Best golf courses in South Florida
From Naples to Miami, the south of Florida is full of great beaches, nightlife, culture and an array of excellent golf courses and resorts, not to mention an ideal climate for enjoying it all!
The southern half of the Sunshine State is a great choice for a golf vacation and is blessed with the best of weather, especially from late fall to early spring when other parts of the country are experiencing the cold of winter. We have picked out a selection of the best golf courses in South Florida below that are accessible to the travelling golfer and well-worth considering when visiting Southern Florida.
1. Blue Monster at Trump National Doral
The Blue Monster at Trump National Doral Miami is one of the most acclaimed courses in the area, with over 50 years of PGA TOUR history to its name. It is a tough test, with golfers needing to avoid the water and thick Bermuda rough, while also putting well on deceptively contoured greens in order to post a good score.
Course architect Gil Hanse successfully transformed the revered layout into a modern work of art in 2013/14. This included manoeuvring fairways closer to the multiple hazards, repositioning bunkers, and enlarging some greens. The infamous 473-yard par-4 18th is a difficult finishing hole and has been accredited as one of the ‘Top 100 Holes in the World’ by GOLF Magazine.
2. Miami Beach Golf Club
A venue that quickly became one of the must-play courses in Miami, it opened in 1923 as Bayshore Golf Club. Nearly 80 years later, the club made a $10 million investment and hired famous designer Arthur Hills to reconstruct the course. Miami Beach Golf Club presents a challenging yet enjoyable day on the course, with palm trees lining the fairways, water hazards on 17 of the 18 holes, and numerous dogleg par-4s.
The signature 17th hole is a 169-yard par-3 played across the water to an island green. Located in the southern half of Miami Beach, with Biscayne Bay to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the setting is certainly unique.
3. International Links Melreese Country Club
The site of Tiger Woods’ first South Florida appearance after a $3.9 million renovation during 1996-97, International Links at Melreese was redesigned by Charles Manhannah. The new architectural features included strategically placed cypress wetlands, five new lakes, nine waste areas, and 97 bunkers.
While the rolling fairways often produce an array of tricky lies, they are integral to the impressive and expensive drainage system, allowing golf to be played year-round at Melreese Country Club. Spanning 135 acres and adjacent to the Miami International Airport, this course is ideal on arrival or departure days.
While not a long course at just 6,395 yards from the back tees, the narrow fairways and small greens demand accuracy while the undulating putting surfaces demand the golfer’s full attention. The par-5 5th is considered the signature hole and features a sweeping dogleg around the lake with the approach shot played to an island green. There is a chance for birdie, but also plenty of danger if you stray offline.
5. The Soffer Course at JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa
Considered the premier layout of the two courses on-site at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry, the Soffer Course has hosted several LPGA Tour and South Florida PGA events. Described as a risk-reward course, precision reigns supreme over distance, especially when needing to avoid the creeks that cross several fairways and the lagoons that patiently wait for mis-hit shots.
Originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and redesigned by Raymond Floyd, the greens were recently upgraded to TifEagle grass, offering smooth and excellent putting surfaces. Enjoy this first-class course at a five-star resort.
6. The Gold Course at Tiburón Golf Club
An annual host of the PGA TOUR’s QBE Shootout, the Gold Course was designed by Greg Norman and opened in 1998 to much praise. A shot-makers course, accuracy off the tee is pivotal as the fairways are well protected by natural palms, pines, and olive trees.
Water comes into play on several holes thanks to numerous lakes, including those at the 12th and 16th hole par-3s. The final hole requires a precise tee shot before you play your approach towards the clubhouse and the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.
7. Raptor Bay Golf Club
Situated 25 miles north of Naples and well worth the visit, Raptor Bay Golf Club should be high on the list when planning a golf vacation to Southeast Florida. The club features a traditional clubhouse and tournament-standard practice facilities, ensuring golfers are well taken care of. While not an overly long layout at 6,461 yards from the tips, this par-71 layout places a premium on precision over raw power.
Golfers can expect wonderful natural surroundings, rolling fairways, smartly placed bunkers and plenty of water hazards at this Raymond Floyd design. The par-5 7th is the signature hole and requires a long drive if you are seeking to find the green in two. Be careful to not miss left as water protects the front left of the green.
8. The Rookery at Marco
Named after the vast species of birds and wildlife that call this course their home, including bald eagles, alligators and blue herons, this layout offers both beautiful vistas and challenging golf. You can expect excellent turf conditions, 45 acres of lakes to contend with, and fast greens.
There are five sets of tees on each hole, allowing all golfers the ability to take on this Joe Lee design that features oversized and receptive greens which were recently renovated with Bermuda TifEagle grass. At this great Naples layout, there are 74 bunkers throughout, and water comes into play on 15 holes.
9. Hammock Bay Golf Course
Hammock Bay Golf Course is a par-72 design by Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy that puts an emphasis on showcasing the natural beauty of the local environment. Rolling terrain, oak tree-lined fairways, lots of water and well-protected greens summarize the layout.
The club has recently reopened after a $4.8 million renovation of the greens that saw Platinum TE paspalum turfgrass installed, resulting in some excellent putting surfaces. At just short of 7,000 yards from the back tees, it is a true challenge but with seven teeing options, golfers of all abilities can enjoy a day at Hammock Bay.
10. Naples Grande Golf Club
Live oak and grand cypress trees are just one of the highlights of a round at Naples Grande while the club can also proudly boast sensational panoramic views. The indigenous Florida foliage that surrounds the course results in the fairways being in perfect condition all year long, enticing visitors back time and time again.
11. Old Corkscrew Golf Club
Old Corkscrew Golf Club is situated north of Naples in an area untouched by commercial development, making it worth a visit when staying and playing in the Naples area. Jack Nicklaus is the architect of this 7,400-yard beast that opened in 2007. But with a variety of tee boxes, golfers of all handicaps can enjoy this first-class course.
Long par-4’s and 5’s, tree-lined fairways, deep bunkers, impressive doglegs and expansive water hazards characterize the layout, and as a certified Audubon Sanctuary, the club’s natural scenery is sure to impress.
12. Lely Flamingo at Lely Golf Resort
Situated on-site at the GreenLinks Golf Villas at Lely Resort, the Lely Flamingo Course is the definition of paradise. Opened in 1989, Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed what is considered one of the best in the Naples region and is characterized by extensive water, large greens, thoughtful sculpting and shaping, and multiple tee markers.
The 200-yard par-3 5th hole is certainly the highlight here, as you’ll be hitting into a green surrounded by water and protected by bunkers. Many of the holes feature rolling fairways and undulating Bermuda greens. When it comes to golf in Naples, you’ll struggle to find a more exotic setting than a round on the Lely Flamingo course.
The Southern Florida climate makes it the ideal part of the Sunshine State for a golf vacation, especially during the winter months. Enjoy quality golf and choose from a wide selection of first-class accommodations and resorts. Away from the course there is also plenty to enjoy, from the beaches to the nightlife, exquisite dining and much more. A golf trip to Southern Florida is a must.
Senior Golf Vacation Specialist
Senior Golf Vacation Specialist, I advise clients on golf courses and accommodation options across the US, Mexico, and Caribbean