From old familiar places such as Palm Beach and Miami to new boomtowns like Naples and Fort Myers, everywhere you look Florida is becoming one giant fairway. New courses and residential golf communities continue to spring up in the southeastern and southwestern parts of the state, around Orlando, and near Tampa/St. Petersburg. The reasons behind the growth are no secret. The warm climate, especially in the south, and the low cost of living, especially in the north, have made the state a desirable destination ever since Henry Flagler built his Florida railroad 100 years ago.
Florida is consistently strong across most categories of our research, providing a well-balanced living environment and top-notch, abundant golf.
In the southeast, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach have sprawled together to create one giant megacity, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the fringe of the Everglades. The rapid growth has made the region a hotbed for golf, including the Hobe Sound area, where pro golfers Greg Norman and Nick Price live, to newly developed towns such as Weston on the western edge of Fort Lauderdale.
Orlando has had similar growth and has become the unofficial epicenter for professional golf. Dozens of tour pros live there, including Tiger Woods. And while Tampa/St. Pete's devotion to the game hasn't kept pace with Orlando's, its access to the tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico makes it a paradise for many outdoor activities.
Fort Myers and Naples can lay claim to being the fastest-growing golfing turf in the U.S. With more than 130 courses in a 60-mile stretch along Interstate 75, according to the National Golf Foundation, the region already has more golf holes per capita than anywhere else in the country.
SHORE THING. Casinos, waterfront property, great golf--not a bad combination. But there's an added bonus to living between Pensacola on the Florida Panhandle and the hopping casino town of Biloxi, Miss. You'll find some of the world's best beaches along this stretch of the shoreline.
The white-powder sand looks as if it belongs in a sugar bowl, and the warm, shallow, aquamarine water is as inviting as a strawberry daiquiri on a hot summer day. The golf here varies from pine-tree-lined, traditional American courses, to windswept, links-style designs. And with the exception of a few cold days in the dead of winter, golf is a year-round pleasure.
NATURE PRESERVE. The barrier islands along the Atlantic Ocean near the Florida-Georgia border have preserved their quaint, getaway feel.
The warm, breezy weather makes Amelia Island, Sea Island, and Jekyll Island ideal for coastal courses. The fairways and greens have been routed through marshlands and tall pines, making an 18-hole round here feel like a walk through a nature preserve. Throw in the Southern hospitality offered by locals, and it's easy to fall in love with the simplicity of life in this area equidistant from Jacksonville, Fla., and Savannah, Ga.