Sculpted in the lush scenery of George T. Bagby State Park by golf architect Willard Byrd, Meadow Links’ 18-hole, 7,007-yard course unfurls a tapestry of emerald fairways, golden-brown rough, and cerulean waters. Club-toting twosomes can loosen up for the round with a stint at the driving range, where a stash of obedient practice spheres launch themselves into the stratosphere and withhold judgment of players clashing argyle with plaid. The course’s bucolic hills crest behind the tenth green, where players can recapitulate their conquest of the 402-yard par-4 hole in the shade of two pecan trees, a pear tree, and a bush that blooms with divot-repair tools. The relatively difficult links-style course challenges golfers with an omnipresent array of round sand traps and water hazards in play on five holes, though four generous tee options make the course surmountable for duffers of all abilities.
Valley Pines Golf Club challenges golfers with its nine-hole, par 35 course, stretching 2,499 yards from the longest of its four tee positions and composed to test a player's precision golf game. The David McQuary–designed course presents fairway trekkers with a manicured landscape dotted with perilous water hazards. One hole features a true island green—similar to the TPC at Sawgrass's signature 17th hole—that challenges golfers to airmail their shots over the moat and onto the island, where it will join a marooned, heavily bearded Tom Hanks.
Golfers drive, chip, and putt their way across Hilaman Golf Course, a 30-year-old, par 72 layout that spans 6,333 yards of player-friendly terrain. On most holes, players look out onto wide, unobstructed fairways that invite them to swing freely with their driver or steer their golf cart blindfolded. Water comes into play on multiple holes—a small pond sits directly in front of the fourth green, and holes 11–16 strategically wrap around two large water hazards to make the back nine slightly more challenging. The course complements its 18 holes with a restaurant that serves up sandwiches and salads, a driving range for golfers to hone their game, and four tennis courts where players can learn how to hit short irons off of asphalt.
Course at a Glance:
Renovated in 1998, Jake Gaither Golf Course is a nine-hole, par 36 playground where golfers can take careful aim at distant flags and tiptoe across rolling fairways and greens to sneak up on holes-in-one. After partnering with a friend or borrowing a complete stranger, cruise the grounds in a cart while keeping watch for views of elusive birdies and eagles in their natural environment. A pair of three-ball sleeves arms players with the knowledge that the round will continue even if a few of their dimpled orbs happen to drown in a water hazard, and the facility’s practice putting area allows for pregame warm-ups to prepare for peppering greens with a variety of shots fired straight from the hips like a racketeering belly-dancer.
The Golf Garden of Destin fosters putt-putt delight and club-flailing fun in a family-friendly atmosphere replete with a nine-hole executive golf course, expansive driving range, and 18-hole miniature golf course. Golfers can groom their putting stroke with a round at the putting course, where slick, faux-grass surfaces and subtle slopes coalesce to create breaks more difficult to read than a kindergartener's dissertation. The outdoor driving range keeps metal clubs and dimpled orbs on a collision course well into the evening with over 30 hitting stalls outfitted with towering lights. Duffers looking for a more immersive golf challenge can take to the executive course, where seven par 3s beckon to players still seeking their first hole-in-one and two par 4s assure that drivers and 3-woods do not abscond in search of work at the nearest sword-forging convention.
Snuggled among 35 acres of wild flowers, old-growth trees, and verdant greenery, Country Oaks Golf Course delights divot diggers with a slew of scenic yet challenging holes. The course, full of narrow fairways and strategically located greens, rewards golfers' accurate drives and skillful approach shots with the ability to speak French. Errant whacks may land in Country Oaks' treacherous water obstacles, tree stands, and sand traps, while the undulating terrain demands subtle reads as players prepare their shots. Golf carts are included, allowing players to save their energy for more important tasks, such as retrieving errant shots, showing off on the driving range, or forging unused clubs into a mega club at the course's 3,500-square-foot clubhouse.