Golf Courses with Attitude

Looking for trouble? Let these Sunshine State beasts challenge your game.

Some people are at their best in tough situations. There are legions of golfers, for example, who play their best on the most difficult courses, possibly because it forces them to focus more intently.

Those golfers love a course that frightens and challenges them and threatens to whip them if they don’t fight back. Florida has some of the most challenging courses in the country. When you tame these beasts, you can say you’ve done something special. Are you up for it?

So here they are, Florida’s most challenging golf courses:

The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach is hard even for the pros. You see them every year, scratching their heads and taking their licks at the home of THE PLAYERS Championship. From the back tees, where the pros play, the slope rating is 155, the highest the USGA allows. Even from the blue tees, it’s rated a whopping 146. Hardest course in the state.

The Conservatory is the newer course at the Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast. It’s 7,776 yards long from the back tees, the longest in Florida, and also carries a scary 155 slope rating. It has 76 acres of man-made lakes, rippling fairways, deep greenside bunkers and dramatically undulating greens.

The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton is so scenic it will almost ease your pain if you’re struggling. Course builders trucked in northern Ohio sand for the bunkers — I guess our Florida sand is too easy — that’s how serious they are about making this course challenging. It also has a 155 slope rating and is 7,470 yards from the pro tees.

The Champion Course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens is more than 7,000 yards from the back tees and designed for major tournament play. Though the fairways are wide, obstacles lurk all over the place: devilishly placed bunkers, wind and water everywhere. You won’t forget the closing holes, nicknamed the “Bear Trap” after designer Jack Nicklaus.

Beware of The Jim McLean Signature Course at Doral Golf Resort & Spa. So you’re surprised the more famous TPC Blue Monster isn’t the hardest course at Doral? I was, too, until I played the McLean course. It has an ornery slope rating of 153 and features the “Bermuda Triangle,” holes 13 to 15. The opening holes will also jump up and bite you.

Crandon Golf on Key Biscayne is another of those courses that will lull you with beautiful scenery. Still, it’s more than 7,300 yards long with challenging mangrove thickets, tough bunkers, saltwater lakes and even a subtropical lagoon.

ChampionsGate International in Orlando is modeled after the links courses of the British Isles, with water added. At 7,363 yards long, it features hard, fast playing surfaces and 160 pot bunkers set at random throughout the routing. And, if you mishit a shot, you could land in the thick grass that sprouts up along the wind-swept dunes down to the fairways. Watch out for fast, true greens with a variety of chipping areas.

The Nicklaus Course at the Wyndham Bay Point Resort in Panama City Beach was formerly known as Lagoon Legends – one of the toughest and most challenging courses in America. The course was redesigned and renovated from 2004-2005 and re-opened under it’s new name, the Nicklaus Course at Bay Point in 2005, to rave reviews and was named by Travel & Leisure Golf as one of the most worthy redesigns and notable debuts in Florida. It’s still hard, though much more fair than it used to be. Wait until you get to No. 17, a 234-yard par-3 over water.

If You Go:

Stadium Course, TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach

Conservatory Course, Hammock Beach Resort,Palm Coast

The Concession Golf Club, Bradenton

Champion Course, PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens

Jim McLean Signature Course, Doral Golf Resort & Spa, Miami

Crandon Golf, Key Biscayne

International Course, ChampionsGate Golf Club, Orlando

Nicklaus Course, Wyndham Bay Point Resort, Panama City Beach

If you're looking for nearby courses to help soothe your wounds from the beasts above, check out Florida's Top 10 Scenic Courses:

  1. The Ocean Course, Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast
  2. Golf Club of Amelia Island
  3. Lost Key Golf Club on Perdido Key
  4. Regatta Bay in Destin
  5. The Links Course, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort   
  6. The Island Course, Innisbrook, Palm Harbor
  7. Hawk’s Landing, Orlando World Center Marriott Resort
  8. Crandon Golf Club on Key Biscayne
  9. The Great White Course, Doral Golf Resort & Spa, Miami
  10. Diplomat Country Club, Hallandale Beach

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