Florida is synonymous with golf. It’s the Sunshine State, where fairways roll for miles and there’s always another course to sample – more than 1,250 of them in all.
Want to play where the top PGA pros live? These days, that’s Jupiter on the southeast coast. On vacation with the family? Plenty of tee boxes are available around Orlando and Disney World. Looking for a retirement home where you can tumble out of your own bed and land on a fairway? Naples and its surrounding towns are ground zero for those fortunate transplants. Three top-ranked courses in one comprehensive, golf-focused resort? Streamsong, just southeast of Tampa, ticks that box nicely.
Just about anyone who travels to play Florida golf is at least somewhat familiar with those regions. But what if you’re looking for something different, maybe a coastline where the game is on an uptick? Keep reading, because the region south of Jacksonville has something for any golfer, ranging from elite PGA Tour courses to municipal standouts with long histories and cheap green fees. And it doesn’t hurt at all that this First Coast, as it is called, is the first bit of Florida that anybody driving south on I-95 will reach.
Golf in Northeast Florida roughly can be categorized as three geographic areas along an 80-mile stretch of coast starting at the Georgia state line. There’s the smaller area north of Jacksonville proper, with the resorts at Amelia Island and a handful of courses. Continuing south, there’s Jacksonville itself, the largest city in Florida by population and the largest in the contiguous United States as measured by land mass. And then there’s south of Jacksonville all the way down toward Daytona Beach, a stretch that includes Ponte Vedra Beach, home to the PGA Tour.
Northeast Florida’s top-rated courses in the Golfweek’s Best public-access rankings are found in this stretch south of Jacksonville, so this story takes us to this region dotted with beach resorts, high-end gated communities, daily-fee destinations and even a recently revamped municipal that shouldn’t be missed. The full scope of green fees and amenities to suit any budget. Oceanside holes. Inland holes. Old layouts and renovated tracks. Even one course with three, six, 12 or even 18 holes, depending on how you want to play it. Options abound.
Mention the region and most golfers flash right to TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. Completely understandable. The Players Stadium Course – and, of course, its famed par-3, island-green 17th – hosts the PGA Tour’s Players Championship each year. It’s the top-ranked public-access layout in Florida, home to one of Pete Dye’s monsters.
But just as there is more than one island green along this stretch of coast, there is much more to the region.
“People are always aware of TPC Stadium and the Players, but they are often surprised by everything else,” said David Reese, president of Florida’s First Coast of Golf, a non-profit organization established nearly 30 years ago to promote the region. “Once people set foot in northeast Florida, they are blown away. … You’ve got the beaches, of course, but there’s a lot more to do. I could go on for hours, so many courses.”