Flying? Don’t forget your driver.

There are a lot of reasons to come to Florida, but for a golfer, there is one reason that stands out above all others. Florida is America’s golf capital. There are over a dozen challenging courses within a short drive of the Northwest Florida Regional Airport. The number grows exponentially, depending on how far you’re willing to drive for a round. So, if you’re planning a golf getaway on Florida’s Emerald Coast, here’s a short rundown of some of the great courses that you can find near VPS.

Kelly Plantation This 18 hole, par 72 course spans 7099 yards and was designed by Fred Couples. The 200 plus acre course boasts some of the most challenging golf to be found, anywhere. It was rated among the top 5% of golf courses in North America by Golf Digest.

Emerald Coast Golf Trail This trail, including Scenic Hills Country Club in Pensacola, Tiger Point Golf Club in Ft. Walton Beach, Hidden Creek in Navarre, and Shalimar Pointe Golf Club in Ft. Walton Beach covers an area attainable by a range of 20 to 50 minute drives from the airport. You can get breakfast, lunch, or dinner and spend some time at the full bar while playing Scenic Hills, Tiger Point and Hidden Creek. If you’re playing Shalimar Pointe, breakfast, lunch and a full bar are available.

Regatta Bay Golf CourseNestled among breathtaking nature preserves along the Choctawhatchee Bay, Regatta Bay Golf and Country Club is a true escape into golfer’s paradise. Designed by acclaimed course designer and former lead architect for Arnold Palmer, Robert C. Walker, this 6,894-yard, par-72 course offers an extraordinary golf experience for players of all skill levels and was named one of Golf Digest’s “Top Places to Play in North America.” Regatta Bay offers a host of luxurious amenities.

Santa Rosa Golf and Beach ClubThis course, nestled along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, offers as much luxury as it does quality golf. Spend time on the course, in the pool or hot tub, beneath a beach cabana, or on the tennis court. Milligan’s Grill and The Beach Club offer a variety of coastal seafood. The course was called “The Purest Golf on the Panhandle” by Golf Magazine.

Seascape and Emerald Bay Golf Course The Seascape Resort has been called Destin’s best golf value. Eighteen challenging fairways and immaculate greens make this a local favorite. The course winds through the property and along the banks of several serene lakes. The Emerald Bay, just two miles west of Seascape, is the course for you if you’re looking for a more sophisticated atmosphere. There is an eight bedroom guesthouse available for visitors to this natural course. Its design was created to emphasize the beauty of the Choctawahachee Bay and adjacent wooded areas.

The Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
The Raven – This 6900 yard course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., was carved out of the marshes and wetlands of Florida. Jones called it “a true, modern traditional” course. Color, texture, and challenge combined with the Raven’s nationally recognized guest services make it a gem, or emerald, among courses.

Burnt Pine – Rees Jones designed this 7000 yard wonder. Long, rolling fairways and strategically placed bunkers make this course a challenge for the lowest handicapped player. Like the Raven, Burnt Pine offers views of the Choctawhachee Bay along the back nine. This is the only place in the world where golfers can play a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course in the morning and a Rees Jones course in the afternoon.

Baytowne Golf Club – This course offers a blend of opportunities to rip loose with the driver and places to subtly craft approach shots. The front nine borders the Choctawhachee Bay and the back nine offers views of the Gulf of Mexico. Designer, Tom Jackson, called every hole at Baytowne a favorite “because each one has a personality all its own.”

The Links Golf Course – The ultimate in risk-reward golf with stunning and awe inspiring views of the Emerald Coast. Like Baytowne, this course was designed by Tom Jackson and remains among the most challenging and rewarding courses in Florida. The winding fairways line the Choctawhachee Bay and rest against the Baytowne Marina.

So, there you have it. We’d say that it’s just about time to have a little golf vacation. Click. Pack. Fly. Golf.

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