Golf and Fishing in Florida

    By Tim McDonald

    Love to golf, but don't want to miss out on the fishing? Participate in both sports in Jacksonville and Punta Gorda.

    If you dragged the typical golfer off the course and told him he must pursue a different passion, he'd probably swing by the house for his fishing rod. Many golfers love to fish and vice versa.

    In Florida, golf and fishing are never far away from each other, since the state is chock-full of both golf courses and nearby fishing holes in the form of lakes, ponds, rivers, oceans and gulfs.

    But, some places are better than others, and here we bring you the top two in the state.

    Punta Gorda

    The Punta Gorda area is anchored by Charlotte Harbor, which empties into the salty Gulf of Mexico after absorbing freshwater from the Peace and Myakka rivers, so you have two excellent sources for both fresh and saltwater fishing.

    The fishing areas include 219 miles of shoreline, barrier islands and mangrove forests. Anglers can rent charters here, fish from their own boats or simply or throw in a line from the shore.

    As for golf, Punta Gorda is just as impressive. Golf Digest recently ranked the area as the third-best metro area in the U.S. for golfers. Try any or all of these courses.

    • Gene Bates designed the challenging layout of the Riverwood Golf Club, generally considered the best course in the area.
    • If you're looking for a short, very playable outing, the St. Andrews South Golf Club fits that bill.
    • Women generally enjoy playing the Lemon Bay Golf Club because of its lack of forced carries, as well as the good service and conditioning.
    • Long Marsh Golf Club has length, at 7,120 yards from the back tees, but there are no hidden hazards or blind shots, only fun and challenging risk/reward shots over water.
    • Like the challenge of driving par-4s? Rotonda Palms has a number of them.

    Even though the Jacksonville area is on the other side of the state from Punta Gorda and much farther north, the two areas have many similarities.

    Jacksonville also has an abundance of places that offer freshwater and saltwater fishing, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the brawny St. Johns River flowing inland from the ocean.

    In fact, anglers have around 68 miles of ocean coastline and 400 miles of river to fish in. That's not even counting the bountiful Intracoastal Waterway. Golf in the Jacksonville area varies as much as the fishing. Here are some courses that are close to the fishing holes.

    • If you're looking for an underrated little gem, Windy Harbor lies along the St. Johns River in the little fishing village of Mayport.
    • You've probably heard of the TPC Sawgrass. But, did you know stocked fish swim in the lake on the Valley course? You'll also find the fertile fishing grounds of St. Johns County nearby.
    • If you're looking for a great course with some of the most reasonable green fees around, try the Golf Club of North Hampton, a little north of Jacksonville. There are 10 spring-fed lakes scattered around the course.
    • Ocean Hammock Golf Club at Palm Coast, south of Jacksonville, provides some of the most spectacular ocean scenery in the state and rivals other big-name ocean courses across the country.
    • For more cool, ocean breezes, try the beautifully maintained Ocean Course at Ponte Vedra Inn and Club.