St. Petersburg, Fla.Those who enjoy cruising Florida's west coast know the top-notch marina at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg. But did you know that boaters who overnight there also have access to the private Vinoy Golf Club? The course sits about a mile away from the hotel in an older, settled part of town,and its elaborate clubhouse is a fitting extension of the historic hotel, with its ornate Mediterranean Revival architecture. In addition to attentive service on the green (think iced, scented towels in the golf cart), there's access to a pristine, 6,581-yard course designed by noted Florida golf course architect Ron Garl. The course is small but challenging, favoring narrow fairways and big bunkers. Local experts say the par 3s are nice, especially No. 13, a 171-yard shot over a mangrove swamp, and No. 17, a lovely little hole over more water to a contoured green. (501 5th Avenue, 727-894-1000, marriott.com)
Where to Dock:Renaissance Vinoy Marina Vinoy
Savannah, Ga.Steeped in Southern charm, this 18-hole championship course offers views of the surrounding wetlands and a top-rated layout by Sam Snead and Bob Cupp, whose goal was to create risk and reward. To wit: a well-executed shot placed near a hazard is rewarded with less club to the green, a better approach angle, or both. Rated one of America's top golf courses by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, the putting surfaces have gentle transitions to different pin locations, and the greens have subtle roll-offs that fall away. This is also home to the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, which attracts top players. Pros contend that the par 5 seventh might be the city's most difficult hole, as it plays 660 yards from the back tees. Water isn't really a big factor here, but the fairway has plenty of undulation and 11 bunkers. The club is affiliated with the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, which offers deepwater dockage for transients on the Savannah River. (2 Resort Dr., 912-201-2240, theclubatsavannahharbor.com)
Where to Dock: The Westin Savannah Harbor
Mt. Pleasant, S.C.Charleston is a popular port for boaters traveling the Intracoastal Waterway, and one reason cruisers like to tie up here is because the area has also been ranked the third major golf destination in South Carolina.Throughout the Charleston area, you'll find many fine courses, among them the Charleston National Golf Club just north of the city in Mt. Pleasant. It's a reasonably priced, semiprivate course that was rated the city's top non-resort golf course. The championship-caliber Rees Jones course lies up beside the ICW for lovely views accented by lagoons, pines and oak trees.Charleston National, par 72, stretches almost 7,000 yards from the tips and features five sets of tee markers to accommodate all playing levels. Wooden bridges are strategically placed to carry golfers over the natural areas from tee box to green. Because it's near the water, wind can be an issue on this course, but any skipper worth his salt knows wind simply makes for more challenging play on and off the water. (1360 National Dr., 843-884-4653, charlestonnationalgolf.com)
Where to Dock: Charleston City Marina
La Jolla, Calif.Just as every boat owner loves a great sea story, every great golf course has a riveting tale of its own. At Torrey Pines, one of the nation's best municipal golf courses, the story that's often told is the one about the 2008 U.S. Open Championship, when an injured and hobbling Tiger Woods defeated Rocco Mediate during their sudden-death playoff after 90 grueling holes.Today, the two 18-hole courses here (North and South) play host to the Buick Invitational and are enormously popular with locals and those visiting by car, plane or boat. Situated atop cliffs, there are incredible ocean views, plus deep canyons, challenging bunkers and stiff breezes. Pros say the South course, redesigned by architect Rees Jones in 2001, which demands length and accuracy off the tee. (14480 N.Torrey Pines Rd., 858-452-3226, torreypinesgolfcourse.com)
Where to Dock: Kona Kai Marina
Galveston, TexasOne of the joys of traveling by boat is docking at luxury locations for high-end down time. Moody Gardens is an example of a top-notch, resort-style course for pleasure seekers in the Galveston area. Formerly known as the Galveston Municipal Golf Course,Moody Gardens benefited from a big, Texas-style renovation in 2008 -- to the tune of $16 million -- executed by Jacobsen Hardy Golf Course Design.The course now features paspalum turf, designed for seaside golf courses.To keep playing surfaces in top condition, a new water treatment plant and irrigation system were installed. Here, 18 holes are situated upland and along the natural wetlands of scenic and tranquil Sydnor Bayou.
To enhance that don't-text-me-now-I'm-on-vacation feel, 500 palm trees were planted along the lush course. (1700 Sydnor Lane, 409-683-4653, moodygardensgolf.com)
Where to Dock: Moody Gardens Marina
Boca Raton, Fla.Thanks to its two beautifully maintained 18-hole championship courses, this Waldorf Astoria property has long been known as the place to stay and play in Southeast Florida. Just a short shuttle ride from the hotel, which also boasts a 32-slip marina for vessels up to170 feet and longer, the courses are named the Resort and the Country Club -- the former is dedicated to PGA professionals Tommy Armour and Sam Snead, who both held staff positions here.
The stunning par-71 Resort Course plays 6,253 yards and challenges golfers with a variety of elevation changesand 12 water hazards.The par-72 CountryClub Course plays 6,714 yards and features a signature 18th-hole island green. Notably, the Boca Raton Resort & Club has been recognized by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses (ACSP), a program administered by Audubon International to help landowners preserve and enhance the environmental quality of their property. (501 East Camino Real, 888-543-1277, bocaresort.com)
Where to Dock: Boca Raton Resort and Marina