Perhaps no other region in the country has such a varied and stunning definition as the great Southeast. Depending on who you are and where you're from, the states of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina probably have a different meaning to you. Take a 13-year-old kid from Wisconsin, for example, and Florida to him is all about thrill rides, waterslides and Jet Skis. To a middle-aged boating enthusiast from New York, the region is paradise for power boating, deep-sea fishing and sailing. But for the rest of us, the self-professed mass of golf freaks, addicts, aficionados, hackers and players, the Southeast means eclectic, Tour-proven golf, especially if you're talking about hot spots like Kiawah Island in South Carolina, the Golden Isles of Georgia's coast (including Sea Island, Jekyll Island and St. Simons Island), and the Sunshine State's flagship destination cities of Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Daytona Beach. When Spanish gold explorers came looking for precious metals off the coast of this region some 400 years ago, little did they know the gold they were about to find would manifest itself in the rich array of top-tier resorts and golf courses that visitors enjoy today. Truly, the blend of coastal layouts and inland courses that take full advantage of the natural, wild environs of the area are, as a group, without peer.
Located midway between Savannah, Ga., and Jacksonville, Fla., the Georgian town of Brunswick and its four Golden Isles (there are actually a total of 15 islands, or "hammocks," as locals refer to them) are home to some of the South's most historical landmarks. Replete with legends and lore that have inspired countless Civil War ghost stories, it's also a place where some of the world's most iconic men, such as J.P. Morgan and William Rockefeller, took retreat from the daily grind to relax and enjoy a little Southern hospitality. And speaking of hospitality, there remains plenty of it today. Visitors seek the area for its world-class seafood, turn-of-the-century architecture, art galleries, fishing piers and a huge variety of water sports. The golf, as you can guess, is as illustrious as the area's past.
Just to the north across the South Carolina border lies the city of Charleston and golf's East Coast Shangri-la: Kiawah Island Resort and its five award-winning golf courses. Kiawah has been heralded not only for its aesthetic qualities, but also for the level of excitement the resort has contributed to competitive golf. In perhaps one of the most memorable moments in golf, Kiawah's Ocean Course is where Bernard Langer missed his infamous six-foot putt, granting the Ryder Cup to the Americans in 1991. The Ocean Course, a Pete Dye design, features seaside views from almost everywhere, including 10 holes that play along the beautiful–yet distracting–ocean shore. Following are four additional designs by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Clyde Johnson, Gary Player and Tom Fazio. All five courses are known for their knack to look tranquil, but at the same time levy a few hefty challenges on unsuspecting golfers. _Ê _Ê_Ê_Ê _Ê _Ê_Ê_Ê _Ê A trek inland and south takes one to Orlando and its 45 million annual visitors who seek adventure, exhilaration and entertainment at one of the nine major theme parks in the area, countless hotels (more than 110,000 rooms and counting) as well as offshoot attractions that sprinkle the swampy city surroundings. Popular tracks like Bay Hill and Grand Cypress will have you drooling for more. For even more salivating temptations, cruise east to the seaside town of Daytona Beach, home to not only 20-plus great golf courses, but one of the most outrageous stretches of sand on Earth.Tampa, on the other hand, may appear smaller and a bit more subdued on the exterior, but perhaps that's the point. If you plan on playing a lot of golf and relaxing between rounds, Innisbrook has four courses, four restaurants, six pools and 600 guest suites. You can spend an entire vacation there and never leave the property.
In Jacksonville, one can expect to find a more natural theme park per se, replete with walking and hiking trails along white-sand beaches, palm tree forests and sea oats. Then again, the TPC of Sawgrass is nowhere near a simple walk in the park. It's the most challenging course in Florida and should be on your must-play list.
Also, who can forget about places like Miami, home to the ever-popular Doral Resort and its 90 holes of golf? With its beaches, neon lights, Cuban food, dancing–put it this way–the party never cools down in Miami.
With so many options for golf, it may seem impossible to find time between rounds to enjoy the rest of what this region has to offer, which is okay by us for now.
When To Go The southern Atlantic coast doesn't experience a true cold season, as temperatures remain comfortable all year long. The summer months are the most unpredictable, with occasional thunderstorms and high humidity. In fact, the bulk of the area's rainfall occurs in the damp months of June, July and August. Winter temperatures average in the low to upper 60s (degrees F), with summer months nearing the mid-90s in some regions. January through April, the weather is perfect, ranging in the 60s and 70s.
More Information Curious about the weather, things to do, hotels and accommodations in Florida? If so, check out the state's leading vacation planning Website, www.flausa.com. There you'll not only find helpful tips on how to plan a wonderful trip to Florida, but an abundance of information and links to various destinations of interest, including golf courses in many of the state's hottest resort areas. Also, check out the following links for an even closer peek at the state's hot spots for golf.
Orlando Convention & Visitors Bureau www.orlandoinfo.com
Tampa Convention & Visitors Bureau www.visittampabay.com
Jacksonville Convention & Visitors Bureau www.jaxcvb.com
Golf Daytona Beach www.golfdaytonabeach.com
In addition, don't miss the following Websites for information on golf, lodging and fun things to do on the Georgia coast and on Kiawah Island.
Brunswick and the Golden Isles Convention & Visitors Bureau www.bgicvb.com
Jekyll Island www.jekyllisland.com
Kiawah Island www.kiawah.comWhere To Play
_ÊGT Selects _Ê Bay Hill Club Orlando, FL Known the world over as the home of Arnold Palmer, Bay Hill has a down-home atmosphere combined with supreme golf course challenges. Three nines, designed by Dick Wilson and retouched by Ed Seay and Palmer, encompass the facility, two of which host the PGA Tour's Bay Hill Invitational. One of the strongest, yet fairest, tests of golf anywhere. (Dick Wilson/Ed Seay & Arnold Palmer) Par 72, 6647 yards (72.4/130)
(888) 422-9445 www.bayhill.com Doral Golf Resort Miami, FL With five courses, including one notoriously named the Blue Monster, Doral has enough golf to satisfy anyone. The Blue Monster is one of the toughest yet most rewarding courses in all of Florida, and the new Greg Norman-designed Great White is destined to be a crowd-pleaser for its distinctive, sandy palms design. Each course truly has a different look and feel, making Doral among the best golf hangouts in all of Florida. (See Website for course details)
(800) 713-6725 www.doralresort.com Grand Cypress Resort–New Course Orlando, FL The New Course is a throwback to yesteryear, with replications of the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. The course is replete with pot bunkers, stone walls and other idiosyncrasies normally reserved for courses across the pond. The Grand Cypress Resort is state-of-the-art, offering upscale accommodations for active travelers. Twenty-seven other stellar golf holes lie in wait, as well. (Jack Nicklaus) Par 72, 6773 yards (72.2/122)
(877) 330-7377 www.grandcypress.com Jekyll Island–Pine Lakes Jekyll Island, GA This true masterpiece meanders through ocean forests and undisturbed hammocks populated by migratory birds. The longest of the four Jekyll Island courses, Pine Lakes was completely renovated in 2002 by Clyde Johnson, who took what was a near perfection and added his vision and flavor making it the premier course on Jekyll Island. (Dick Wilson/Clyde Johnson) Par 72, 6620 yards (71.3/130)
(877) 4-JEKYLL www.jekyllisland.com Kiawah Island Golf Resort–The Ocean Course Kiawah Island, SC One of the most highly ranked courses on the planet offers both beauty and challenge in huge amounts, with stern tests at every turn and ocean views on all 18 holes. Home to the 1991 Ryder Cup and 5-star rankings from every source imaginable. Par 72, 7296 yards (78.0/152) (Pete Dye)
(800) 576-1570 www.kiawahresort.com Kiawah Island Golf Resort–Osprey Point Kiawah Island, SC One of the true favorites on the island, Osprey Point is a visual masterpiece, carving its way through natural lakes, fingers of saltwater marsh and dense maritime forests of live oaks, pines, palmettos, and magnolias. Par 72, 6871 yards (72.9/137) (Tom Fazio)
(800) 576-1570 www.kiawahresort.com Ocean Hammock Resort Palm Coast. FL With the dramatic Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Hammock Golf Club as its foundation, the Ocean Hammock Resort is a golfer's paradise overlooking the Atlantic. There are five courses total, one for every day of the workweek, yet each has a unique personality. Just look at the architect roster to see why: Nicklaus, Trevino, Lopez, Palmer and more. This kind of diversity makes Ocean Hammock the ideal "stay (for a long time) and play" destination. Ocean Hammock Golf Club was the first Oceanside golf course built in Florida since the 1920s when it made its debut in 2000. (Jack Nicklaus) Par 72, 7201 yards (77.0/147)
(800) 654-6538 www.oceanhammock.com Sea Island Resort--Retreat Course Sea Island, GA Davis Love III, Sea Island's resident touring professional, brought to life his finest vision as a course architect, remaking the original Retreat Course. The result is challenging enough for a pro, yet comfortable enough for the casual player. A favorite with Sea Island regulars. Par 72, 7106 yards (73.9/135) (Davis Love III)
(800) SEA-ISLAND www.seaisland.com
_ÊGT Selects (cont.) _Ê Sea Pines Resort–Harbour Town Golf Links Hilton Head Island, SC The lighthouse. The tartan jacket. The world's best struggling against a short that's deceptively short yet long on challenge. Play at the home of the MCI Heritage Classic and one of the all-time modern classics–Harbour Town Golf Links. Ranked the top-ranked course in South Caroliona is a Scottish-style layout that, above else, requires perfectly positioned shots, arrow-straight accuracy and unwavering consistency. Par 71, 6916 yards (74.0/136) (Pete Dye & Jack Nicklaus)
(888) 807-6873 www.seapines.com TPC at Sawgrass–Stadium Course Ponte Vedra Beach, FL The Pete Dye TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course is the ultimate combination of brawn and beauty. As easy as it is on the eyes, it's just as demanding on your ability to hit targeted golf shots with little room for error. Nevertheless, this Florida favorite is admired by the world every year at the PGA Tour's Players Championship. Also noteworthy is its sibling, the Valley Course. The Marriott hotel on site is deluxe. (Pete Dye) Par 72, 6954 yards (75.0/149)
(800) 457-4653 www.sawgrassmarriott.com Walt Disney World Resort–Osprey Ridge Orlando, FL Truly dramatic fairways cut through forests of scrub oak, pine, palmetto, cypress and bay trees. The serene splendor of an elegant wilderness envelops a superb design. This spectacular course is one of the best in Florida. (Tom Fazio) Par 72, 7101 yards (74.4/131)
www.disneyworld.com Walt Disney World Resort–Palm Course Orlando The natural beauty of the Florida woodlands also makes this course one of Disney's toughest courses. Sparkling lakes and tropical sand, with strategically placed palms. Offers golfers plenty of challenge, just as it does during the PGA Tour's Funai Classic. (Joe Lee) Par 72, 6957 yards (73.9/138)
_ÊSoutheast Must-Plays _Ê The Hampton Club St. Simons Island, GA The 18-hole Hampton Club, located on the historical Hampton Plantation on St. Simons Island, literally hopscotches several marshes, connected by a series of cart bridges that look as if they serve as anchors to make sure the holes don't drift away into sea. The course looks challenging, but it's more fun than it is demanding. It's also a must-play for nature-loving golfers. (Joe Lee) Par 72, 6465 yards (71.1/135)
(912) 634-0255 www.hamptonclub.com Jekyll Island–Indian Mound Jekyll Island, GA This 18-hole challenge with its trademark strategically situated fairway bunkers plays through some of Jekyll Island's most pristine lakes and marshes. It's named Indian Mounds after the large oyster shell middens deposited by aboriginal tribes hundreds of years prior. (Joe Lee) Par 72, 6496 yards (71.3/130)
(877) 4-JEKYLL www.jekyllisland.com Jekyll Island–Oleander Jekyll Island, GA Created in 1964 on the grounds on what was once the 34th oldest registered golf course in the United States. Oleander, a local favorite, challenges golfers with numerous doglegs and holes that play only 300 yards from the ocean–watch out for those trade winds! (Dick Wilson) Par 72, 6521 yards (71.7/126)
(877) 4-JEKYLL www.jekyllisland.com Kiawah Island Golf Resort–Cougar Point Kiawah Island, SC Good value and great condition define Cougar point, a layout featuring holes that play hard against broad expanses of tidal marsh and which offe panoramic views of the Kiawah River and acres of needlerush and spartina grass. Cougar Point is designed to test the scratch player while providing an enjoyable round for all. (Gary Player) Par 72, 6887 yards (73.0/134)
(800) 576-1570 www.kiawahresort.com
Must-Plays (cont.)_Ê _Ê Kiawah Island Golf Resort–Oak Point Kiawah Island, SC This Scottish-American-style course borders the historic Haulover Creek and the Kiawah River. Wide areas of windswept fairways stretch alongside salt marshlands interspersed with densely forested areas of live oaks. (Clyde Johnson) Par 72, 6759 yards (73.8/140)
(800) 576-1570 www.kiawahresort.com Kiawah Island Golf Resort–Turtle Point Kiawah Island, SC Opened in 1981, Turtle Point is a low-profile design with fairways and green settings blended into the existing landscape. Nowhere is this more evident than along a specatular three-hole stretch woven through rolling sand dunes directly along the Atlantic Ocean. With sparkling renovations completed in 2000, the new Turtle Point invites both past and new guests to experience the beauty of the course. (Jack Nicklaus) Par 72, 7054 yards (74.2/141)
(800) 576-1570 www.kiawahresort.com Sea Island Resort--Plantation Course Sea Island, GA Built on the Walter Travis' venerated Plantation nine, the course was reshaped in 1998 and combined with Dick Wilson's Retreat nine to create the brilliant 18-hole Plantation Course. Liberal sight lines between holes create a parkland feel with breathtaking ocean views, ancient live oaks, lakes, and flower-filled landscapes set against an artful canvas of fairways, bunkers and greens. (Rees Jones) Par 72, 7058 yards (73.9/135)
(800) SEA-ISLAND www.seaisland.com Sea Island Resort--Seaside Course Sea Island, GA A 1999 Tom Fazio redesign transformed two of Sea Island's brilliant original nine-hole courses into an 18-hole thriller. Elevated tee boxes inspire play with magnificent vistas of Seaside's ancient oaks and cedars, the salt marsh and sand dunes, and the St. Simons Sound. Par 70, 6945 yards (73.1/131) (Tom Fazio)
(800) SEA-ISLAND www.seaisland.com Sea Palms Golf & Tennis Resort St. Simons Island, GA Located on St. Simons Island and home to 27 newly remodeled holes, each nine has its own unique character. The Tall Pines nine is narrow, the West nine is shorter but full of water, and the Great Oaks nine is a hybrid of the two. All three feature stunning vistas and a healthy mix of easy and difficult holes destined to become memory-makers for novices and advanced players alike. (George Cobb)
(800) 841-6268 www.seapalms.com LPGA International Daytona Beach, FL Home of the LPGA and its Tour Titleholder Championship, the 36-hole International Club begins with the Rees Jones-designed Champions Course, a thought-provoking and picturesque layout with heavy Scottish influences and a variety of integrated nature preserves. The newer Arthur Hills-designed Legends Course is equally beautiful, with heavily bunkered greens and water on more than half its holes. Even though both these courses were designed specifically for women's competition, both are man enough to challenge anyone. Legends: Par 72, 6984 yards (74.5/138) (Arthur Hills) Champions Par 72, 7088 yards (74.0/134) (Rees Jones)
(386) 274-LPGA www.lpgainternational.com Walt Disney World Resort–Eagle Pines Orlando, FL Rolling fairways and surrounding wetlands give Eagle Pines a unique look and an equally matchless challenge. A low-profile, Carolina-style course that follows the natural contours of the land where water and sand await errant shots. (Pete Dye) Par 72, 6772 yards (72.5/70.1)
www.disneyworld.com Walt Disney World Resort–Magnolia Orlando, FL Another course that plays host to the PGA Tour's Funai Classic, the Magnolia–with its beautifully manicured links and abundance of fragrant magnolias–offers a natural setting with large greens and tranquil water hazards. (Joe Lee) Par 72, 7190 yards (74.9/136)
www.disneyworld.com Westin Innisbrook Resort--Copperhead Tampa, FL Innisbrook is one destination where you can literally stay and play–for good. There's no reason to ever leave this magnificent property, with 72 holes of golf, six large pools, 600 guest suites, four restaurants, numerous tennis courts and a nature preserve–literally everything is here. The golf ranges from subdued to difficult, with its flagship course being the treacherous Copperhead, home to the PGA Tour's Chrysler Championship. (Larry & Roger Packard) Par 72, 7295 yards (75.6/140)
(877) 752-1480 www.golfinnisbrookresort.com _Ê
Where To Stay: Florida_Ê _Ê Bay Hill Club Orlando Play the best, the stay at a resort as friendly and warm as the King himself. (888) 422-9445 www.bayhill.com Doral Golf Resort Miami Famed Doral ranks among the best golf hangouts in all of Florida, if not the United States. (800) 713-6725 www.doralresort.com Grand Cypress Resort Orlando The Grand Cypress Resort is state-of-the-art, offering upscale accommodations for active travelers. (877) 330-7377 www.grandcypress.com