Daytona Beach: from fast and furious to laid back with great-value golf
By Peter Ellegard
What’s not to love about Daytona Beach?
Located on Florida’s eastern seaboard an hour north-east of Orlando, it is home to more than 20 golf courses and offers some of the best-value green fees in the USA.
Motor racing first began on its world-famous beach more than a century ago and it was here that NASCAR stock car racing was born. Today, the 23 miles of sands washed by Atlantic waters warmed by the offshore Gulfstream current are a huge draw for visitors, offering the chance to kick back and relax.
For those who want more action, Daytona Beach is a vibrant and exciting holiday destination. It offers a host of attractions that include the Daytona International Speedway – known as the “World Centre of Racing” – along with world-class dining, entertainment, nightlife, shopping, nature and other sports and activities.
Golf is playable year-round, with winter, spring and autumn perfect for rounds in balmy temperatures. Average daytime maximums range from 68°F (20°C) in January to 84°F (29°C) in May, while October and November see pleasant highs of 83°F (28°C) and 76°F (24°C) respectively.
Golfers have an array of courses and experiences to choose from, among them designs by notable golf architects including Rees Jones, Arthur Hills and the legendary Donald Ross. They can also follow in the footsteps of many of the game’s legends who have trodden the area’s fairways, such as past multiple Major champions Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan and women’s golf greats Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb.
Stay and play packages are offered by a number of hotels, combining accommodation with guaranteed tee times. Tour operators also package hotel stays with rounds on different courses.
Daytona Beach is the largest city in Volusia County and comprises eight communities. Its golf courses are situated within the city as well as in neighbouring Volusia communities including New Smyrna Beach, DeLand, Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach Shores.
DAYTONA BEACH GOLF COURSES
The top draw for visiting golfers is LPGA International, the home of the LPGA Tour since 1989, when it moved there from Houston. The 650-acre site serves up two championship-standard layouts, named after the designers who created them.
Opened in 1994 and the venue for numerous LPGA Tour Championships, the 7,088-yard Jones Course, by Rees Jones, now hosts the final stage of the LPGA Tour Qualifying School. It features wide fairways bounded by huge waste areas, natural marsh areas and lakes, while approach shots to undulating greens protected by deep bunkers call for accuracy. The course culminates in a dramatic finishing par 4. A favourite with the pros, it is also very playable by golfers of all handicap levels.
The Hills Course, by Arthur Hills, opened in 1997. Slightly shorter than its sister layout, it challenges golfers with narrow pine corridors, natural wetlands, water hazards and small greens.
LPGA International’s extensive practice facilities include a 360-yard double-ended range, a Rees Jones-designed three-hole championship practice course, short game areas and six putting greens.
Daytona Beach Golf Club is another 36-hole facility. Its South Course is a design by Donald Ross that celebrates its centenary in 2021 and is one of three Daytona Beach area courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail. Snead, Nelson and Hogan played an exhibition match on its fairways in 1946 but were outshone by three-time Masters winner Jimmy Demaret, who shot a course record 63 to beat them.
The venerable course is much as it was when it was first laid out, with forgiving tee shots to wide fairways but demanding approaches to small “turtle-back” greens hemmed in by mature live oaks festooned with Spanish moss. The North Course was added 25 years later and was designed by the club’s manager and head pro, Slim Deathridge, before being completely rebuilt in 1997. Walking is allowed on both courses and a round on either costs a maximum of under $50, including a buggy but excluding sales tax.
New Smyrna Golf Club, in New Smyrna Beach, is also by Donald Ross and on the Florida Historic Golf Trail, opening in 1953 and revamped in 2016. Like its historic near-neighbour, it is player-friendly but challenges golfers with the designer’s famed upturned saucer-shaped greens as well as numerous doglegs and plenty of water.
The third historic course on the trail is Riviera Country Club, in Ormond Beach. It opened as a nine-hole layout in the 1930s with the second nine added in 1953 by the family that still owns and runs it.
Also in Ormond Beach, Halifax Plantation Golf Club plays through centuries-old oak trees and features generous fairways but large and tricky greens.
DeBary Golf & Country Club, in DeBary, is a US Open qualifiers venue built in 1990 on what was once an orange grove. The undulating fairways, lined by live oaks, produce uneven lies – unusual for a Florida golf course.
Co-designed by Arthur Hills, Cypress Head Golf Club is a high-quality municipal course owned by the City of Port Orange and managed by KemperSports, which operates more than 130 golf facilities across the US and Mexico including renowned golf resorts Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Streamsong in Central Florida as well as US Open venue Chambers Bay in Washington State. The course opened in 1992 and was renovated in 2015. The generous fairways wind through thick stands of trees, wetlands and water, the design presenting golfers with plenty of risk/reward options. High-season 18-hole green fees for visitors cost just $30-$45, including buggy but excluding sales tax, depending on the time of day.
Hidden Lakes Golf Course in New Smyrna Beach is a 1974 layout by William Amick, who also designed Halifax Plantation. This short, 5,454-yard par 69 plays along a river estuary and makes an ideal first course to play on a Daytona Beach golf vacation.
In contrast, Victoria Hills Golf Club is one of the area’s longest courses, at 7,149 yards from the back tees. The DeLand design, by Ron Garl, is set on naturally rolling, sandy terrain through pine trees with 80 feet of elevation changes, reminiscent of North Carolina’s Pinehurst Sandhills area.
GOLF BEYOND DAYTONA BEACH
There is excellent golf an easy drive from Daytona Beach hotels outside Volusia County. Hammock Beach, 45 minutes north of downtown, is a luxury resort with two courses by world-famous designers. The Ocean Course is by Jack Nicklaus and features six holes right on the Atlantic, the final four of which form a rousing finish named by the Golden Bear as the Bear Claw. The course underwent restoration and reopened at the end of 2017 following damage from seawater flooding by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, when all the grass surfaces were replaced with a salt-tolerant Paspalum variety.
The Tom Watson-designed Conservatory Course is a monster at 7,776 yards from the tips and features water on 14 holes with several holes lined by snaking coquina-shell waste bunkers.
Further afield, the city of St Augustine is little more than an hour away and has a number of top-notch courses nearby. They include TPC Sawgrass, where the Stadium Course with its infamous island green 17th hole is the venue for the unofficial “fifth Major”, the Players Championship. St Augustine is also home to the World Golf Village, which encompasses the World Golf Hall of Fame and two golf course design collaborations by Hall of Fame members – the King & Bear, by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, and the Slammer & Squire, by Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen.
Orlando is a similar distance away and has a multitude of top golf courses to play on a day trip from Daytona Beach or on a twin-centre beach and theme park holiday with golf.
DAYTONA BEACH ATTRACTIONS
The wide and smooth, hard-packed sands of the famous 23-mile beach are rich in history. They were the setting for the first motorcycle and car races in 1902, actually taking place at Ormond Beach and earning it the title “Birthplace of Speed”. Over the ensuing years, various land speed world records were set at Ormond Beach and then at Daytona Beach, the record holders including British daredevil Sir Henry Segrave, whose sleek Golden Arrow car reached 231mph in 1929.
Cars are still allowed on sections of Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach, for a fee, although drivers have to stick to a sedate 10mph these days. Alternatively, you can rent a bike to cycle along the shoreline.
New Smyrna Beach and Daytona Beach are favourite spots for surfers to ride Atlantic rollers. Visitors can also take to the water on stand up paddleboards, kayaks or boats, with the chance to see manatees, dolphins and other wildlife on guided tours of coastal shallows, clear springs and inland waterways.
Visitors can catch beach vibes and enjoy the area’s rich nature at a number of beachfront parks. The 30-mile (48km) Ormond Beach Scenic Loop and Trail links several city, state and county parks through beautiful and diverse natural scenery, with trails and places for activities such as birding, hiking, fishing, cycling, swimming and boating. Sunset river cruises operate from Ormond Beach and other areas.
Daytona Beach was where stock car racing had its beginnings. In order to regulate unofficial races that were taking place along the beach, a meeting was held in a rooftop room at the beachside Streamline Hotel in 1947 to create a national motor racing series, resulting in the creation of the National Association of Stock Car and Auto Racing – NASCAR. It was followed 12 years later by the construction of the Daytona International Speedway.
Millions of visitors descend on Daytona Beach and the surrounding areas each year to watch the colourful muscle cars thunder round its tri-oval circuit in high-octane races, the most famous being the Daytona 500 endurance event, as well as other car and motorcycle races there and at other area tracks. Speed-lovers can be taken on a thrilling 170mph ride of the banked, 2.5-mile (4km) circuit in a NASCAR race car or take the wheel themselves with the Richard Petty Driving Experience.
The area’s racing history and heritage is preserved at the Daytona International Speedway in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and the Daytona International Speedway NASCAR Archives Centre, where Sir Malcolm Campbell’s record-breaking Bluebird III car that he drove on Daytona Beach is among exhibits. There is more racing memorabilia at museums such as the Living Legends of Auto Racing in South Daytona and the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Museum, located at Florida’s tallest lighthouse that gives 360-degree views of the beaches, the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway.
Daytona Beach offers culture galore at institutions such as the Halifax Historical Museum and the Smithsonian-affiliated Museum of Arts & Sciences, which incorporates the Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art, a planetarium and the Children’s Museum, as well as at the Ormond Beach Arts District, where art walks take place on the first Saturday of each month. Among other family-friendly attractions is the Marine Science Centre, which has touching tanks and a sea turtle rehabilitation unit, and amusements at the Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier.
Catch a festival any time of year. Daytona Beach is known as the “Festival Capital of Florida” for its many events celebrating art, food, cars, motorcycles and more.
Shopping opportunities abound, at locations including the Boardwalk and Pier’s Ocean Walk Shoppes, Volusia Mall, Tanger Outlets, the Riverfront Shops of Daytona Beach and the multi-million dollar ONE DAYTONA retail and entertainment district opposite its Speedway race track.
Dining options span every conceivable cuisine and style, from Oceanside breakfast eateries and food trucks to period diners and cordon bleu restaurants. There’s no end of choice for things to do when the sun goes down, besides eating out. Enjoy drinks in fun pubs, rooftop bars and many other establishments, perhaps trying locally-made craft ales in some of the breweries and bars on the Daytona Beach Ale Trail.
Then dance the night away in classy clubs or to one of the regular free summer concerts at the Daytona Beach Bandshell.
HOTELS AND INNS
Daytona Beach has 12,000 hotel rooms in properties ranging from cosy boutique inns to luxury beachside resorts, with its international airport just minutes away from them.
Recent openings include two hotels as part of the ONE DAYTONA complex, one of them an exclusive 144-room Marriott Autograph Collection hotel, THE DAYTONA.
The two-year-old Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach has 200 rooms and suites including its top-end Rock Royalty suites offering VIP concierge services. All guests at the hotel can borrow vinyl records or Fender guitars free to play in their rooms. The Rhythm & Motion massage at its Rock Spa & Salon involves treatments to music on massage tables that vibrate to the beats.
Meanwhile, motorheads can pay homage to the racing history of Daytona Beach with a stay in one of the 44 rooms of the art deco Streamline Hotel, which reopened in 2017 as a boutique hotel after extensive renovations.
WEB LINKS TO GOLF COURSES, HOTELS & ATTRACTIONS:
LPGA International – https://www.lpgainternational.com
Daytona Beach Golf Club – https://www.daytonabeachgc.com
Cypress Head Golf Club – http://cypressheadgolf.com
DeBary Golf & Country Club – https://www.clubcorp.com/Clubs/DeBary-Golf-Country-Club
THE DAYTONA – www.thedaytona.com
Streamline Hotel – https://www.streamlinehotel.com
Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach – https://www.hardrockhotels.com/daytona-beach
Daytona International Speedway – https://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com
Museum of Arts & Sciences – https://www.moas.org
Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitor Bureau – https://www.daytonabeach.com https://www.daytonabeach.com https://www.daytonabeach.com