The sound of engines roaring around the Daytona International Speedway has long been the sports calling card for the Daytona Beach area. But more common here, though less dramatic, is the sound of golf carts motoring along the fairways. This is a destination for more than just race fans.
The Daytona 500 kicks off the NASCAR season with a bang in February, and the Atlantic Ocean's wide, sandy beaches are alluring year 'round, but the area's golf courses are an increasingly big draw for visitors, too. In fact, some of those same race car drivers can be seen behind the wheel of one of those golf carts – chasing the little white ball has become their passion as well.
The area's golf growth has been aided in no small part by the relocation in the early 1990s of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) International, the governing body for one of the country's most successful women's sports organizations. The LPGA has more than 30 professional tournaments under its umbrella and two golf courses at its Daytona Beach headquarters, where the annual LPGA Tour's Qualifying Tournament is played each December. LPGA International also features the LPGA Golf Academy, including three championship practice holes, five putting greens and a 360-yard double-ended driving range.
While future LPGA stars come to Daytona Beach each winter to try and qualify for the tour, the game's best amateur women players have been making a habit of visiting the area for decades. Daytona Beach has long hosted the South Atlantic Amateur Championship (known as the SALLY). The tournament dates to 1926. In 2007, the area also hosted the NCAA Division I Women's National Championship.
Golf Daytona Beach
The rise in golf action has only created more opportunities to play. An organization called Golf Daytona Beach actually came into being to help golfers plan their trips – they offer discounted vacation packages, tee times and room rates. Visitors can take advantage of this golf marketing program to help plan their ideal golf getaways – you can mix and match various golf courses and hotels and save some money in the process.
The program offers a selection of 17 golf courses covering the entire region and featuring a wide array of challenging layouts. Ten of the courses are located in the greater Daytona Beach area, including the two signatures courses at LPGA headquarters. The Legends and Champions courses at LPGA International offer the perfect opportunity for a day-long, 36-hole outing. (This is the home of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament and the former home of the LPGA's Titleholders Championship.)
The Rees Jones-designed Champions course opened in 1994 and marked the first time that a golf course was designed specifically for women professional golfers.
Beyond Daytona Beach
If you're looking to play 36 holes on another day, head up to Palm Coast from Daytona Beach and sample the layouts at the Cypress and Pine courses located at The Grand Club. Golf legends Gary Player and Arnold Palmer were involved in the designs, with Player handling the Cypress course and Palmer the Pine course.
A few miles west of Daytona Beach is a town called DeLand and one of the area's newest and most talked-about courses, Victoria Hills Golf Club. Designed by Ron Garl, the course boasts 80-foot elevation changes, unique to the area. The course is walker-friendly, framed by tall pines and oaks. Golf Magazine rated the course among its "top 10 you can play."
Among the other area courses worth considering are DeBary Golf & Country Club, Halifax Plantation Golf Club and Hidden Lakes Golf Club in New Smyrna Beach.
Of course, no golf trip would be complete without a comfortable place to rest and recharge. Fourteen area hotels participate in the Golf Daytona Beach program, giving visitors a wide choice of accommodations, from small motels to national chains and resorts.
To plan your own golf getaway to the Daytona Beach area, call Golf Daytona Beach at 800-981-5475 , call 800-981-5475 or visit daytonabeach.golf.