By Frank Fenton

Believe it or not, Florida boasts over 1,200 golf courses. With those kinds of choices, where do you start? What do you bring? Where can you play? VISIT FLORIDA’s former Golf Expert, Frank Fenton, offers his advice on golf in Florida.

At the moment of my writing (and according to the National Golf Foundation), there are 1,038 golf facilities in Florida. Since many facilities have more than one golf course, it turns out that this equates to an astonishing 1,191, 18-hole courses.

What does all this mean? It means that, if you’re a golfer, Florida is the place. No other state comes close to the abundance of fine layouts found here. But Florida isn’t just about the world-class tour resorts seen on television. It has plenty of duffer-friendly municipal courses and historic links.

You may even be admitted to some of Florida’s private clubs if you play with a member or if you ask your hometown golf pro to call ahead to arrange a game.

Or, you may want to take advantage of golf privilege cards, which offer special pricing on many courses and often include access to private clubs.

What kind of layout do you like? Florida has one to match every golf personality. The state offers the gorgeous palm-tree-lined-with-sparkling-lakes course that you remember as the standard.

But you might be surprised to see a fair number of oak- and pine-filled parkland tracks, as well as Scottish links-style courses that allow bump and run shots. How about Carolina-variety sand hills or New Jersey-style pine barrens? Yep, Florida’s got them. And majestic ocean and bay views? Of course!

Most courses open to the public encourage calling ahead to book your preferred tee time, allowing
you to plan other activities during your vacation. Resorts are almost always associated with some of the top layouts in their area, so if you are staying at a resort, be sure to ask which courses you’ll have access to. You may be welcome at some local private clubs using the resort connection. Some resorts and hotels actually have a “golf concierge,” so ask. If there is one where you are staying, be sure to find this person and become his or her new best friend.

If you’re like me, you’ll want to bring your own equipment when you travel. Be sure to bring your favorite “go to” set of clubs so you can concentrate on your golf quest and not be fussing with untested clubs that may mar your experience.

Also bring a comfortable pair of shoes and a good, roomy, water- and windproof jacket that will be appreciated on a cool day or if you encounter a brief shower. Add a dozen balls, a couple of gloves, some tees, a towel and, of course, don’t forget the sunblock. Pack everything well in a strong, padded travel cover with wheels, and your cherished equipment will arrive here in fine shape.

If you prefer to travel light, or decide to play a few rounds of golf on a whim, you’ll be happy to know that most facilities rent excellent, pro-line quality golf clubs. You may even be able to closely match the set you left at home.

Florida has three levels of courses: tough, legendary PGA Tour caliber tracks; challenging courses; and layouts so easy it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The vast majority are in the “challenging” category, but you’ll need to select the one that best fits your level of golfing prowess.

If you do go for the famous tracks, you should play from the set of tees that will allow you to walk away with fond memories of your round, not frustration from a day of torture. The special features that make celebrated courses famous are still in front of you and awaiting your attempt to defy them. If you play from the middle tees, you have a better chance to see what a Tour player is really up against in the heat of a tournament. You’ll play faster, have a more enjoyable experience and not hold up all the other golfers on the course who are attempting to create their own lifelong reminiscences.

Of course, if you are a scratch player and you want the full experience of some of the best and most difficult courses in the world, Florida’s got them here for you.

Go to the back tees and fire away. Just pick the right track, and enjoy your day in the Florida sun.