Bags? Check. Clubs? Check. A week full of golf, friends and relaxation? Daytona Beach, here we come!
People don’t always think of golf getaways when they hear Daytona Beach, but that’s exactly what my wife, Carol, and I were doing. Since we both retired in 2015, we’ve made it a priority to travel. And one of my personal goals was to golf more. It’s a game I’ve always loved but never had much time for. Until now.
We had four days in Daytona Beach. Plenty of time to work on my game and enjoy the 23 miles of beach. And since we were taking advantage of a couple of travel and golf deals we’d found, not only was this sure to be a memorable trip, but an amazing value, too.
We had a mid-morning tee time, so Carol and I went for coffee and pastries to start the day. If you want a solid morning, feel free to stop anywhere for coffee. But if you want an incredible morning, I highly suggest going to Vittoria’s Italian Coffee & Pastry for breakfast. It’s a small Italian bakery that’s as authentic as they come. The cappuccinos were perfect, and as long as you don’t think 8 a.m. is too early for a cannoli, you’ll have one delicious morning.
Afterwards, it was tee time. Our friends Hank and Amanda, Daytona Beach locals enjoying a day off from work, met us at Halifax Plantation Golf Club. A 4.5 star, 18-hole course, Halifax was designed by Bill Amick who took full advantage of the area’s natural beauty. The course took us through oaks, pines and other lush vegetation on generous fairways and large undulating greens.
The great thing about this course was how it was fun yet challenging for all skill levels. Amanda and Carol were playing just for fun, but Hank and I were neck-and-neck until the 13th hole, which is almost completely surrounded by water from tee to green. I sliced my drive straight into the drink; my second shot carried over the fairway into the opposite pond. I never overcame those penalty strokes, but it was a beautiful day, and I was happy to buy the first round at the 19th hole.
Besides golf, Halifax is an awesome club for athletes of all kinds. Tennis courts, a swimming pool, trails for biking and a fitness center. Halifax also has an incredible clubhouse where we cooled off from the course with some food and cocktails.
While we had a great day with Hank and Amanda the day before, I was determined to improve my game and beat Hank next time. So on day two, Carol and I went to perhaps the most famous of Daytona Beach’s golf facilities—LPGA International.
LPGA was definitely on my “to-do” list in Daytona Beach. The home of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, this premier golf club had not one, but two courses that earned at least four stars in Golf Digest’s prestigious “Best Places to Play” guide.
We started with one-hour private lessons. For my lesson, I asked the pro to work with me on my long game. LPGA International’s main practice area has more than 80,000 square feet of natural turf and 10 target greens, providing ample setups to practice on. I have a bad habit of pulling my shots left, so my instructor worked with me to correct my tendency to push the ball under pressure. By the end of the session, my shots were going almost exactly where I was trying to place them. Definitely money well spent.
After that, we played nine holes on the Arthur Hills course to put what we learned to use. Like Halifax, the Hills course was designed with nature in mind. Fairways were lined with pine and magnolia trees, the design tests decision-making and ball-placement skills.
For lunch, Carol and I grabbed a bite at Malcolm’s Bar and Grill at the LPGA International Clubhouse. We split the Pimento Cheese and Sweet Bacon Dip to start. Carol got Thai Lettuce Wraps while I chowed down on a good old-fashioned Beef Dip, slathered with provolone, crispy onions and horseradish aioli with a side of burgundy jus.
Fueled and ready to go, we were off for an afternoon tee time at the LPGA’s signature track, the Jones course! A par 72, the Rees Jones course has a more traditional links-style design than the Hills course. With 7,088 yards, Jones is a favorite of tour players and has previously hosted LPGA, Symetra Tour and collegiate national championship events. Carol and I had a great time playing along the natural marsh, by the pristine lakes and around the strategic mounding and sand bunkers. And after playing 27 holes in one day, we were ready for a little R&R.
Even golf getaways can’t all be about the links. We were in one of America’s most famous beach towns—it was time to explore it.
Carol and I woke early to see a breathtaking sunrise over the Atlantic. In the early morning light, we rode rented bicycles on the beach, watching as the sky turned from reds and pinks to clear blue.
We ended up at the Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier, which is a hub for all kinds of entertainment. There are eateries, shops, a classic arcade and rides, not to mention fishing and people watching. We had a drink at Joe’s Crab Shack, grabbed a sweet souvenir from Zeno’s Taffy, and took pictures of the beautiful historic Daytona Beach Coquina Clock Tower. It’s no wonder the area is known as America’s Original Beach—all the beach classics are here waiting for you to join the fun.
After a quick lunch of crispy fish tacos on the pier, Carol booked us a Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP) session from Oceanside Paddle Sports. I was a little skeptical of the setup—is it a surfboard or a kayak or what? But SUP was very fun. We were out for about an hour along the coast, and had a blast. We even spotted dolphins swimming playfully, which was an unexpected treat. For both me and Carol, the physical challenge heightened our enjoyment of the incredible beauty around us. In retrospect I’m not sure which part was more entertaining—before or after I mastered balancing.
Today was our last morning in Daytona Beach, but I was determined to squeeze every last drop of golf goodness out of it. Carol went to the Tanger Outlets to shop, and I left to complete someone’s foursome on Cypress Head’s golf course.
Located in Port Orange, Cypress Head Golf Club is just over 6,800 yards of emerald Bermuda greens and generous fairways surrounded by thick forest, wetlands and water to offer a fair but challenging course. Designed by Arthur Hills and Mike Dasher, the course is known for its back-to-back par 3s on the front nine and back-to-back par 5s on the back nine. After playing it all, I could definitely see why it’s a favorite of locals.
On our way home from shopping and golf, I thought about a conversation I had with Carol. Before I retired, I told her I was sure I’d be bored with nothing to do. “Just you wait,” she had said. And, as always (although I’ll never admit it), she was right.
Daytona Beach was the perfect destination to show just how much there is for folks our age to do. Calm beach views, tasty restaurants and outstanding golf courses all combined for an incredible value that could never be boring. I have a feeling we’re going to love retired life, and that there will be many more golf getaways to Daytona Beach in our future.
Tee off at Daytona Beach’s best golf courses.