More Ways to Fore in Central Florida

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Golf's a classic in Florida's Polk County.

Florida's greens are greener, no question about it. Though South Florida has more than its fair share of courses, golfers will find plenty of great places to play – sometimes for lower fees – in central Florida, where rolling hills, narrow fairways and sandy bunkers challenge even the most experienced golfers.

Southern Dunes Golf & Country Club helped put Haines City on the map. Or, more accurately, golf architect Steve Smyers helped put it on the map when he created the 7,200-yard hillside layout (with 100 feet of elevation changes) in 1993. Golf Digest has given Southern Dunes a 4½-star rating and numerous accolades since, including ranking it in the "Top 100 Modern Courses in America" and "America's Best Top 40 Daily Fee Courses." Five sets of tees make this public course accessible to all skill levels, but many challenges await – in the form of 183 bunkers. (Watch out for holes six and 16.) If you don't think your skills are quite up to par, take a few lessons at the onsite Kevin Woodard Golf Academy before you tee off. You'll be glad you did.

An oldie but a goodie, Bartow Golf Course is a traditional-style course built in the 1920s. Designed by famed architect Donald Ross, the well-maintained public course is popular with locals due to its knowledgeable staff and affordable rates. But don't think about letting your guard down here – Ross had a few tricks up his sleeve when he laid out the course, making for a challenging round.

Designer Mike Dasher mixed Carolina-like fairways lined with pines and open, Scottish-style links to create the impressive course at Highlands Reserve Golf Club in Davenport. Built less than 10 years ago, the layout's fast greens challenge amateur and pro golfers alike. Golf for Women named the course in its top 50 in 2002.

In Lakeland, the Ron Garl-designed The Club at Eaglebrooke has also received a 4½-star rating and much praise from Golf Digest. This is an extremely challenging semi-private course with water hazards on 14 of the 18 holes.

With Florida's perennial mild, sunny weather, you can take a swing at these courses and more, just about all year 'round.


MORE COURSES

Bramble Ridge (Lakeland): A fun course that's appropriate for golfers of all skill levels. There's a learning center headed by a PGA pro on site. Holes: 27.

Polo Park East (Davenport): A well-maintained, 3,321-yard executive course perfect for a quick round. Holes: 9.


EAT

Peebles Bar-BQ (Auburndale): A local favorite for more than 60 years. Dine on Southern-style barbecue; try to grab a seat on the screened-in porch.

Molly McHugh's Pub (Lakeland): Great place to grab a pint after a round of golf. Traditional Irish fare.

Catfish Country (Bartow): Just like it sounds: fresh fish, casual surroundings. Get there early to avoid the wait. Specials include all-you-can-eat crab legs.

For more information on golfing in Central Florida, visit the Central Florida Visitors & Convention Bureau web site at www.visitcentralflorida.org.

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners

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