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The Greens of the Emerald Coast

Naomi Harris Beachgoers at the WaterColor Inn.

Photo: Naomi Harris

After lunch, relax on the beach or push off from shore with a group led by Blue Sky Kayaking, a local outfitter that runs tours ranging from an easy paddle through a coastal lake to more adventurous outings into the Gulf to view dolphins, stingrays and other sea life.

Come evening, you’ll be ready to clean up for a nice dinner at WaterColor’s flagship restaurant, Fish Out of Water. The second-story dining room overlooks the ocean, and its artful seafood preparations draw raves.

DAY THREE

Fuel up on breakfast at WaterColor and drive fifteen minutes west to Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort, a sprawling playground with more than 1,400 condo suites, and seventy-two holes of golf. If you’re up to it, this is the day and the place to play thirty-six. Start with Robert Trent Jones Jr.’s Raven Golf Club, a daring layout that rambles through pines and lagoons and annually hosts a Champions Tour event. For your second round, tee it up at Baytowne Golf Club, where the front nine carves through corridors of pines and the back nine opens up—for a three-hole stretch (thirteen through fifteen) you’ll be mesmerized by views of the Gulf. Another option, available only to overnight guests at Sandestin, is Rees Jones’s Burnt Pine, highlighted by a picturesque par three spanning the inlet of a bay. Or, if eighteen is enough golf for you, drive back to Destin and spend the afternoon on a fishing charter.

Catch the sunset that evening at the Tarpon Club Rooftop Bar in Seaside and then move downstairs to Bud & Alley’s, an Emerald Coast institution serving fresh seafood and huge cuts of meat and offering live entertainment.

DAY FOUR

Stop in for a filling breakfast of biscuits and sausage-egg-and-cheese tacos at Cowgirl Kitchen in Seagrove Beach, then make the twenty-five-minute drive north to the town of Freeport for one final round, at Windswept Dunes. Though the course lies ten miles inland, you’ll feel as though you’re steps from the Gulf thanks to the grass-covered dunes created by "Dozer" Doug O’Rourke, the architect, owner and builder. O’Rourke, who previously had built courses only for other architects, fashioned a layout of twenty-first-century length— 7,600 yards from the tips—that features numerous centerline bunkers. The variety of holes at Windswept Dunes keep the play as fresh as the ever-present wind. It’s an ideal way to conclude your visit to the Emerald Coast—you’ll drive away reluctantly, daydreaming about this once-ridiculed region’s vibrant colors and beach culture, not to mention its golf.

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