In this blog post we’ll explore some of the best public golf courses in Ocala, in sunny Florida.
Ocala is better known as being the ‘Horse Capital of the World’. A buzzing equestrian culture is due in part to its rolling green pastures and horse breeding industry.
The city is situated in Marion County, in the center of northern Florida. You can easily access here as it is served with multiple major highways as well as having the Ocala International Airport.
The general theme of outdoors adventures rings true, as one of the other main attractions is the enchanting Ocala National Forest. Hundreds of lakes and pools offer a litany of canoe runs and other water activities.
It is not known as a golf destination, being overshadowed by many of its neighboring cities such as Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville.
But nonetheless, it is still home to some top class courses. So let’s not waste any more time and jump straight into the best public golf courses in Ocala.
The best public golf courses in Ocala, Florida
|1||Candler Hills Golf Club|
|2||Country Club at Silver Springs Shores|
|3||Ocala National at Golden Hills Country Club|
|4||Royal Oaks Golf Club|
|5||Lake Diamond Golf & Country Club|
|6||Ocala Palms Golf & Country Club|
|Value for money||Country Club at Silver Springs Shores|
|Groups||Ocala National at Golden Hills Country Club|
|Clubhouse||Candler Hills Golf Club|
|Views||Royal Oaks Golf Club|
1. Candler Hills Golf Club
This award winning golf course opened in 2005 and is rightly considered as one of the best public golf facilities in Ocala.
Designed by the Naples resident Gordon Lewis, this mighty impressive track reaches over 7,300 yards from the back tees. Certainly no pushover, although with seven sets of tee boxes, pretty much all abilities of golfers can enjoy the course here.
Located to the south west of Ocala, this semi-private layout has often been ranked as one of the best public courses in the state by Golf Advisor. And when playing here, you can understand why.
For starters, the general character of the course just feels different. Incredibly picturesque, you’ll be playing amongst live oaks and slash pines. In a nod to Palm Springs, you’ll also find vast sandy bunkers, sabal pines and ornamental grasses.
The conditioning is second-to-none in the city. No wonder it has been chosen to host the Ocala Open golf tournament. It is also home to the longest par-5 in the whole of Florida, at 669 yards.
Aside from a top class championship layout, you’ll also get to enjoy state-of-the-art practice facilities.
2. Country Club at Silver Springs Shores
This fantastic country club is without doubt one of the best public golf courses in Ocala.
Located approximately twenty minutes from downtown Ocala, this is a club which opened its doors back in 1969.
The area of Silver Springs Shores, which is where the club is located, flanks the Cross Florida Greenway. In fact the Country Club at Silver Springs Shores is partly immersed in this vast green space. This creates a lush, verdant blanket which surrounds the course.
It was designed by the legendary Desmond Muirhead, a man who is responsible for many course designs throughout the country. Although he is arguably most known for some of his more eccentric designs, coming in his latter days.
Here at the Country Club of Silver Springs Shores, he’s played things reasonably safe. Water plays its part in the round, coming in the shape of six lakes dotted throughout the site. As does its fair share of dense woodland creeping in from the greenway.
One of the reasons it is so popular is the condition and shaping of the greens. This may be why the club has hosted a number of high profile tournaments over the years, with no less than Zach Johnson holding the tournament course record.
A fantastic course and great value, with twilight tee times ridiculously affordable.
3. Ocala National at Golden Hills Country Club
Heading west out of Ocala, just minutes from downtown, is the superb Ocala National at Golden Hills Country Club.
Previously known at Golden Hills Golf & Turf Club, this was the first private country club in the city. And to this day, it remains one of the most popular clubs to be a member of in the city of Ocala.
Fortunately for those nomadic golfers out there, the club is no longer private and alongside its thriving membership also offers public tee times.
The club first opened its doors in 1964, with the original design completed by Charles Pace and Lee Popple. But the renovation which really elevated Ocala National was the one done in 2003, headed up by the world-renowned Rees Jones.
Jones was assisted in his endeavor by Steve Weisser, and together they transformed Ocala National into a top-class semi-private layout.
Set amongst rolling hills and flanked by the thoroughbred horse farms, the course is without doubt one of the best public golf courses in Ocala. Majestic oaks and towering pines are dotted alongside the undulating fairways which feature large pristine bunkers and well-conditioned greens.
Another attraction of Ocala National is if you spread the ball off the tee, you won’t be penalized too much. Just stay out of those bunkers!
4. Royal Oaks Golf Club
A good twenty minute drive south west of central Ocala, hidden amongst the suburban sprawl of the city, is the fantastic Royal Oaks Golf Club. This is yet another of Marion County’s semi-private courses open to the general public.
Despite the plot being surrounded by housing, there is ample greenery and majestic live oaks. This forms a thick canopy which does a great job of hiding any unwanted views and making you feel like you’re a lot more secluded than you are.
Designed by Terry LaGree, the course opened for play in 1997. LaGree may not be the most recognisable name in golf course architecture, but he’s an individual with a huge amount of experience.
The course is great and from the back tees the yardage stretches to 6,703. With wide sweeping fairways and large greens, this really is another course open to all abilities.
There is a large lake on site, which comes into play on two holes. But by and large, the main challenge at Royal Oaks consists of avoiding the trees and keeping the balls on the fairway.
5. Lake Diamond Golf & Country Club
As you head out of Ocala, south east towards Silver Springs Shores, you’ll be getting close to the vast Cross Florida Greenway. This is a 70,000 acre linear park hugely popular for outdoor activities including hiking, biking, horse-riding, and so much more.
Skirting this huge park, partly set within a residential community, is Lake Diamond Golf & Country Club.
A popular semi-private golf course in Ocala, the club opened in 1998 and was designed by Miles Christian Anderson. This is one of just two courses to officially have been designed by Anderson, the other being The Oaks Golf Club, a short drive away in Crescent City.
As the name suggests, Lake Diamond has within it a large lake, although on only three holes does it actually come into play. The rest of the course plays through dense woodland, despite numerous holes meandering through an urbanized area.
This gives the course a tremendous feeling of serenity and being at one with nature.
A number of narrow fairways and tricky approach shots make this a challenging course. Although it is fun as well, with a decent variety of holes and shots required.
6. Ocala Palms Golf & Country Club
Not far from US Highway 27, in north west Ocala, is the public golf course of Ocala Palms Golf & Country Club.
Although it is positioned in a nice enough part of town, it doesn’t help that two outstanding private golf courses in Ocala are also located nearby. Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club and the Tom Lehman designed The Club at Ocala Preserve both kind of steal the limelight.
But Ocala Palms does what it says on the tin and offers affordable, easy-going public golf. It also costs no more than around $40-45 to play here during peak times.
The course opened in 1996 and was designed by Steve Nugent. This is not Nugent’s only work in the city, with the superb member-only Country Club of Ocala also being one of his creations.
Not the longest of courses reaching just over 6,500 yards from the backs, it is however challenging. Particularly the greens which, relative to other courses in the area, are very small.
Generally in good condition and less than a ten minute drive from downtown, you can see why this is popular.
What is the best public golf course in Ocala, Florida?
The best public golf course in Ocala, is the Gordon Lewis designed Candler Hills Golf Club. Located to the south east of downtown Ocala, this award-winning course opened in 2005 and is the home to the Ocala Open.