JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The First Coast of Florida, or Jacksonville area, offers dozens of public golf choices, great weather and terrific dining at an array of price points. It's easy to get to with plenty of other activities, such as fishing and hanging out at the beach, to complement the golf experience.
Here are 10 reasons to plan a golf vacation in the Jacksonville area:
1. World Golf Hall of Fame
Located in St. Augustine at the World Golf Village, a trip to the World Golf Hall of Fame, especially for first-timers, can't be overrated. There's so much to do and see at this huge facility. Not only are there the stories and exhibits from the 136 inductees, but the Hall of Fame also tells the story of golf, in exacting detail, from its beginnings to the modern game. There are interactive exhibits, like a putting green where you can use an old hickory putter, or the facsimile of the 17th at Sawgrass outside, where you can take your shot at an island green. And around the Hall of Fame is the World Golf Village and Renaissance Hotel, a perfect location for a stay-and-play, hall-of-fame weekend.
2. TPC Sawgrass
The Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass is considered the fifth major, making Ponte Vedra Beach the place to be in May. But it's also a great destination the rest of the year, not only because of Pete Dye's classic modern classic Players Stadium Course, but also because of the imposing 77,000-square-foot Mediterranean clubhouse. Inside is a virtual museum dedicated to the Players Championship as well as the PGA Tour and the game of golf itself. There are large mural paintings depicting the great moments of the Players, artifacts and clubs used over the years and a terrific bar and restaurant that are worth going to even if you don't play one of the courses there.
3. Great golf academies
The Jacksonville area is loaded with golf academies and schools designed to help players of all levels. From the 2,800-square-foot Tour Academy TPC Sawgrass to the PGA Tour Academy at the World Golf Village, golfers can take advantage of the best instructors and latest computer and video technology to break down and improve their golf games. Other popular schools include the Golf Made Simple training facilities at The Golf Club at North Hampton in Amelia Island and The Golf Club at South Hampton in St. Augustine.
4. Spectacular spas
When you've had enough golf, there are several great spas to visit to help you work out the kinks on your swing. Resorts like the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, Omni Amelia Island Plantation, Laterra Resort and One Ocean Resort as well as Sawgrass Marriott and World Golf Village offer a full array of spa treatments and relaxation.
5. Wide range of accommodations
Everything from the Hampton Inn to high-end golf resorts like the Renaissance at World Golf Village, Sawgrass Marriott and Ponte Vedra Inn are at your disposal in the Jacksonville area. They range from economy to Five Diamond luxury, satisfying every price point and need. And many of them, like the Sawgrass Marriott, have their own beach access.
6. Golf courses by the sea
If you've dreamed of playing seaside golf -- and not paying a fortune -- than the Jacksonville area and Nassau County and Amelia Island are great destinations. You have your choice of courses with the beach as a backdrop, such as Omni Amelia Island Plantation (Ocean Links Course), Hammock Beach Resort, Ponte Vedra Inn & Club and Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course.
7. Mayport Shrimp and offshore fishing
North Florida is the home of the modern shrimping industry (Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island), and you can eat this stuff to your heart's content -- boiled, sauteed, fried -- it doesn't get any better. Nothing makes a golf game better than some Mayport Shrimp after your round. And if you get tired of playing golf, charter a fishing boat for a little offshore action. It's an experience you won't soon forget and more affordable than you think.
8. Fall football and golf
In the fall you can combine love of football (Jacksonville Jaguars) with love of golf and the weather is generally perfect. If you're an NFL fan, Jacksonville is home to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and there are plenty of college programs within easy driving distance. Better than that, though, you can play golf and take in football at a great 19th hole.
9. Historic St. Augustine
Florida's First Coast of Golf encompasses the oldest city in the U.S. (St. Augustine) and the only piece of land in the U.S. to have been under eight flags of domination (Amelia Island). This is where Ponce de Leon was said to discover the fountain of youth, if you believe in that sort of stuff, and where Ponce de Leon's World Famous Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine commemorates the discovery of Florida in 1513.
10. Mild weather, ocean breezes, easy access
Jacksonville's subtropical climate means it doesn't get too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter. The ocean breezes usually keep the temperatures down into the low 90s, even in the heart of summer, and it doesn't get any better than spring and fall in the Jacksonville area, when temperatures top out in the upper 70s to mid-80s. There are also lots of flights to the Jacksonville area, and it's not far from Orlando either, if you'd like to pair your golf vacation with a trip to the theme parks like Disney World or Universal Studios. Located on the East Coast right off of Interstate 95, everything is relatively easy to get to, with plenty of choices for dining and other recreational activities.