Florida is the unofficial golf capital of the United States -- some say the world -- and the World Golf Hall of Fame is near St. Augustine. This state-of-the-art museum is worth a visit, even if you're not in love with the game.
One thing is certain: Florida has more golf courses than any other state -- more than 1,150 at last count, and growing. Suffice it to say that you can tee off almost anywhere, anytime there's daylight. The highest concentrations of excellent courses are in Southwest Florida, around Naples and Fort Myers (more than 1,000 holes!); in the Orlando area (Disney alone has 99 holes open to the public); and in the Panhandle, around Destin and Panama City Beach. It's a rare town in Florida that doesn't have a municipal golf course -- even Key West has 18 great holes.
Greens fees are usually much lower at the municipal courses than at privately owned clubs. Whether public or private, greens fees tend to vary greatly, depending on the time of year. You could pay $150 or more at a private course during the high season, but less than half that when the tourists are gone. The fee structures vary so much that it's best to call ahead and ask, and always reserve a tee time as far in advance as possible.
You can learn the game or hone your strokes at one of several excellent golf schools in the state. David Ledbetter has teaching facilities in Orlando and Naples, Fred Griffin is in charge of the Grand Cypress Academy of Golf at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, and you'll find Jimmy Ballard's school at the Ocean Reef Club on Key Largo. The Westin Innisbrook Resort at Tarpon Springs has the academy at Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort, while Amelia Island (near Jacksonville) is home to the Amelia Island Plantation Golf School.
You can get information about most Florida courses, including current greens fees, and reserve tee times through Tee Times USA, P.O. Box 641, Flagler Beach, FL 32136 (tel. 888/GOLF-FLO [465-3356] or 386/439-0001; www.teetimesusa.com), which publishes a vacation guide with many stay-and-play golf packages.
Florida Golf, published by the Florida Sports Foundation, lists every course in Florida. It's the state's official golf guide and is available from Visit Florida (www.visitflorida.com).
Golfer's Guide magazine publishes monthly editions covering most of Florida. It is available free at local visitor centers and hotel lobbies, or you can contact the magazine at 2 Park Lane, Ste. E, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928 (tel. 800/864-6101 or 843/842-7878; fax 843/842-5743; www.golfersguide.com).
Northwest Florida is covered by South Coast Golf Guide, published by Tee and J's Ent., LLC, P.O. Box 11278, Pensacola, FL 32524-1278 (tel. 850/505-7553; fax 850/505-0057; www.southcoastgolfguide.com).
You can also get more information from the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA), 400 Ave. of the Champions, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418 (tel. 800/633-9150;www.pga.com); or from the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), 100 International Golf Dr., Daytona Beach, FL 32124 (tel. 904/254-6200; www.lpga.com).
More than 700 courses are profiled in Florida Golf Guide, by Jimmy Shacky (Open Roads Publishing), available at bookstores for $20.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.