Florida – More than just ‘gators’
Join Denise & Kim from PaR nz Golfing Holidays on their 2017 Grand Florida USA Golf Tour that includes 18th Green grandstand tickets at THE PLAYERS Championship in 2017 to watch Aussie superstar and world number 1 Jason Day defend his newly won title.
We present an overview of this golfing Mecca;
“Beware the gators’ signs” are a thrilling part of playing golf in Florida, but a golf holiday to Florida can offer so much more.
The ‘Sunshine State’ attracts huge numbers of golf-mad Americans and international golfers alike because it offers year-round opportunities to play some of the best courses in the US. Off the course, the choices seem endless with exciting theme parks, aeronautics, world-renowned restaurants, top hotels and spas, chic communities, ecological zones and 2170kms of white-sand beaches. Little wonder Florida has four beaches in the US Top 10.
Attracting 95 million tourists annually, it often ranks above Rome and Paris as one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. It is also one of the US’s fastest growing states, with more than 1000 people a week joining its base population of almost 20 million.
Florida is a golfer’s paradise with over 1250 courses to play – more than any other state in the US. There is an array of spectacular courses designed by the legends of the game – Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Pete Dye, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Robert Trent Jones, and Gary Player to name a few. Florida courses host PGA, Champions and LPGA Tournaments annually on the Florida Swing. The PGA and LPGA make their home at Ponte Vedra Beach in north-east Florida.
Just down the road at St Augustine, where the Spanish first settled the US in 1513, is The World Golf Hall of Fame and the spectacular, custom- built World Golf Village.
You can find the lockers of Australians Kel Nagle, Greg Norman, Peter Thomson, Walter Travis, Karrie Webb, and Kiwi Sir Bob Charles in the Hall of Fame and the museum houses a priceless collection of golf memorabilia of inducted golfing greats and historic records from the game itself. It is a must-visit for any golfer.
In the World Golf Village are two, one-of-a-kind golf courses. The King & Bear is the only golf course in the world designed by Palmer and Nicklaus in collaboration. The other, The Slammer & Squire, is named in honour of golfing greats Sam ‘The Slammer’ Snead and Gene ‘The Squire’ Sarazen, who were consulted throughout its design.
While many courses in Florida are open to the green-fee-paying public, access to playing the best courses does require skillful networking. Many courses are exclusively private and others have hotel partnerships that are ‘stay and play’ only.
The best courses in Florida include TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, in north-east Florida, which is the host course of the so called ‘fifth major’, THE PLAYERS Championship. The 17th, a par 3 island green is one of the most recognised and notorious holes in golf. Sawgrass reports that more than 100,000 balls are collected each year from the water around this difficult course. The other top course is Seminole in Palm Beach, a classic-style course built in the 1920s by Donald Ross. Seminole was a favourite of resident Ben Hogan in his warm-up for The Masters.
Golf initiated in Florida near Palm Beach in 1896 with the building of The Breakers Ocean Course by railway tycoon and father of Florida tourism, Henry Flagler. On the same coast, Jupiter Island is the latest ‘hot- spot’ for pro-golfers and where you could to run into Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood or Ernie Els at the local supermarket.
Jack Nicklaus started the exodus to Florida’s south-east coast 40 years ago and others followed, including the most recognised high- flying golfer Greg Norman, with most building eight-figure-sum homes. US President Barack Obama has holidayed in Jupiter Island, playing a much publicised round with Tiger Woods
Golfers are drawn to the Miami region for its superb beaches and nightlife. Arguably, the best course in Miami is the Trump Doral Blue Monster course with its extremely challenging 18th hole mastered by winner of The Doral Open in 2004, Craig Parry. Donald Trump, US Presidential Elect in 2016, purchased Doral in 2012 and completed a major renovation of the hotel and some of its five courses. Others include The PGA National with its famous ‘Bear Trap’ and home to The Honda Classic.
The best course around Orlando is Bay Hill, where Arnold Palmer lives and plays. The course is host to the Bay Hill MasterCard Invitational. Other favourites include Reunion, Grand Cypress, Disney courses and the Greg Norman-designed Championsgate courses.
Further inland to central Florida are the two new Streamsong courses, Red designed by Tom Doak who designed Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand and the Blue course designed by Coore & Crenshaw. Both are inland links courses which is unusual in Florida, both built on the site of an old phosphate mine. The courses and hotel are owned by mining company Mosaic and already the Red course is rated Florida’s best public course.
The stretch of beach from Daytona to Jacksonville on the north-east coast boasts numerous golf resorts with great access to the Atlantic Ocean, including Amelia Island. For a more relaxing Florida experience, the Tampa and Naples coastal areas are emerging golf destinations. GolfAdvisor recently included the Nicklaus Old Corkscrew golf course in Naples in its Top 10 – and the Tiburon Gold Course is the most famous in that area as it hosts the Greg Norman Shark Shootout and the LPGA CME Global Trophy.
Yes, for golfers, Florida is certainly worth the journey from Australia and New Zealand.
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