These Florida golf resorts promise great family amenities that will keep the whole gang smiling.
By James Y. Bartlett
Experts tell us that guilt is a useless emotion. Try telling that to your carful of kids when, after getting them all excited about VACATION, you inform them: "Sorry, gang, but Mom and I are leaving you to play on this course we've been dreaming of all year."
Instant guilt from the crestfallen looks on their parentally deprived faces.
Which is why most golf resorts have installed dawn-to-dusk children's programs. Banishing golf guilt may not be the prime reason, but certainly everyone can agree that an active resort day results in satisfied customers' of all ages.
These days, resorts operate far more sophisticated programs for kids than putting them in a room to watch videos all day. In Florida, kids from grade school on up are more likely to be taken on an environmental walk through the ecosystems that surround the resort and golf courses. Other programs feature cooking classes, beach combing, sports instruction (so today's kids can take their kids to golf resorts!) and fishing expeditions.
There's nothing better for the banishment of golf guilt than returning after a day on the links to find happy, healthy and slightly tired kids.
Here are a handful of Florida golf resorts that offer plenty of family activities and programs.
Most people think Loch Ness is in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, not far from St. Andrews or Royal Dornoch. But at Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort, Loch Ness is in sunny Florida and it's the main draw for kids at this serious golf destination.
Although the resort has six swimming pools scattered over its 1,100 acres, kids gravitate to Loch Ness, with its 15-foot waterfall, two winding water slides, two sandy beach areas and a bubbling jet fountain area.
If all that wet and wonderful stuff isn't enough, the resort's Camp Innisbrook offers all kinds of year-round programs designed to keep kids ages 5-12 entertained. The camp's trained counselors offer nature hikes, golf and tennis lessons, arts and crafts, bike expeditions and more.
Grownups might be tempted to skip golf and play with the kids, but that would be a serious mistake. Innisbrook's Copperhead course is rated one of the toughest in Florida, and has hosted numerous professional tournaments. With rolling terrain, plenty of water hazards and fast-running greens, it's a gem of a course that every Florida golfer ought to try at least once.
The resort's Island course is a favorite with those who return to Innisbrook year after year. While not quite as daunting as Copperhead, these fairways wind through forests and over numerous lakes, but always provide a place to bail out. There are two other fine courses for resort guests, as well as the renowned Innisbrook Golf Institute, which has been fixing broken swings for decades.
From the casual Market Salamander Grille to the more refined Packard’s Steakhouse, families love the dining options on the resort property.
Located on the shore of St. Andrews Bay, not far from sparkling Gulf beaches, this friendly family resort offers something for everyone.
For golfers, Sheraton Panama City Beach Golf & Spa Resort is home to two of the most spectacular 18-hole courses along northwest Florida's Emerald Coast. The Meadows Course continues to be a popular choice with its country club style. The Nicklaus course is the only Nicklaus Design Course in northwest Florida. Among the 36 unique and challenging holes, these top-notch Panama City Beach golf courses offer an extensive practice area, consisting of a manicured putting greens and driving range.
Sheraton Panama City Beach Golf & Spa Resort strives to provide everyone in the family, especially the little ones, with something fun to do during your stay. Kid’s Club has exciting activities for children between the ages of five to 12 years old from arts and crafts to scavenger hunts around the resort to days filled with playful splashing in the pool.
From exhilarating speeds on wave runners to swimming with dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico, this resort offers exciting thrills and recreational activities to suit any taste.
It's hard - if not impossible - for anyone to be bored at Walt Disney World. Between the theme parks, the shopping and the nightlife, there is something for everyone at virtually every turn.
And that includes golf. The Disney complex offers four courses and annually hosts a PGA Tour event. The original three courses, the Palm, the Magnolia and the Buena Vista, offer stereotypical Florida golf: the terrain is mostly flat, but the wetlands intercede at almost every turn, along with bunkers galore, plenty of water hazards and rolling putting greens. Buena Vista most notably features bunkered greens that call for accurate approach shots. Palm is one of Disney’s toughest courses with many treeline fairways, elevated greens and tees, nine water holes and 94 bunkers. Here's more about Disney's courses.
Magnolia is the longest of Disney’s courses with wide fairways. Eleven of the 18 holes boast water, there are 97 bunkers, elevated tees and greens and rolling terrains. It is named for the abundant fragrant blossoming magnolia trees that dot its landscape.
Oak Trails has excellent small greens, making it fun for the entire family or for getting in a quick nine.
To help Mom and Dad sneak off for a round, all Disney hotels offer supervised children's programs filled with activities, games, arts and crafts. At the Swan and Dolphin hotels, for instance, Camp Swan and Camp Dolphin will entertain kids from three to 12 years, and even give them dinner if the parents desire.