Often when we ask golfers about going to Florida for a golf trip, the first areas that come to mind are Central Florida, Northeast Florida, or South Florida.
There’s a good reason for that as there are several great golf courses and resorts in these areas, but there’s another area that is often missed that shouldn’t be, and that’s Destin, Florida.
The panhandle of Florida provides golfers with beachside access to the Gulf of Mexico that comes with pristine white sand beaches and crystal blue waters that are second to none. When it comes to this area, the crown jewel for golfers is Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.
Sandestin is a resort that can cater to any type of golf group. It’s perfect for a buddies trip, a family excursion, a girls getaway or a couples trip. The resort offers a myriad of lodging options including condos, villas and hotel rooms that can cater to groups of any size at a variety of price points.
There’s so much to love about this resort, but like any good golf trip everything starts with incredible golf and Sandestin provides you with four options that deliver an exceptional amount of value.
With 72 holes of championship golf onsite, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort gives golfers a ton of variety, holes running along the bay, great conditioning, and memorable designs that you’ll want to play time and time again.
Burnt Pine Golf Club
The second you pull into Burnt Pine Golf Club at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, you know you’ve entered a special piece of land that was destined to create a great golf experience. The course was designed by “The Open Doctor” himself Mr. Rees Jones, and the course created a balanced experience that maximizes the efficiency of the natural landscape to create a tranquil setting for a special round of golf.
Aptly named, Burnt Pine Golf Club is surrounded throughout with a combination of pine forests and natural wetlands alongside pristine fairways and greens to create a visually appealing layout that will test your game from start to finish. Jones and his team were masterful with their bunker placements here, as you’ll often find that you’ll need to work around fairway bunkers several times throughout your round.
You’ll be captivated here throughout as you make your way through the tree-lined fairways on the front side with plenty of water features throughout, and as you make the turn for home on the 13th hole the views of the Choctawhatchee Bay come into play elevating your experience to a whole new level. After this stretch of holes, don’t be surprised if you do a double take on your receipt as you’ll be so glad you decided to come here as the value for the level of golf is through the roof.
Raven Golf Club
Robert Trent Jones, Jr., knocked it out of the park on the Raven Golf Club as he described this stimulating par-71 design as “a true modern traditional.” We found this to be an apt description as the layout here certainly gives a nod to the design characteristics of yesteryear while also adding in some modern flair with water hazards lurking around on many of the holes and plenty of interesting bunkering throughout that give it that more up-to-date look.
Golfers who make their way around Raven Golf Club need to think their way around this design as driver is not always the best club to pull out on your tee shot around this course. Take the three-hole stretch of the 14th, 15th and 16th holes for example. The 14th hole is a 90-degree dogleg left par-4 around a lake where taking the right line means more than how far the ball goes. Hitting it too far here could result in being in the pine trees with no shot, or if you try to bite off more than you can chew, you’ll find the water without crossing land, basically playing as a two-stroke penalty as if you had piped one out of bounds. Find the fairway here, and you’ll have a short iron to a semi-narrow green and a good chance at a 3.
The 15th hole is a devilish little par 4 that we love. It tips out at 321 yards making you think “birdie hole” when you see it on the scorecard, but not so fast my friend. The center of the fairway features a series of fairway bunkers that take up most of the landing area forcing you to decide if you’re going to lay back short giving you a long second to a difficult green, try and sneak it up the left or right side to two very narrow landing strips, or to take it over the bunker and bring the water left further into play. The reward for carrying the bunker off the tee is a ticklish little wedge to a sideways triangle shaped green surrounded by bunkers. This hole represents all that is great about thoughtful golf course design as length is not always a necessity to create challenges.
To finish off this fun three-hole stretch, you’ll make your way to a unique experience with the 16th hole. There is a “16a” and a “16b” hole option here, and the routing can change daily. It’s an incredibly rare set up, and often if you are lucky enough to see something like this it’s usually one hole that features two different greens on it. That’s not the case here. Each hole option is its own unique hole with “16a” playing as a longer yet straightforward par 3, and “16b” playing as a shorter option with a narrow green with a massive bunker up the right side of the green with multiple fingers in it to give you an uneven lie forcing you to make a difficult up and down.
The hole course requires this much attention to detail, and when you combine this thoughtful design with pristine conditioning, there’s not much more you can ask for as a golfer.
The Links Golf Club
Burnt Pine Golf Club and Raven Golf Club get a lot of the attention at Sandestin, and with good reason. But we were pleasantly surprised with how much we enjoyed The Links Golf Club and how much value this course delivers. First off, the rate here tops out at $99 in 2022 and that’s for non-resort guests during peak season, meaning that’s the highest rate you will find. You’d likely pay that to play in your hometown at a decent track, let alone a resort layout at a premium destination.
Now to the good part: the experience. The first four holes start off rather innocently with some very straightforward holes to ease you into your round. As you make your way to the 5th hole, an interesting, long tree-lined par-3 with a long, narrow kidney bean shaped green surrounded by bunkers, all the sudden your attention spikes and you’re in for a great ride the rest of the way. From here on in you encounter a myriad of interesting holes, many of which feature views of the bay such as the water-engulfed short par-4 8th hole and the long par-5 9th hole that features the bay all the way up the left side of the hole.
From there you turn back inland for a few holes until you get to another phenomenal three-hole stretch of golf of the 13th, 14th, and 15th holes. The 13th is a risk/reward par-5 with water all the way down the left side of the hole and the bay and marsh along the right side of the hole. Longer hitters can try and go for the green in two here, but trouble is lurking everywhere here so laying up isn’t the worst idea for you.
The 14th hole is a signature hole here and plays straightforward off the tee only requiring a long iron or fairway wood to put you in position for your second shot, and that’s when you see it. You’ll have a short iron approach to a peninsula green that is surrounded by a bulkhead lined marsh in front and the bay in the back. Get your camera ready, as this is the shot, you’ll want to post.
The 15th is a medium length par-4 that features a long, narrow tee box bordered all the way up the right side of your tee shot by the bay. More water creeps in up the left side here as this dogleg left loses the bay once we hit the corner, but don’t worry as water creeps back in on the right as you get closer to the green so make sure you keep it straight here.
The round continues this momentum of interesting holes all the way to the finish, and while we agree that Raven and Burnt Pine are the stars of the show here, we like to say that The Links is the surprise gift we loved to discover.
Baytowne Golf Club
Last but certainly not least, we made our way to Baytowne Golf Club. This golf course is the only golf course on Florida’s Emerald Coast that runs from the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico to the Choctawhatchee Bay, and the course features the most dramatic elevation changes on the property. Known as one of Tom Jackson’s finest designs, Baytowne Golf Club features a significant number of hazards throughout the course, especially water features. It feels like water is integrated into almost every hole creating a serene setting for a wonderful round of golf.
We found this course extremely enjoyable all the way around as it will give you a stern test of golf challenging every club in your bag. We particularly loved the long par-5 12th hole that features a picturesque tee shot over water that plays uphill after your tee shot to a well-guarded green, and the long par-4 16th hole where the hole begins from an elevated tee shot with bunkers right and bunkers and water down the left side near your landing area. If you can avoid the trouble off the tee here, you’re faced with a difficult approach to an almost triangle-like shaped green that is outlined on the left and long by water and a bunker short right. Overall, there’s a whole lot to love about this course.
One of the best things about Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort are the seemingly unlimited number of options you have when it comes to lodging. When it comes to planning a golf trip, it can be difficult to make budgets work for a large group of friends as some of the guys may want to splurge for a fancy room, while others would rather use that money towards more golf and swag to take home.
At Sandestin, you can cater to everyone. As it stands today, there are about 1,100 different lodging options available at Sandestin…1,100! Room set-ups vary from the new swanky Hotel Effie, a 250-room hotel that recently opened and can provide a luxurious getaway for those who choose to stay here.
When it comes to golf groups, we often have golfers request the ability to have a multi-bedroom condo as their preferred option so that “the hang” portion of the trip is easier to have your crew congregate in a shared living space. Don’t worry, Sandestin has you covered here too. There are an abundance of different condos and villa options to choose from, and their team can create the perfect getaway for a foursome just as easily as a group of 400.
Off Course Activities
We know the heart and soul of your trip will be spent on the course, but if you’re looking for things to do before and after your round there are plenty of options to choose from at Sandestin. These include:
- Beaches: pristine, soft white sand beaches along the crystal blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. What more could you ask for?
- Shopping: Sandestin has plenty of options available onsite, and nearby there are tons of shopping options if you’re looking to come home with more stuff than you brought with you.
- Other Sports: The resort features activities such as tennis, weightlifting, beach and water sports, bike riding and the Dunes Putting Course.
- Marina: if you’re going to come to a place surrounded by the bay and the ocean, you may as well enjoy it in style.
This doesn’t even cover everything here, but needless to say there are plenty of things going on to keep you busy in between tee times here.
We love that you can make a trip extremely high end if you feel like doing it up at Sandestin, and you can also find extremely well-appointed lodging options that give you everything you need without breaking the bank.
The word that continues to come up amongst our team when we talk about Sandestin is value, especially when it comes to golf. Let’s be very clear here: value does not mean cheap or inexpensive. It means you’d be hard-pressed to find other resorts that offer a higher quality experience per dollar spent the way that Sandestin does.
Peak season here runs from early March through October, but there are some absolute stay and play steals available in November through February. Remember, this is still Florida so even when it is cold here, it’s typically never really that bad.
Our team has had the pleasure of visiting a lot of golf resorts over the years, but we all agree that Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is one of those rare diamonds in the rough that we love helping golfers discover so give them a look when you start planning your next golf stay and play.