Fitting Partners on the Emerald Coast


Two of the most sought-after objectives in a golf vacation are playing challenging layouts and relishing the local cuisine. The Heart of the Emerald Coast—Destin, Ft. Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island—on the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida Panhandle has 11 golf clubs with 261 holes and numerous superior restaurants with “Gulf to Table” fresh seafood. The Emerald Coast will never send a golfer to the first tee or away from the 18th hole with irreparable hunger pangs!

What is always a distinct pleasure is discovering a clubhouse brasserie before or after the round where the food is delicious and the service is first rate. That convenience of eating at the course cannot be overemphasized, and here are three clubs that present singular tests on the track and outstanding tastes in their dining rooms.


Chef Mike works his magic in The Grille of the Kelly Plantation clubhouse. (Vicky MacKay)

Our first stop is Kelly Plantation, a semi-private club within a high-end community that is set along the picturesque Choctawhatchee Bay. Hall of Famer Fred Couples has designed an impressive championship layout, where three of the holes touch the water of the Bay. In The Grille, Chef Mike has designed an impressive spread of his own with a wide variety of fresh options as well as specials. Open for lunch only from 11 am to 3 pm and open to the public, The Grille is a popular local favorite with non-golfers as well. Chef Mike’s menu is notable for its Plantation Seafood Salad, Lemon Pepper Fish, Fish Almondine, and sweet potato French fries. The Sunday brunch is patently special, too, particularly with its Bloody Mary and Mimosa libations. (http://www.kellyplantationgolf.com)


Inside the 16,000-square-foot clubhouse is the renowned restaurant that overlooks Lake Regatta. (Vicky MacKay)

The Regatta Bay Golf & Yacht Club is another one of Florida’s premier semi-private venues. Its course wends its way around the scenic nature preserves along the Choctawhatchee and has been voted the “#1 Favorite Golf Course in NW Florida” by Florida Golf News and “Ranked one of the top 200 Golf Courses in North America” by Golf Digest. The luxurious 16,000 square foot Regatta Bay clubhouse is home to plush locker rooms, a private library, a pool hall, the pro shop, and, of course, a first-class restaurant that overlooks Lake Regatta and offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. The restaurant has a fully staffed and equipped kitchen and provides a lavish assortment of soups, salads, sandwiches, seafood, steaks, fine wine, and spirits. (www.regattabay.com)



“Chalkboard Night” is one of the many special features that makes The Bluewater Bay Sports Bar and Grill both a local and tourist favorite. (Courtesy of Bluewater Bay.)

The third stop is Bluewater Bay Golf Resort, also nestled along the Choctawhatchee, a superb 27-hole experience designed by Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate. The scenery through the natural wetlands is as impressive as the layout, and for the necessary food and beverage respite, the Bluewater Bay Sports Bar and Grill is one of the best. Again, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are on the extensive menu, and the Grill boasts, “From our large, hand-breaded wings to our signature Baja Shrimp, everything is made hot and fresh to order!” The two baskets–chicken fingers and fish fingers—are fried to perfection, and the Chicken Parmesan Pasta served over tender penne is to die for. There are daily happy hours at the full-service bar, and six big-screen HDYV’s supply the entertainment. During the major sporting events, food and drink specials abound. (www.bwbresort.com)

Yes, the Emerald Coast is celebrated for its 24 miles of shoreline, sugar-white beaches, and innumerable ocean activities. Isn’t it also good to know that its golf courses and clubhouse restaurants also deserve a little of that celebration!

For comprehensive information about the Emerald Coast, access this link: www.emeraldcoastfl.com.

(The feature photograph by Vicky MacKay is the par-3 third hole on Choctawhatchee Bay at Kelly Plantation.)