Destin and Panama City Beach – A Golfer’s Paradise

Northwest Florida is home to several championship golf courses where visitors to the region can play golf at some of the top golf resorts in the state.

The best kept secret in Northwest Florida just may be its championship golf courses. Many visitors who come to area beaches for the sand, surf, and sun often don’t realize that steps away from their beach blankets are some of the best golf clubs and golf resorts in the state. From Destin to Panama City Beach and the Beaches of South Walton, golf is hot.

In all, there are over 40 golf courses with varying degrees of difficulty, so both beginners and low handicappers can find a course to suit their game. Golf Digest and Golf magazine have described several Northwest Florida golf courses as being among the “best in the U.S.” The region’s many bayous, creeks, freshwater rivers, and wetlands areas come into play on nearly every course.

Destin Golf Resorts

Kelly Plantation Golf Club – 4393 Commons Drive, 800-811-6757 FREE, (kellyplantation.com). This 18-hole, par 72 Fred Couples Signature Golf Course in the heart of Destin fronts the Choctawhatchee Bay, and although it plays over 7,000 yards from the back tees, the course is appropriate for both beginners and scratch golfers.

Regatta Bay Golf & Country Club – 300 Regatta Bay Blvd., 850-337-8080, (regattabay.com). Named by Golf Digest as one of the “Top Places to Play in North America” and one of the “Top 15” courses in Florida, this 18-hole, par 72 Robert C. Walker-designed course plays 6,894 yards through nearly 148 acres of Audubon-registered protected woodlands and lakes.

Emerald Bay Golf Club – 4781 Clubhouse Drive, 850-837-5197, (emeraldbaygolfclub.com). Golfweek calls Emerald Bay one of the “50 Most Distinctive Development Courses in the Southeast.” This 6,825-yard, par 72 layout offers multiple water features and garden views.

Panama City Beach Public Golf Courses

Holiday Golf Club (850) 234-1800, (holidaygolfclub.com). This 18-hole, par 72 championship course plays 6,700 yards from the back tees and features smooth, fast greens and broad lake-lined fairways. The club also features the only “lighted” 9-hole, par 3 golf course in Panama City Beach.

Hombre Golf Club (850) 234-3673, (hombregolfclub.com). “The Good,” “The Bad,” and “The Ugly” await golfers at Hombre Golf Club, as does the Academy at Hombre Golf Club offering two, three and five day golf schools under the direction of Adam Brack. With 27 holes meticulously manicured to PGA specifications, the club also hosts the second stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying School and has earned a reputation for intimidation.

Bay Point Marriott Resort (850) 235-6950, (marriottbaypoint.com). Two championship courses – the Nicklaus Course (the only Nicklaus-designed course in Northwest Florida) and Meadows Course – each 18 holes and par 72, await the discriminating golfer at Bay Point Marriott Resort. The Nicklaus Course plays 7,100 yards from the back tees and has a signature island lagoon hole (#5) and water features throughout the course. The Meadows layout plays 6,913 from the back tees and is designed for repeat play.

Beaches of South Walton Golf Clubs

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort (800) 622-0989 FREE, Miramar Beach, (golfsandestin2day.com). Offering four world-class, championship golf courses (Baytowne Golf Club, Raven Golf Club, Burnt Pine Golf Club and the Links Course) totaling 73 holes, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort features course designs by Rees Jones, Robert Trent Jones and Tom Jackson. Each distinctive course offers unique challenges to players of all levels and makes dramatic use of the surrounding environment, from wetlands to marshes and beach to bay.

Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club (850) 267-2229, Santa Rosa Beach, (santarosaclub.com). This compact 18-hole, par 72 Tom Jackson-design course offers a 6,500-yard layout that deceptively plays like 6,800, and players often get side tracked by views of the Gulf of Mexico. The Club is the home of the Dewsweepers, the number one syndicated golf instruction show, and the Hank Johnson School of Golf, under the direction of Tony Ruggiero, named by Golf Digest as one of the top three golf schools for families.

Camp Creek Golf Course (850) 231-7600, WaterSound, (campcreekgolfclub.com). This 18-hole, par 72 Tom Fazio course was designed to blend seamlessly with the natural surroundings. The course measures 7,151 yards and features magnificent wetlands, woodlands, lakes, sand dunes and rolling contours.

Visitors looking to play golf in Northwest Florida have a variety of both private and public golf courses to choose from and the list keeps growing. The development of a new Northwest Florida Golf Trail promises to help establish the region as a golf destination. For more golf course information see the golf pages of VisitFlorida.