Florida’s Most Challenging Public Golf Courses

There are 1,481 golf courses to choose from in Florida if you have the time and money, but a lot of vacationers assume that the best golf courses are private bastions of the rich.  Here are some famous public courses where you can get reservations to face some of the most challenging holes of golf in the nation:

TOURNAMENT PLAYERS CLUB Sawgrass  110 TPC Boulevard, Ponte Vedra; (904) 273-3230′ 5 miles south of Jacksonville

You will quickly recognize this Pete Dye Oceanside masterpiece by the infamous 17th hole green which is an island with a narrow causeway.  Deane Beaman bought the 400 acres in 1978 for $1 since it was a swamp. This explains the deadly rough, narrow fairways, and doglegs around manmade lakes.  It is expensive to play and you must make reservations well in advance since this is the 2nd ranked course in Florida and listed as one of the world’s Top 100.


One of the Most Famous Holes In The World

WORLD WOODS Pine Barrows and Rolling Oaks Courses, 17590 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Brooksville; (352) 796-5500; 40 miles north of Tampa

This 1992 Tom Fazio complex has two of the nation’s top public courses and the #1 golf practice facility in the world – a 22 acre practice range, par 3, 4, and 5 hole practice links, and monstrous practice greens.  The rugged terrain of huge, natural hills and open pastures of Pine Barrens will shock you, and while Rolling Oaks is more laid back without tons of bunkers, you will believe you are playing in the hills of West Virginia.


Moonscape World Woods

BAY HILL CLUB and LODGE  9000 Bay Hill Blvd., Orlando; (407) 876-2429; 3 miles sw of downtown; open to guests of the Lodge

Arnold Palmer bought this 27 hole complex in 1976 and often shows up at the 19th hole.  The Champion course is Arnold’s favorite and in 2009 he made the greens closer to the water and put in more sand traps.  This is a real tournament golf course open to the public.


Orlando’s Bay Hill

STREAMSONG RESORT Red and Blue Courses , 1000 Dunes Pass, Streamsong; (863) 354-6980; 50 miles se of Tampa; open to the public

Get out the GPS to locate this amazing Polk County resort built on 16,000 acres of converted phosphate mine.  Ben Crenshaw designed these courses with their piles of grassy spoil forming towering 100-foot moon-shapes and deep manmade lakes. Both courses are challenging with their contoured greens.


Streamsong Is The Unknown Resort

TRUMP NATIONAL DORAL GOLF RESORT Blue Monster, 4400 NW 87th Avenue, Miami; (800) 936-7259; 8 miles nw of Miami; public may make reservations

You can play the famous Blue Monster with its scary 18th hole facing the ocean breezes and water along the entire left side of the fairway.  In 2012 Donald Trump bought the popular golf course and had Gil Hanse enlargen all the lakes and add more bunkers.  The Donald must have been having a bad hair day by upping the course’s challenge to golfers.


The Doral Is Still A Miami Landmark

PGA NATIONAL RESORT Champion, 400 Avenue of the Champions, Palm Beach Gardens; (800) 863-2819; open to public with reservations

 The Champion course, started by George and Tom Fazio in 1981, is a 7158 yarder with a 70 par viewed as very tough by PGA pros.  In fact, the Par 5 18th has been continuously voted as the toughest finish hole in the PGA tour and if you encounter wild ocean winds, you will believe that selection.  Most new players elect to have a local caddy explain all the dangerous elements of Champion.


The PGA ChampionBay Hill

About floridatraveler

Historian and travel writer M. C. Bob Leonard makes the Sunshine State his home base. Besides serving as content editor for several textbook publishers and as an Emeritus college professor, he moderates the FHIC at www.floridahistory.org
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