JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The PGA Tour makes its home in the Jacksonville area, so it has to be a good golf destination, right?
Absolutely. But for many reasons other than the PGA Tour and its home, TPC Sawgrass.
Though it's not as warm as South Florida in the winter, it's still a year-round destination, and the spring and falls are terrific. There's great history, lots to do and it's not as expensive as you might think, especially if you bargain hunt a little or come in off-peak season.
Here are 10 reasons to plan a golf vacation to the Jacksonville area, also known as Florida's First Coast.
1. TPC Sawgrass
Okay, this is still the area's chief golf attraction, so we have to talk about it. Located in Ponte Vedra Beach and home of The Players Championship -- the so-called fifth major on the PGA Tour -- TPC Sawgrass is the place to be in May. But it's also a great destination the rest of the year, not only because of Pete Dye's modern classic Players Stadium Course, but also because of the massive 77,000-square-foot Mediterranean clubhouse that doubles as a museum dedicated to The Players Championship as well as the PGA Tour and the game of golf. There are large mural paintings depicting the great moments of The Players, artifacts and clubs used over the years and a terrific bar and restaurant that are worth going to even if you don't play one of the courses there.
2. World Golf Hall of Fame
Just up the road in historic St. Augustine is World Golf Village, where you will find the World Golf Hall of Fame, a must for any golf fan and avid golfer. There's so much to do and see at this huge facility. Not only are there the stories and exhibits from the 136 inductees, but the Hall of Fame also tells the story of golf, in exacting detail, from its beginnings to the modern game. And around the Hall of Fame is the World Golf Village and Renaissance Hotel, a perfect location for a stay-and-play, hall-of-fame weekend.
3. Historic St. Augustine
When you visit World Golf Village, you'll want to spend some time in St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States and the only piece of land in the U.S. to have been under eight flags of domination. This is where Ponce de Leon was said to discover the fountain of youth, if you believe in that sort of stuff, and where Ponce de Leon's World Famous Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park commemorates the discovery of Florida in 1513.
4. Golf courses with ocean views
While TPC Sawgrass isn't on the ocean, it isn't far. But even better, if you're looking for an ocean view, the Jacksonville area has you covered with Nassau County and Amelia Island. You have your choice of courses with the beach as a backdrop, such as Omni Amelia Island Plantation (Ocean Links Course), Hammock Beach Resort's Ocean Course, Ponte Vedra Inn & Club's Ocean Course and Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course.
5. Mayport Shrimp and offshore fishing
North Florida is the home of the modern shrimping industry (Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island), and you can eat this stuff to your heart's content -- boiled, sauteed, fried. Nothing makes a golf game better than some Mayport Shrimp after your round. And if you get tired of playing golf, charter a fishing boat for a little offshore action. It's an experience you won't soon forget.
6. Great golf schools
As the home of the PGA Tour, you would think the area would have plenty of great golf coaches and instructors. The Jacksonville area is loaded with golf academies and schools designed to help players of all levels -- from the 2,800-square-foot Tour Academy TPC Sawgrass to the PGA Tour Academy at the World Golf Village. Some of the world's best instructors combined with the latest computer and video technology are available to fix or hone your game. Other popular schools include the Golf Made Simple training facilities at The Golf Club at North Hampton in Amelia Island and The Golf Club at South Hampton in St. Augustine.
7. Spas galore
Nothing goes with golf better than a spa treatment, and there are several great spas to visit to help you work out the kinks on your swing. Resorts like the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, Omni Amelia Island Plantation, Laterra Resort and One Ocean Resort as well as Sawgrass Marriott and World Golf Village offer a full array of spa treatments and relaxation.
8. Wide range of lodging
Everything from the Hampton Inn to high-end golf resorts like the Renaissance at World Golf Village, Sawgrass Marriott and Ponte Vedra Inn are at your disposal in the Jacksonville area. They range from economy to Five Diamond luxury, satisfying every price point and need. And many of them, like the Sawgrass Marriott, have their own beach access.
9. Mild weather, ocean breezes
Being close to the Atlantic Ocean means there's almost always a breeze to keep the temperatures down in the summer and just warm enough to play in the winter. Temperatures generally don't get above the low 90s, even in the heart of summer, and summers and falls, when temperatures top out in the upper 70s to mid-80s, are pretty much perfect.
10. Easy access to Jacksonville
There are also lots of flights to the Jacksonville area, and it's not far from Orlando either, if you'd like to pair your golf vacation with a trip to the theme parks like Disney World or Universal Studios. Located on the East Coast right off of Interstate 95, everything is relatively easy to get to, with plenty of choices for dining and other recreational activities.