Dream Weekend: How to plan the perfect golf trip to Jacksonville

Monday May 1st, 2017
The iconic 17th at TPC Sawgrass.
Sean Steinemann

Plan your next trip with our new Dream Weekend series, combining expert picks from GOLF.com staff and the travel gurus at Travel & Leisure. We’re bringing you the best recommendations for golf courses, hotels, restaurants, and sightseeing--so you can focus on your round instead of your itinerary. Now on the tee: Jacksonville.

Believe it or not, Jacksonville is the largest city in the lower 48 states in the U.S. by geographic area, covering more than 840 square miles. Believe me when I say there is no shortage of great golf to choose from.

Having said that, if you’re planning a weekend trip to Florida’s First Coast, I would highly recommend staying in Jacksonville Beach. Jax Beach is a small beach town where flip flops, bikes and surf boards seem to be mandatory. When you cross over the Intracoastal into Jax Beach, it feels as though time slows down.

Assuming that you would fly in on a Friday evening and leave late on Sunday, here are my suggestions to help make the most of your trip to Florida’s First Coast.

Friday

After checking into your hotel, I would recommend a quick bite to eat at Cruisers, an amazing burger spot beloved by locals. From there, check out one or two of the beach bars, but nothing too crazy as we have an early tee time. You can’t go wrong at Lynch’s, Brix or the Ritz, and all three are within walking distance of each other.

Travel & Leisure Tip: If you'd like to be close to TPC Sawgrass, stay at the Ponte Vedra Beach Lodge & Club, a Spanish-colonial-style hotel on a barrier island with an intimate feel, thanks to a high staff-to-guest ratio.

Saturday

Up and at ‘em!

With the perfect mix of Southern charm and amazing conditions, St. John's Golf & County Club is a can't miss.
StJohnsGolf.com

If you listen to a single suggestion from this piece make it this one: Go play St. John’s Golf & Country Club! This is one of my favorite courses in the entire state. And it’s affordable, too!

St. John’s offers a private club feel at a reasonable public course rate. The greens are always immaculate (careful, they’re quick!), the layout is phenomenal and some of the bunkering is very Augusta-like. This will serve as a great primer for tomorrow’s main event.

For the rest of the evening, I’d suggest heading almost due east from the course after your round to historic downtown St. Augustine, established in 1565. This will be an all-night event as you will quickly fall in the love with the Spanish architecture, hundreds of shops and live entertainment. There’s not a bad restaurant here, so I would suggest walking around until you find a menu that stands out to you. Just don’t stay out too late, we’re playing TPC Sawgrass tomorrow!

The historic city of St. Augustine, established in 1565.
Visitstaugustine.com

Travel & Leisure Tip: Visit Castillo de San Marcos, an imposing 17th-century fort that makes a good jumping-off point for a walking tour of St. Augustine's 144-block historic downtown.

Sunday

Are you ready to take on the iconic 17th at TPC Sawgrass? Today’s the day!

This walk is well worth the expensive greens fee.
Sean Steinemann

Normally I would never suggest a golf course that boasts greens fees as high as Sawgrass, but in this case I fully believe it is worth it. Just make sure you show up a good hour and a half early as you will want to explore the amazing clubhouse that is decorated with memorabilia from The Players Championship, and the new and improved practice area is worth a solid 45-minute warm-up. If the Stadium course is out of your price range, Dye’s Valley Course, which is also on the property, is a solid backup option.

But again, I’d highly recommend the Stadium Course. Being able to say, “I played the 17th at Sawgrass” is something most golfers dream of. And if you happen to birdie the hole … you’ve got a story your golf partners will quickly tire of hearing—but don’t let that stop you. You birdied the 17th at Sawgrass! (Just make sure you have proof.) 

Make sure you have a camera - or two, or three - for that famous approach shot to the island green.
Sean Steinemann

If you decide to eat at the club afterwards, I would suggest sitting outside on the terrace that overlooks the 18th green. It’s a great view to sit and reflect on your round at one of the most famous courses in the world. If you decide to go off property, I would suggest a quick bite a TacoLu before your flight. TacoLu is a local favorite and during the Players Championship, it’s one of the most popular restaurants in the entire city. Rickie Fowler has been spotted multiple times stuffing his face with delicious tacos during TPC week.

Travel & Leisure Tip: Drive to Fernandina Beach, about 45 minutes outside Jacksonville. When you’re not lounging on the crystal sand here, stroll around the tiny town. Built in the 19th century, it’s full of ornate, lovingly restored Victorian manses; pick up a handy free driving map with highlights from the chamber of commerce.

TacoLu is a local favorite and a must during Players Championship week.
TacoLu.com

And there you have it! A quick but successful trip to Jacksonville. Below are a list of other courses and eateries that you can plug into this trip.

Golf Courses: World Golf Village - Slammer & Square, World Golf Village -King & Bear, Amelia Island Plantation - Ocean Links, Fernadina Beach Golf Club and if you’re looking of a value round Windsor Parke.

Restaurants: Salt Life, Joe’s Crab Shack, Colonel Mustard’s, Angie’s Subs, North Beach Fish Camp and Hawkers Asian Street Fare.

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