I swear, by the time I’m done writing about golf courses in Florida, the State Chamber of Commerce is going to hire me for a full-time position. At least that’s what my ego tells me. . .
But I digress. All kidding aside, Panama City is another one of those locales that I’m not qualified to offer much of an opinion on when it comes to golf.
However, as I expected, there are a lot of Golfer’s Authority fans in this community, and like other golfers from around the country, they asked for a guide highlighting their fair community’s best public courses.
The insight I received was more than I can fit into a single public course guide. Nonetheless, here are the consensus top ten picks.
Origins Golf Club
Just a short 17-mile drive from Panama City, you’ll find Origins Golf Club on the Emerald Coast.
The layout here is unique. It was originally designed as a six-hole regulation course, but can be played as a ten-hole par three course.
This might sound a little out of the box, and it is. However, it’s been well-documented that golfer’s number one complaint is that the game takes too long.
That’s exactly why courses like Origins have become so popular. Instead of spending upward of five hours playing a full 18 holes, you can play six or ten holes in a lot less time.
This is a minimalist design and it’s always in good shape.
A breath of fresh air, it’s not hard to see why everyone loves this place.
Nature Walk Golf Club
Nature Walk is another short course. It plays to a par of 60.
When this track opened in 1997, it quickly became a favorite for locals and visitors alike.
When the team of Clifton, Clifton, and Ezell team designed this course, their mission was to incorporate as much of the natural terrain as possible. Minimal earth was moved and golfers will feel at one with nature when they play here.
In addition to an expertly manicured course, golfers are welcome to take advantage of the world-class practice facility. The driving range is expansive, and the practice green encompasses more than 13,000 square feet.
For an affordable round that won’t take all day, look no further than Nature Walk.
Bay Point Golf Club – Nicklaus Course
Nicklaus courses are in a league of their own. Typically, they’re long and have big features.
This track embodies all the Nicklaus characteristics you’d expect. Is it long? Yes. But there are plenty of tees for everyone to choose from. There are also plenty of chances to play aggressively. That’s especially true on the par fives where you can get home with two good shots. If you hit it offline though, saving par can become a challenge.
The scenery here is second to none as well. The backdrop for the course is the crystal blue St. Andrews Bay. Be sure to bring your camera.
Even though this isn’t the cheapest round of golf in the area, it’s more than worth the cost.
Bay Point Resort – Meadows Course
The perfect compliment to the Nicklaus Course at Bay Point is the Meadows Course.
Unlike its counterpart, this course isn’t that long by modern standards. It measures a shade over 6,900 yards from the back tees.
Accuracy and strategic thinking are the recipe for success. While you can hit driver on a number of holes, it’s best to keep the ball in play.
For a stay and play destination in the Panama City Beach area, Bay Point Resort is your best option. In addition to great golf, the amenities are top-notch.
Holiday Golf Club
Holiday Golf Club underwent a multi-million dollar renovation in 2014. Since then, golfers have flocked here from near and far to take advantage of one of the premier properties in the Panama City Beach area.
Of particular note are the greens. Tif Eagle Bermuda grass rolls true and lacks the grain of many other Bermuda strains. You can make some putts if you get dialed in.
Holiday demands sound strategy from tee to green as well. The fairways, though generous in spots, are well-protected by palm trees and bunkers. The same holds true on approach shots into the greens.
It’s no secret why this course occupies a spot so high on golfer’s lists. You need to come see it for yourself.
Shark’s Tooth Golf Course
As its name suggests, Shark’s Tooth is one of the tougher tracks in Northwest Florida. If you feel like putting your game to the test, this is the place to do it.
Measuring more than 7,200 from the back tees, you’ll need both length and accuracy to score well here. Fortunately, there are plenty of tee boxes to suit golfers of all abilities.
The course is dotted with natural penalty areas that eat up crooked shots in a hurry. While these areas a pretty to look at, you don’t want any part of them.
At Shark’s Tooth, the toughest holes are the par threes. All four are quite long and there are a number of forced carries. If you play these holes in even par, you’ll be picking up shots on your buddies.
A great test that everyone should play at least once, don’t miss out on Shark’s Tooth.
Signal Hill Golf Course
Signal Hill is one of the most underrated tracks in Northwest Florida.
Right across from the “world’s most beautiful beach”, this course is challenging and fun all at once. From the back tees, better players are asked to hit quality shots all the way around. Higher handicaps can enjoy much shorter tees and run the ball into most greens.
Signal Hill is also one of the better values in the area. During the week, you can play here for as little as $32.
A great value and fun to play, don’t overlook Signal Hill.
Sunny Hills Golf Club
Another great golf value is Sunny Hills Golf Club.
Even though it’s a 45-minute drive from Panama City Beach, it’s more than worth the trip. Maybe that’s why locals call this track one of the Panhandle’s best kept secrets.
Believe it or not, this course was designed by The Squire – Gene Sarazen. Even though he wasn’t known for his design prowess, I’m told this layout is outstanding.
While most holes are right in front of you, playing smart and executing shots is still important. Once you get to the greens, do your best to stay below the hole. The alternative can be scary.
With peak rates less than $50 including cart, Sunny Hills is tough to beat.
Windswept Dunes Golf Course
When Doug O’Rourke designed Windswept Dunes, he had one goal in mind: to preserve as much of the natural terrain as possible. And what a job he did.
Built on 750 acres of white sand dunes, this course has an American Links feel to it. You’re certainly encouraged to use the ground and play different shots.
Once you get to the greens, you’ll find large undulations and closely mown surrounds. Again, the result is multiple options to play different shots. Creativity is rewarded here.
If it’s your first time around, play up a set of tees than you normally would. You’ll have a much better experience.
Variety is the spice of life, and that’s exactly what Windswept Dunes offers.
Burnt Pine Golf Club
Burnt Pine is part of the larger Sandestin Resort. While it’s semi-private, there are tee times set aside for the public on a daily basis.
This is high-end golf. If you’re looking for a cheap round, this isn’t the spot.
However, if you appreciate the very best that the Panama City Beach area has to offer, you need to play here.
The course was designed by Rees Jones and presents a fair, fun, yet formidable challenge.
Strategically placed bunkers make you think about how you need to play each hole from a strategic standpoint. Even though there’s plenty of room, you need to pay attention. It’s no wonder Golf Magazine called Burnt Pine “The Crown Jewel of Florida Golf”.
Panama City Beach is yet another premier destination that goes overlooked in Florida. From what our readers have to say, there’s no shortage of quality golf to be found.
And the best part is most of it is quite affordable.
As always, I sincerely appreciate everyone that contributed their thoughts about golf in Northwest Florida. If there’s anything I’ve missed, please make your thoughts known below in the comments.