Golfer's guide to college football's bowl season in Florida
- Brandon Tucker
- Dec 8, 2011 1:19 PM ET
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Put those school mascot head covers on your golf clubs. It's time for college football bowl season. The state of Florida features six bowl matchups this year, which is great news for golfers. Whether you find yourself headed to the marquee Orange Bowl in Miami or elsewhere in the state, there are plenty of great golf courses near the gridiron action.
Dec. 20: Florida International vs. Marshall: Beef O' Brady Bowl, St. Petersburg
If you're headed to Tampa/St. Pete's for the Beef O'Brady Bowl, no sense asking "Where's the golf?" There is plenty of it, and no better stay-and-play option than four-course Innisbrook Golf Resort, straight north up the coast from Tropicana Field.
Innisbrook is most famous for the Copperhead Course, host of the PGA Tour's Transitions Championship and one of the most player-respected tests on tour.
Even closer to the stadium is Bardmoor Golf Club, former host to the JCPenney Classic. It was renovated in 2003 by Gary Koch. Seminole Lake Country Club, a traditional private club, also offers affordable "member-for-a-day" green fees.
Dec. 29: Florida State vs. Notre Dame, Champs Sports Bowl, Orlando
Orlando welcomes two storied football programs, 8-4 Florida State and Notre Dame, and both of which probably thought they'd be at least 10-2 this year. Nevertheless, this is one of the season's best non-BCS matchups.
If you're a 'Nole or Fighting Irish, chances are you're a fanatic for tradition. For that, play one of the area's great traditional layouts, Mission Inn Resort's El Campeon Course, located about a half hour's drive northwest of Orlando. Originally built in 1919, dates a decade before Bobby Bowden was born, and has been kept up wonderfully over the years to remain a standout in a crowded golf scene.
Closer to the heart of town, tee it up at Metrowest Golf Club, an affordable Robert Trent Jones Sr. design that has more ups and downs to its tees and greens than Notre Dame's program post Lou Holtz. If your team wins, why not celebrate at Celebration Golf Club, a Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. tandem design just south of town that is a good value and has some fantastic holes.
Jan. 2: Nebraska vs. South Carolina, Capital One Bowl, Orlando
Nebraska represents the Big Ten for the first time in a bowl game, while Steve Spurrier will no doubt be looking to squeeze in as much golf as he can around Orlando between practices.
If you have the kids in tow over holiday break, drop them off at Disney World's theme parks and head to one of the resort's four courses. Each is a little different, from the modern, Tom Fazio-designed Osprey Ridge, to the side-by-side Magnolia Course and Palm Course.
The courses are traditional Joe Lee designs and stalwarts on the PGA Tour schedule for more than 40 years (now host to the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic). If the kids golf, walk nine holes with them at beginner-friendly Oak Trail.
Jan. 2: Ohio State vs. Florida, TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Jacksonville
First Coast golf starts at the TPC Sawgrass. Even if you don't have the cash for the TPC Stadium Course, the Valley Course is another tough Pete Dye design that can challenge the best golfers in the world. Not to be outdone in the resort scene is Amelia Island Plantation and the Ocean Course at the Hammock Beach Resort, both of which feature oceanfront golf courses.
If you're saving the big bucks for when the Buckeyes or Gators make it back to the championship game, head across Highway A1A from the TPC, and you can play more affordable Sawgrass Country Club, or head just down the road to the Ocean Course at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club.
History buffs can go one of two ways in the area: visit nearby St. Augustine, the oldest town in America, and play Royal St. Augustine while you're there.
Or you can tour a large selection of memorabilia at the World Golf Hall of Fame and tee it up on their Slammer and Squire Course.
Jan. 2: Michigan State vs. Georgia, Outback Bowl, Tampa
Michigan State and Georgia both lost their conference title games and find themselves in a high-profile Big Ten vs. SEC redemption bout in Tampa. Fans of golf course architect Tom Fazio should know you're within an hour's drive of 36-hole World Woods Golf Club. Not only have both Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks been rated Top 100 golf courses, but they're also two of the most affordable Fazio designs in the U.S.
Closer to the action, more championship-caliber golf can be played at the TPC Tampa Bay. Or -- to compare how good your alma mater's home golf course is with the local University of South Florida -- take on The Claw, a collegiate championship-worthy course that features well guarded fairways and plenty of wildlife.
Jan. 4: West Virginia vs. Clemson, Discover Orange Bowl, Miami
The last of the six Florida bowl games brings us to the warmest of the golf destinations, Miami. Doral Resort, which is currently in talks to sell the famed south Florida retreat to Donald Trump, is still operating its five golf courses, including the TPC Blue Monster.
For something more low-key, Crandon Park Golf Club is a locally beloved municipal course set on Key Biscayne that's worth the non-resident rate premium. Another course that has stood the test of time is the Biltmore Golf Course, a famed Donald Ross design that dates back to the 1920s.
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