St. Augustine might be known for its history, but it has also made a name for itself in the golf world. St. Augustine is home to the World Golf Hall of Fame, a major attraction with golf courses, a resort, an interactive museum and an IMAX theater. Just north of St. Augustine is the quiet beach community of Ponte Vedra, also known for outstanding golf with courses like the iconic TPC Sawgrass, home of The Players Championship. So whether you're a serious golf buff or a beginner looking for a fun and scenic course, be sure to carve out a little time for the game. Here are six of our top picks:
1. Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass
The ultimate destination for golfers in Northeast Florida is The Players Club (TPC) and Clubhouse at Ponte Vedra Beach. It's home to THE PLAYERS Championship often referred to as "golf's fifth major." The clubhouse is also a tourist magnet (no fee), with volunteer storytellers in the lobby and escorted golf cart rides to the TPC final three holes, including the famous 17th-island hole considered the world's "most photographed hole in golf."
If money is no object, and especially if you've never played there before, attempt to get a tee time at the semi-private Players Stadium Course. It's a true test for serious golfers and should be on any duffer's bucket list. You'll tell tales about the wicked par three island-green for years.
The famous course is 6875 yards and was designed by acclaimed golf course architect Pete Dye. When it opened in 1980, it quickly became ranked as one of America's top 10 resort courses by Golf Digest magazine. Golf enthusiasts find Northeast Florida's preferred lodging location at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa. Those who stay at the Sawgrass Marriott may choose rounds from six more golf courses.
2. Ponte Vedra Inn & Club
The nearby and stately Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, a five-diamond facility, offers two, guest-only, 18-hole courses teeming with coastal wildlife. The Ocean Course, created in 1932 by famed English golf architect, Herbert Strong, runs 6781 yards. It was later redesigned by legendary Robert Trent Jones, and recently by former PGA Tour architect Bobby Weed. The newer Lagoon course is 5574 yards and was designed by Joe Lee.
3. World Golf Hall of Fame
The World Golf Hall of Fame, situated within the World Golf Village and St. Augustine's suburbs, makes an interesting and informative stop for golf aficionados and non-golfers. The attraction evolved as a result of collaborative efforts between international golf organizations interested in preserving the sport's history and legends. Check out the locker room area where each inductee chooses his or her mementos to represent their individual story. You'll also find a family-friendly, 18-hole outdoor natural-grass putting green. Don't miss the fun memorabilia, food and drink at the Murray Brothers Caddyshack Restaurant at World Golf Village.
4. Renaissance World Golf Village Resort
The Renaissance World Golf Village Resort claims not one, but two golf 18-hole championship courses. The King & Bear Course was co-designed by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. The front nine features loblolly pines and open meadows while 200-year-old live oaks shade the back nine. The Slammer & Squire championship course was designed by Bobby Weed with player consultants Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen. You'll discover five sets of tees to accommodate players of any ability level. These courses are often discounted during the offseason (summer, early fall).
5. St. Johns Golf and Country Club
The St. Johns Golf and Country Club is located between St. Augustine and Jacksonville. The 18-hole Clyde Johnston-designed course presents challenges for novice and avid golfers. Depending on wind conditions, the course can be gentle or a terribly tough. Tee off from five sets of starting positions that vary the length of the course from 7,250 yards down to 2,400 yards. The club has a learning and practice facility that includes a 10,000-square-foot putting green, a separate chipping green, a double-sided driving range, and practice bunkers.
6. Palencia Club
You could also try the private and unique Palencia Club along the Intercoastal Waterway in St. Johns County, bookable through Florida's First Coast of Golf (www.florida-golf.org). The authentic Florida layout has been designated an Audubon Sanctuary. Designed by Arthur Hills, the scenic course features centuries-old oak trees, marshes, wetlands and the Tolomato River.