Famed across the world for its beaches and its adrenaline-fuelled speedway circuit, Daytona Beach also boasts some of Florida’s finest Golf courses, where a world-class golf vacation is as thrilling as it is affordable, writes Richard Maunder
When you close your eyes and think of Florida, what comes to mind? Great weather? Tick. Beautiful beaches? Tick. World-class golf? Tick. All this, and more, awaits at Daytona Beach, one of Florida’s fastest growing golf destinations. The area is covered in famous fairways that offer challenges for every skill level, all designed by legends of the sport. And it’s why Daytona Beach has been repeatedly named one of America’s most popular places to play.
Daytona Beach’s central location on Florida’s Atlantic coast makes it the perfect spot to stay and play. With more than 20 golf courses within a short drive of each other, and discounted golf packages offering unrivaled rates, the hardest decision might be where to play first.
Want to play where the pros play? Then take a swing at the LPGA International, a world-class resort located right on the doorstep of the headquarters of the LPGA Tour in Daytona Beach. Its two championship courses designed by Arthur Hills and Rees Jones, are distinct in design and play, but both are great for all handicap ranges. At 6,
984 yards off the competition tees, the Hills features superb natural wetlands, narrow pine corridors, small greens, and strategically-placed water hazards and bunkers.
The signature Rees Jones layout is a favourite of the tour players and offers 7,088 yards of links-style golf. The creative player is rewarded with multiple options on nearly every shot, while after a round, visitors can enjoy lunch, dinner or sunset drinks overlooking the course and lake at Malcolm’s Bar and Grill.
Spruce Creek Golf and Country Club, also in Daytona Beach, is a challenging 18-hole 6,900-yard course set among a gated fly-in residential community. Boasting a beautiful layout, with recently renovated greens and bunkers, Spruce Creek is widely regarded as one of the best courses in the area.
Another must-play in the area is Venetian Bay Town & Country Club in New Smyrna Beach, just 15 miles south of Daytona Beach. Offering a 6,918-yard championship course designed by Ezell and Clifton Design, the layout is for everyone, from experienced players to newcomers. It also boasts excellent practice facilities and a modern clubhouse, with a full restaurant and bar.
A short 45-minute drive to the west of Daytona Beach, nestled among Florida’s lush inland landscape, and winding around its fresh water lakes, several courses offer relaxation and intrigue. Victoria Hills Golf Club, in DeLand, preserves the natural flow of the area’s rolling hills and foliage, while providing golfers with plenty of challenges. This Ron Garl-designed course at Victoria Park, surrounded by hundreds of oaks and Augusta pines, is meticulously carved from a sandy terrain and buffered by pristine lakes and greens. Amenities include a golf shop, Mulligan’s Tavern and Grille, equipment rental and more.
Sandhill Golf Course, also in DeLand, offers a relaxed atmosphere that promotes a challenging game for all abilitiies, with greens surrounded by majestic oaks. DeBary Golf & Country Club is consistently chosen as a US Open qualifying venue, and is a four-star rated course, while Glen Abbey, also in DeBary, winds through gently rolling landscapes and around lakes and tree-lined fairways. The Deltona Club boasts an award-winning unique course design featuring varying elevation changes.
Daytona Beach offers golfers travelling with families a fun-filled playground, with its 23 miles of sparkling coastline to explore and enjoy. And while it’s possible to tee up 18 holes in the morning at one course and play 18 more at a different course before the sun sets, there are so many off-the-course options that it’s hard to decide how to spend the afternoon.
Imagine teeing off in the morning on a world-class course and being at the Daytona International Speedway, the world centre of racing, in the afternoon. Home of the Daytona 500, the iconic speedway track completed a stunning $400 million ‘re-imagining’ project. Known as ‘Dayton Rising’, this project transformed the Speedway into the world’s only pure motorsports stadium, a facility that provides fans with premium amenities and unparalleled conveniences. The popular guided Speedway Tour allows visitors to experience the 31-degree high banks for themselves, before walking in the footsteps of legends past and present and climbing the podium in Victory Lane. Tours now include a visit to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, which opened in 2016, where spectacular displays honour all forms of motorsport. The whole experience provides a long list of exclusive sights that even non-race fans will appreciate.
Venture to one of many beachfront parks to mix a beach day with spotting wildlife. Stroll nature trails and enjoy scenic vistas from observation towers, and spectacular 360-degree views of the Atlantic, the Intracoastal Waterway and more at the
. Completed in 1887, the lighthouse is a fascinating piece of Florida history. It towers above others as the tallest lighthouse in Florida. This majestic facility, tucked away in the charming town of Ponce Inlet, stretches 175 feet into the sky. Feeling adventurous? Climb the 203 steps to the top for some truly breathtaking scenery and one-of-a-kind photo opportunities, and explore the on-site museum.
Visitors come year-round to swim in sparkling waters and scuba dive at offshore reefs – but there’s even more to do off the beach. Be sure to enjoy the extensive collection of state and local parks, and hiking and biking trails for inland experiences that are guaranteed to excite. From November to March, visitors can witness hundreds of manatees seeking the warm water refuge at Blue Spring State Park. Take the whole family on an eco-tour adventure to experience a truly unique environment firsthand.
For some excitement that’s also educational, the Museum of Arts & Sciences, a Smithsonian Institute affiliate in Daytona Beach, offers a children’s museum, planetarium shows, and a 90-acre nature reserve. Next door is the all-new Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art, the largest collection of Florida art in the world. Another fascinating learning experience awaits at the Marine Science Centre in Ponce Inlet, where there are shark and stingray touchtanks, and opportunities to hold sea urchins and see newly-hatched sea turtles in the sea turtle hospital.
On Daytona Beach, splashing in the waves and building sandcastles is just the beginning. The fun continues at Ocean Walk Shoppes, a colourful dining, shopping and entertainment complex set by the ocean. It features a cinema and a wide variety of dining options, including Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Mai Tai Bar, Cold Stone Creamery, Sloppy Joe’s, Johnny Rocket’s and more. Or dine on the Daytona Beach Pier at Joe’s Crab Shack, where the seafood is as delightful as the oceanfront view.
Daytona Beach’s culinary scene is experiencing a steady influx of exciting options – from off-the-beaten-path eateries to independent restaurants serving specialty fare from award-winning fine dining options from The Cellar, 31 Supper Club and Spanish River Grille, to vegetarian-friendly eclectic favourites such as Dancing Avocado Kitchen and Kale Café and Juice Bar. Whether it’s fresh seafood served in a casual atmosphere at an oceanfront restaurant or something on the fine side accompanied by an impeccable wine list, the variety pleases all palettes.
Add exceptional craft beer to the itinerary with the growing ‘Daytona Beach Ale Trail’. Each location has a unique atmosphere — and all are owned and operated by those who are truly passionate about their brews. The craft beer offerings are diverse; while some serve delicious tapas and meals, and others encourage visits to neighbouring eateries or welcome favourite dishes brought in, picnic-style. The food truck scene is emerging, and on any given night a food truck or two will be parked nearby, ready to serve up a delectable dining experience to share with friends and family.
If shopping is a favourite pastime, you’ll find bargains and treasures galore in Daytona Beach. The new Tanger Outlets opened in November and features over 75 of the most popular brands and designers. Volusia Mall recently completed a $5 million upgrade and is home to large department stores like Dillard’s and Macy’s, along with over 100 shops, restaurants and a food court. Opening in 2017 – One Daytona is a premier retail, dining and entertainment destination across from Daytona International Speedway. Head downtown to the historic Riverfront Shops of Daytona Beach, where a wide range of independently-owned boutiques and authentic eateries offer a unique atmosphere. Other downtown areas in Ormond Beach, DeLand and New Smyrna Beach continue to add eclectic new shops and resturants. If flea market finds are up your alley, don’t miss the Daytona Flea and Farmers Market, recognised as one of the largest flea markets in Florida.
Getting to Daytona Beach is easy. There are direct flights into Daytona Beach International from New York (JetBlue), Atlanta (Delta) and Charlotte (American Airlines), and the airports in Orlando and Jacksonville are just an hour’s drive away. In fact, Daytona Beach is just a 90-minute drive south of TPC Sawgrass, the home of The Players Championship – golf’s unofficial fifth major. Jason Day returns in 2017 to defend his title at the renovated Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass May 9-14, which presents an ideal opportunity to watch the world’s best in action, and then try your own hand at creating a bit of golfing history.
Daytona Beach area Convention and Visitors Bureau
Tel: (386) 255-0415