Play golf near Florida's best beaches: Double the fun -- and sun

Spending time at the "beach" -- aka sand bunkers -- on the golf course is not all that fun. Heading to a world-class beach in Florida for a splash in turquoise blue waters, however, is a great way to refresh and recharge after a round of golf.

Florida placed four beaches in "Dr. Beach's Top 10 Beaches for 2014." Luckily for golfers, some of Florida's top-rated beaches are located near excellent golf courses.

Here are some of Florida's best places to enjoy golf as well as surf and sands.

Barefoot Beach State Preserve near Bonita Springs

Set on one of the last undeveloped barrier islands on Florida's southwest coast near Bonita Springs, Barefoot Beach is a wonderland of sand dunes dotted with sea oats, brilliant blue/green waters and nesting sites for sea turtles.

Fairways beckoning golfers in the area include those at Raptor Bay Golf Club , a postcard-beautiful layout design by Raymond Floyd with an Audubon International Gold Signature Sanctuary Certification, and Spanish Wells Country Club , which has 45 holes.

Caladesi Island State Park near Dunedin

Situated across St. Joseph Sound from Dunedin, Caladesi Island is natural, unscathed by development and only accessible by boat or ferry. It has three miles of pristine sandy shoreline as well as superb snorkeling and shelling.

Popular choices to tee up are the historic Dunedin Golf Club , a Donald Ross design that originally opened in 1927; Crescent Oaks Country Club , a Steve Smyers course built in 1991 with a fabulous setting next to the Brooker Creek Preserve; and Tarpon Springs Golf Course , a local favorite since the 1920s.

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples

If you love snorkeling or scuba diving, this mile-long stretch of blindingly white sands and clear waters in Naples has a hard bottom reef that runs parallel to the beach.

Minutes from Delnor-Wiggins are a slew of golf courses with big-name designer tags such as Old Corkscrew Golf Club , a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design; TPC Treviso Bay , a championship layout designed by Arthur Hills and Hal Sutton; and Lely Resort Golf & Country Club ( Flamingo Island by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Mustang by Lee Trevino).

Delray Beach in south Florida

Two miles of wide, sandy beaches in this south Florida community are complemented by Atlantic Avenue, which is filled with restaurants, shops and nightclubs.

You don't have to stray far from the beach to find a place to tee it up. The selections run the gamut, from the excellent municipally owned Delray Beach Golf Club , a Ross design later updated by Ward Northrup, to the Arnold Palmer/Ed Seay-designed Mizner Country Club , an exceptional private club experience with six sets of tees.

Fort Lauderdale Beach

For a spectacular urban beach experience just steps away from restaurants, hotels and nightclubs, Fort Lauderdale Beach is a great place to relax between rounds.

Once you change from your beach sandals to your golf shoes, the area menu includes selections like Hillcrest Golf & Country Club , a Joe Lee design known for its beautiful landscaping and Tif-Eagle greens; Diplomat Country Club , where 3,000 coconut and palm trees dot the lake laden terrain; and Hollywood Beach Golf & Country Club , a traditional Ross design that has entertained golfers since 1924.

Grayton Beach State Park near Destin

Gigantic sand dunes, stunning sugar white-sand beaches, coastal lakes and walking trails are the main draws to this park situated 23 miles east of Destin in the Panhandle.

When it's time to put a tee in the ground, the options include Emerald Bay Golf Club and Regatta Bay Golf & Country Club , which weave along picturesque Choctawhatchee Bay; Shark's Tooth Golf Club , a Greg Norman design rimming Lake Powell; and Camp Creek Golf Club , a Tom Fazio masterpiece with no homes framing the fairways.

Siesta Key near Sarasota

The Travel Channel has recognized this amazing eight-mile barrier island's beaches as the "Best Sand Beach in America." Connected to Sarasota by two bridges, Siesta Key is easily accessible, yet away from the maddening crowds.

Sarasota is a golf-crazy city with numerous high-quality golf options. Headlining the menu are courses like University Park Country Club , a naturally beautiful layout designed by Lakeland-based architect Ron Garl, and Legacy Golf Club , which has been rated the "Number One Public Golf Course in Southwest Florida" by Florida Golf News.

Ed Schmidt, publisher of The Golf Travel Guru Blog, is the author of two books on Florida golf and more than 2,500 articles and columns on golf resorts, courses and destinations around the world. Follow Ed on Twitter at @golftravelguy.
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Play golf near Florida's best beaches: Double the fun -- and sun
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