed into the golfing oasis Quail Valley is today. There is now ample movement especially around the fairways and greens.
Water forms a major part of the character of the site, with vast lakes omnipresent. Well over half the holes on the course have water in play to some degree. Add to that countless bunkers and the ever-present Atlantic winds, this is one heck of a course.
There are however six sets of tees. So although from the tips this will challenge even the best out there, it is open to most levels.
4. RedStick Golf Club
For a club that is so highly rated and has been in existence since the turn of the century, very little is actually known of RedStick Golf Club.
The site is located in Wabasso, 10 miles or so north of Vero Beach. It is also just a couple of miles south of the aforementioned John’s Island West Course.
The idea for RedStick came about from a group of local residents who were all avid golfers. Long story short, they’d had enough of not getting onto some of the local courses and playing when they wanted to play. So what’s the solution? Build your own golf club of course?
But RedStick was different. The true values and authenticity of golf would prevail. A limited membership to ensure the course was never too crowded. No publicity…this was not an exercise in self-aggrandizement. And this needed to be a walking course, being at one with nature and enjoying the great outdoors.
RedStick finally opened in the year 2000, designed by the world-famous architect Rees Jones. Jones worked tirelessly with the founding members to ensure the course matched all of their criteria.
The setting is superb. It is just inland from the Indian River and benefits from a large sand ridge which makes its way through this part of the Treasure Coast. RedStick is a links-style course and although there are hundreds of pines and oaks dotted throughout the site, they don’t encumber on the course.
This is a superb golf course and one which is slowly but surely gaining more notoriety as its reputation grows.
5. Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club (Palmer Course)
On the barrier island, between Wabasso Beach and North Beach, is the superb Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club.
This is a member-owned Florida golf community with houses dotted along the Atlantic coastline or alternatively overlooking the spectacular Audubon-certified golf course.
The course at Orchid Island was designed by none other than Arnold Palmer. Palmer designed some spectacular golf courses throughout his career, and Orchid Island is up there as one of his best.
First things first, the location is quite special. This is genuinely one of the nicest spots along the Treasure Coast, with on one side the vast Atlantic Ocean and on the other the serene Indian River.
Secondly the layout is beautiful and more importantly, incredibly fun to play. Water is present on nearly every hole, surrounded by a verdant canopy and rich habitat. Having been built on a barrier island, ensuring the sanctity and protection of the wildlife was integral. Hence the Audubon certification that followed.
The course is open to the public and genuinely open to all levels of golfers. I say genuinely, because there are nine sets of tees on every hole. Yes, nine! This stretches the course from over 7,100 yards down to under 5,000.
But with so much water in play, make sure you don’t get distracted by the beautiful surroundings and keep the ball straight! Golf courses in Vero Beach don’t come much better than this.
6. The Windsor Club
Literally next door to Orchid Island, yet on an even more narrow plot of land, is the luxury Windsor Club.
This is an exclusive waterfront private community, which prides itself on its distinctive architecture. It houses numerous excellent facilities including amongst others, a tennis center by Stan Smith, an equestrian center with polo field and world-class dining. This is something special.
Connecting all of this together is the sensational links-style golf course designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones Jr.
This wind-swept course first opened for play in 1991 and stood out for its links design in a state renowned for more traditional parkland courses. The fairways and surrounding landscaping feature numerous undulations and movement with rarely a flat lie.
There are many bunkers dotted around the 120-acre site, accompanied by much larger sandy waste areas. Like Orchid Island, water is prominent and features on more than its fair share of holes.
In 2019 Robert Trent Jones Jr returned to The Windsor Club to head-up a much needed renovation. Major work entailed, with the reorientation and enlargement of tee boxes, reshaping of holes and bunkers. Grass was replaced throughout, with a more drought tolerant Bermuda grass introduced.
7. Bent Pine Golf Club
This is a golf course with ample pedigree, having been chosen to host the U.S. Open Qualifiers on many occasions.
Amongst the other top tier events Bent Pine has hosted, these include the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Qualifiers, U.S. Amateur Qualifiers and the Florida Boys and Girls State Championships.
This fine club is located just to the north of Vero Beach, towards Winter Beach. It is neighbors with esteemed company, the Hawk’s Nest Course at The Moorings.
Bent Pine prides itself on the friendly and down-to-earth atmosphere. There is a real emphasis on the social side of golf. They even run a ‘no tee time’ policy, where members can rock up willy-nilly and tee-off.
The course was designed by Joe Lee and presents a formidable challenge.
There is a wonderful balance between wide driving areas which then lead onto well-protected greens, primarily in the form of multiple bunkers. As for the greens themselves, they are fast but fair.
As another member-only golf course in Vero Beach, you’ll have to hope to get an invite to play here.
8. Riomar Country Club
Arguably one of the most scenic golf courses in the state, Riomar Country Club is a special place.
One of just a few golf courses built on the barrier island running down the Treasure Coast, it offers golfers some of the most spectacular ocean views. Few courses in the state of Florida can match this.
In fact seven of the eighteen holes come right up to the water’s edge, either in the form of a tee box, green or fairway.
This fine establishment is the oldest golf course in Vero Beach, having opened for play well back in 1919. The original design was completed by Herbert Strong, with Joe Lee commissioned to renovate the course many years later.
A slight giveaway to the course’s age is its length. Just over 6,000 yards from the back tees, some would argue it offers a welcome change from the brute distance posed by many new course creations.
But do not expect to knock up a good score here. The greens are small and fall away on the sides. Precision play is essential and strong ocean breezes are all-too-often present.
9. Fairwinds Golf Course
Hidden away amongst some of Florida’s most undisturbed wetlands, is the sanctuary that is Fairwinds Golf Course.
The club is located just a few minutes drive north of Fort Pierce and around 20 minutes south of Vero Beach. And yet despite Fort Pierce being a heavily residential city, Fairwinds is enough removed that not a single residential property is anywhere close to the site.
We are literally talking about golf and nature, nothing else. So much so, it is common to see alligators, wild hogs and many other wildlife going about their daily lives here.
But the serene qualities of the site don’t always make the course. Fortunately, the routing is sensational. It was designed by the famed architect Jim Fazio and opened for play in 1991.
Ever since that day, the layout has remained a firm favorite with locals. It is a public course, so guests are welcome to come and enjoy the large undulating fairways. Greens are well-bunkered and there are five large lakes which come into play.
It is also unbelievable value with a walking tee time in the off-season between $30-40. In a region dominated by golf clubs with lofty memberships, Fairwinds Golf Course is a breath of fresh air.
10. Sandridge Golf Club (Dunes & Lakes)
And last on our list of best golf courses in Vero Beach, is another outstanding public golf facility, Sandridge Golf Club.
It takes its name from a large sand ridge that makes its way up the east coast of Florida. This is also the same sand ridge that the first of the two 18-hole championship golf courses, the Dunes, is built upon.
The Dunes was the first of the two courses here to open, the year being 1987. Five years later in 1992, the second course, the Lakes, opened for play. Both were designed by the architect Ron Garl.
Throughout his 40 year career, Garl has built a strong reputation, particularly in his home state of Florida. It is here he has designed over 100 courses, many of which are highly regarded.
The two at Sandridge continue this and are fine additions to his portfolio.
As the name suggests, the Lakes course has far more water in play. This includes one of the toughest holes in all of south Florida, the par-4 14th hole with its island green. People travel from far and wide to take up the challenge of the 14th.
Open to the public, this is a great option if you can’t get access to any of the private member clubs on the Treasure Coast.
What is the best golf course in Vero Beach?
The best golf course in Vero Beach is the West course at John’s Island. It was designed by the world famous architect Tom Fazio and opened for play in the 1990s. It has received numerous accolades and is considered one of Florida’s Top 10 golf courses.