Daytona Beach is one of the best value golf destinations in Florida.

I’ll admit it straight away. When it comes to golf in the Daytona Beach area, I’m biased. As a golf addict, I’ve been fortunate enough to hit the links in countries around the globe; and while the city best known for car racing and 23 miles of superb sand shoreline doesn’t have a Pebble Beach or a St. Andrews–or even anything like them–there’s a terrific mix of quality courses and it doesn’t break the bank to play them.

Moreover, except during race weeks when you don’t want to be there unless you’re a race fan, Daytona maintains a community feel unlike certain golf destinations where the over development of courses has entirely smothered anything resembling a central downtown.

I’ve pretty much hit every one of the 19 courses in the Daytona area and can say with certainty there isn’t a weak link in the lot. For value for money, the city-owned Daytona Beach Golf Club can’t be beaten. Municipally-owned and managed courses are often low-end tracks embodying uninspired designs and questionable conditioning but this club defies both of those characteristics. One of its two 18-hole courses is a Donald Ross-design and the other a Lloyd Clifton–both highly respected architects. Immaculate conditioning, interesting layouts and $45 peak season green fees make this club one of the most popular in the area.

Second only in value to the Daytona Beach Golf Club is The Golf Club at Cypress Head. This 18-hole course is one of the local favourites playing anywhere from 4,900 to 6,800 yards depending on which tee deck used. It’s a true Florida track bordered by native foliage and forest together with indigenous wetlands.

Cypress Head (www.cypressheadgolf.com) offers a good round of golf where clubhouse and service are unpretentious but entirely satisfactory. High season green fees here are $57, a rate that dips to $25 after 2 p.m.

A relatively new kid on the block is the Victoria Hills Golf Club. Established in 2002, this Ron Garl-designed course that I discovered this winter has everything a golfer could want in a premier layout. I’m not alone in my praise for this 18-hole beauty since Golfweek magazine voted it 7th best new course in Florida. At nearly 7,000 yards, it’s a long track but with five sets of tee blocks it plays exceedingly fair. In a beautiful setting of rolling hills and clusters of pine and oak, the layout has an 80-foot elevation change, a feature that’s a refreshing variation from Florida’s flat terrain. This is an interesting and challenging course that Garl says requires a capable swing and a supple mind. Victoria Hills (www.victoriahillsgolf.com) is 25 min. west of downtown Daytona and is one of the area’s must-play courses where its high-season, weekday green fees are a steal at $59.

Also falling into the must-play category are the two LPGA International courses at the headquarters of the Ladies Professional Golf Association. The two courses here, Legends and Champions, cost $100 to play ($60 after l p.m.) and while Daytona golf is remarkably cheap, this is a time to splurge a little.

These true championship courses designed by renowned architects, Rees Jones and Arthur Hills, certainly demand skilful play but with careful course management good scores can be achieved on either of them. Golfers only willing to ante up for one of the courses should probably pick the Legends, which is arguably the favoured of the two. See more details at www.lpgainternational.com .

Two area courses that have one unique feature in common are the River Bend Golf Club and Spruce Creek Country Club. Both are next door to small private airports and during any given round on either course two- and four-seat planes land and take off, however, the modest air traffic in no way diminishes the quality of the tracks. Established in 1971, Spruce Creek is on my recommended list as is the River Bend course that runs alongside the Tomoka River, a manatee and aquatic nature preserve. Both courses are challenging, interesting and enjoy beautiful Florida settings. Green fees range in the mid $40. See www.playriverbendgolf.com for more details. (Spruce Creek does not have an official website).

A little further afield but still considered part of the Daytona Beach golf region is a pair of trophy courses that can rival anything Florida has to offer in the way of premier tracks. Ocean Hammock (recently purchased by the Ginn luxury resort chain) is a Jack Nicklaus masterpiece where six holes rim the edge of the Atlantic and its four finishing holes are among the finest anywhere. This is a very special track where high season green fees are a hefty $285. Minutes from Ocean Hammock, Ginn recently opened its new Conservatory course designed by PGA pro, Tom Watson. Measuring 7,776 yards, this monster-long course embodies a tough layout capable of defeating and deflating the best of players. It’s riddled with uneven lies, bunkers galore and frustrating greens. Golfers can get beat up here for $175 a round but players who manage to conquer it can feel like champions.

Aside from big fees at Ocean Hammock and the Conservatory, golf around Daytona Beach offers a terrific bang for the buck. Customized golf packages that include accommodations and a round of golf start as low as $49. For help with general tourism info call the toll free number or go online at www.daytonabeach.com

Six things to do beyond golf

1) Shop the largest weekend flea market in Florida for antiques and bargain merchandise.
2) Take a guided tour of the Daytona International Speedway that includes a thrilling ride on the 2.5 mile racetrack.

3) Opt for a lunch or dinner cruise on the inter-coastal waterway aboard the vintage River Queen II.

4) Take a drive on Daytona Beach, the only Florida beach that allows cars.

5) Visit the Marine Science Center where a primary program is the rehabilitation of injured manatees, sea turtles and birds.

6) Explore the Museum of Arts & Sciences, one of the best art repositories in northeast Florida.