An introduction to Florida
The Sunshine State as Florida is known, is home to over 1,250 golf courses, many of which are considered some of the best golf courses in the United States. No wonder then this is such a popular destination for a golf holiday.
So where to stay if you are thinking of travelling to Florida for a golf trip?
Across the state there are some superb golf resorts, most of which have luxury accommodation, top-class facilities, ample dining and drinking options and of course, some high-drawer golf.
See also: What are the best golf courses in Florida?
In this article we explore some of the best golf resorts in Florida, starting in the north and working our way down south. Let’s hope there is something here to inspire you.
The best golf resorts in north Florida
In the north of the Sunshine State, the state line runs from Pensacola in the west on the Gulf of Mexico, through the Blackwater River State Park, past the cities of Panama City and Tallahassee, right across to the Atlantic Ocean and the vast city of Jacksonville. It is around Jacksonville where all three of our golf resorts are located.
Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa
Just a 30 minute drive from downtown Jacksonville in the upmarket Ponte Vedra Beach area, is the sensational Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort.
This is one resort where regardless of how good the accommodation is, it will always be overshadowed by the golf onsite. There are two golf courses at TPC Sawgrass, Dye’s Valley and of course the iconic Stadium course, which is the host venue to the annual PLAYERS championship and a course any golf fan will recognise.
Aside from having a golf course ranked within the world’s top 100, this is a superb golf resort. As you would expect from a Marriott hotel, this is luxury five star accommodation. There are over 500 rooms on site of which there is a choice of waterfront guest rooms, suites and two-bedroom villas.
The vibe here is modern, sleek and sophisticated and this flows through into the recently renovated spa with its 19 treatment rooms, private pool, fitness centre and nail salon. There are ample dining options with the pick of the bunch being the laid-back Sharkey’s down at the Cabana Beach Club, which has fantastic views of Ponte Vedra Beach and serves classic American cuisine.
This is one of those few resorts where you can literally follow in the footsteps of the pros.
World Golf Village Renaissance
Another resort just over a half hour’s drive from central Jacksonville, but this time in the direction of St Augustine, is the World Golf Village with a few different accommodation options.
The most popular is the beautiful AAA Four-Diamond Renaissance World Village Resort. The hotel offers 301 colonial style guest rooms with all the mod-cons you would expect. Another popular option includes the Grande Villas, a number of 1 and 2 bedroom villas with onsite amenities including BBQ grills, fire pits, fitness rooms, hot tubs and more.
There is so much to do here including visiting the neighbouring World Golf Hall of Fame which has more than 70,000 square feet of trophies, displays and professional memorabilia to enjoy. Or simply practise your game at the PGA Tour Academy.
There are of course two outstanding golf courses to choose from including the ‘Slammer & Squire’, a Bobby Weed project co-designed with Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen. Alternatively, why not try the King & Bear, the only golf course in the world jointly designed by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer and one of Florida’s top golf courses.
This really is one for lovers of golf history and a group of friends looking for something fun and unpretentious.
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort
For this luxury five star resort, we drive northeast from downtown Jacksonville towards the idyllic location of Amelia Island, an immensely popular tourist destination renowned for its stunning natural beauty. There are long sandy beaches framed by perfectly formed sand dunes and ample wildlife.
The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort is one of the ‘creme-de-la-creme’ resorts here, the best of the best. With unparalleled views of the Atlantic Ocean, there are numerous oceanfront villas and accommodations to choose from, all of which are uber-luxury.
Facilities include two top-class golf courses, of which resort guests can play the fantastic Pete Dye designed Oak Marsh. Unfortunately the better of the two courses is Tom Fazio’s Long Point which is exclusively reserved for members.
The leisure facilities are top class with large outdoor pools, an in-door pool perfect for lane swimming and a luxury spa which offers a range of signature services from psammo therapy healing methods to couples massages.
There are plenty of dining options with no less than ten restaurants to choose from including the superb Verandah, a casual restaurant serving Mediterranean dishes and good old Bob’s Steak & Chop House, which shouldn’t need too much explaining.
The best golf resorts in central Florida
When I refer to central Florida, I’m really talking about the middle chunk which primarily includes the major city of Orlando. This is right in the heart of the state, as well as the city of Tampa on the Gulf Coast.
This unique golf resort has something no other golf resort in the world can lay claim to; three golf courses all on site designed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson, three greats of the game.
The resort is located just south of Orlando, literally 10 minutes from the airport, and within a 10 minute drive from the likes of the Walt Disney World Resort and downtown Kissimmee. This is a huge complex and not ‘hotel-like’ in any way shape or form. Instead of the traditional hotel rooms, guests get to enjoy golf-side villas and apartments with awesome views across the estate.
There are six restaurants and bars to choose from, an onsite water park, fitness centre and tennis courts as well as ten pools to enjoy. This really is your quintessential resort. Of the dining options I would recommend The Grande 7593 Chophouse, which is an upmarket steakhouse but also serves sensational seafood, which it has delivered daily.
There is genuinely so much more to do here, it is so much more than just a golf resort. This really is perfect for a family getaway, with golf, and awesome golf it is too, just one of many things to do here.
Bay Hill Club & Lodge
So few places embody one single person like the world famous Bay Hill does with Arnold Palmer. The resort initially started as a project by a group of investors who hired Dick Wilson to design the course. It wasn’t until in the late 70s Palmer decided to purchase the property.
These days, this charming retreat is ideal for a golf vacation with 70 comfortable lodges, a fitness centre, a superb spa, pool and tennis courts. You really get to enjoy the member’s perks here. There are two restaurants with the Grill & Classic Rooms the main dining option, complemented by the more casual Bay Window, which has the best view in the house overlooking the famed putting green and Rolex clock.
From a golf perspective, there are 27 holes onsite of which the main 18-hole Challenger & Champion is the host venue to the PGA Tour Arnold Palmer Invitational. Normally a member’s only course, it can be enjoyed by Lodge guests as can the outstanding practice facilities which would put many a golf club to shame.
From a location standpoint, you’re really in the heart of it all. Just a half hour from the Orlando airport and literally 10 minutes from the likes of Universal Orlando Resort, Harry Potter Wizarding World and so many more of the great theme parks.
This outstanding golf resort opened in 2014 and the word ‘special’ doesn’t quite do it service. Set within a secluded plot of 16,000 acres far from the urbanised world and major cities of Orlando and Tampa, Streamsong Resort is a purpose built golfing mecca, with raw unabridged golf and nature at its heart.
The hotel onsite is sleek and modern with mid-century architecture. A minimalist style runs throughout but don’t be fooled, it is still class and luxurious. There are 228 spacious and stylish guest rooms and suites overlooking the surrounding environment.
Hotel facilities include the divine infinity pool which overlooks the lodge lake. There is a sensational spa, built in a European grotto style and includes nine treatment rooms and therapy pool experiences.
Dining at the resort is an experience in itself, with a number of different restaurants and bars to choose from. The superb Sotto restaurant features Italian fare whilst the Restaurant Fifty-Nine at the Streamsong Red/Blue clubhouse offers an enticing selection of hand-cut prime steaks and seafood.
And of course to the golf. Three outstanding golf courses designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, Tom Doak and Gill Hanse of which all three are rightfully considered to be in Florida’s top 10 golf courses. The ex-phosphate mining site features delightful elevation changes, dramatic landforms and undulations with pristine lakes.
This is without doubt one of the finest golf resorts in the world.
Innisbrook Golf Resort
On Florida’s west coast a mere stone’s throw away from Crystal Beach Pier, are the 900 acres of woodland within which the Innisbrook Resort is located. Although the surrounding area is primarily residential, Innisbrook itself feels like an oasis of nature.
Innisbrook features a number of low rise condo-style lodges that overlook the resort, and of course feature all the mod-cons to be expected these days. The Salamander Spa is impressive, with nearly 12,000 square feet of dedicated indoor and outdoor space. There are 12 treatment rooms and a 4,000 square foot fitness centre.
There is not a huge quantity of dining options here, but what they do have is decent. The two main options are the Market Salamander Grille which offers quick bites, or Packard’s Steakhouse on the Copperhead course, which as the name suggests specialises in the finest aged premium beef steaks as well as local seafood specialities.
There are four superb and highly rated golf courses onsite, with the Copperhead Course which receives the accolades and is the host course of the PGA Tour Valspar Championship. As a guest at the resort, no course is off bounds.
The best golf resorts in south Florida
When I talk about south Florida, I’m referring to Fort Myers on the Gulf of Mexico down through Naples to the Everglades. Whilst on the east coast, south of Port St Lucie along the Treasure Coast, through West Palm Beach and through Miami.
Ritz Carlton Golf Resort Naples
North of Naples on the road to Fort Myers, take a right just after Pelican Bay and you’ll get to the exquisite resort of the Ritz Carlton. In all just three miles from the Gulf of Mexico, this is a sumptuous location with shimmering lakes and tropical palm trees. In addition, the surrounding landscape, specifically where the two golf courses are laid out, is Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary certified.
The large and spacious guest rooms are immaculate and modern in style, with most of them overlooking the Tiburon golf course onsite. As you would expect from a luxury 5* Ritz Carlton, there are some top class facilities. The intimate spa has three treatment rooms, with also a steam room, sauna and state-of-the-art training facilities.
As a guest you have the option of Latin American cuisine at the new restaurant Ria, American bistro-style food at Lemonia as well as a couple of other options and bars.
The Tiburon golf club is onsite and has two fantastic Greg Norman designed golf courses to choose from. Both are sensational, of which the Black course, characterised by swathes of pine trees and a multitude of water hazards, is considered one of the Top 50 golf courses in Florida.
PGA National Resort & Spa
Sweeping from west to east coast, from Naples over to sunny West Palm Beach, is the world-renowned PGA National Resort & Spa, one of the most popular golf resorts in the U.S., let alone Florida.
Located within Palm Beach Gardens, home to the PGA of America, the PGA National Resort has a whopping six, yes, six championship golf courses (well, five with one nine-hole). This is golf on steroids. The cracking George and Tom Fazio designed Champion course is the host venue to the PGA Tour’s annual Honda Classic event. And rest assured, the other courses are all superb and will offer a great test for any standard of golfer.
The resort recently underwent a substantial renovation to the tune of $100 million, and now the 300 plus guest rooms are class with upgraded amenities and a number of tech enhancements. The renovation also stretched as far as the Spa, of which the 40,000 square feet were redesigned by an award-winning interior design firm.
This is a simply awesome resort and with the recent multi-million dollar renovation, it will only cement its place in the higher echelons of U.S. golf resorts.
JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa
So to the last on the list, and we finish with a bang. The stylish JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa is outstanding and oozes luxury on every level.
To the north of the glitz and glamour of Miami and barely a mile from the Atlantic Coast, the Marriott Turnberry resort is an oasis of green surrounded by the residential areas of Golden Beach. Within the 300 acres are lush tropical gardens including a 100-year old Banyan tree and a sanctuary for 40 species of tropical birds.
The resort opened over 50 years ago and was the vision of businessman and investor Don Soffer. Jump forward to today and we find Mediterranean inspired architecture, marble walkways and fountains. There are spacious suites and rooms all elegantly designed.
For the foodies out there, you’ll enjoy the BOURBON Steak restaurant, which serves signature cuts of prime meat as well as local seafood and a selection of over 1,000 wines. There are other options including the casual Surf House Bar & Grill, a popular option post golf. And of course like every luxury resort, the exquisite spa is a haven for beauty and wellness.
As for the golf, there are two championship courses onsite, the Soffer, named after Don himself, and the Miller, of which both were originally designed by the great Robert Trent Jones Sr. As a testament to the quality here, the Soffer course has hosted over the years both PGA and LPGA tournaments.