Warm up with winter golf on Florida’s First Coast

Technically, Florida’s First Coast is not in the tropics. But for the thousands of visitors who flock to the five-county area and its dozens of world-class golf courses in Amelia Island, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Clay County or Palm Coast  — especially those from Canada and the Northeast or Midwest United States — it’s close enough.

Winter on Northeast Florida courses such as the TPC Sawgrass (the home of the PGA Tour’s “Gold Standard,” The Players Championship), the Honours Golf courses at the World Golf Hall of Fame (the Slammer & Squire and King & Bear) and the Hammock Beach Resort Ocean Course in Palm Coast is usually a pleasant way to spend a day, or a week, or longer.

The temperatures are moderate, with the average Jacksonville high frequently topping 65 degrees in January and the average low going down to only 46 degrees. Of course, the farther south or east one goes — to Ponte Vedra, St. Augustine and Palm Coast — it gets even warmer.

And if you’ve been snow-bound in Michigan, Ohio or Canada, how good does a 70-degree day with a scent of salt in the air sound? Last January, there were 10 days with a high of 75 or more in Jacksonville, and only one night where the temperature flirted with freezing.

It will be comfortable. But you won’t sweat, unless it’s on the iconic 17th tee of the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, trying to thread a tee shot to the fairway of the risk-reward par-5 18th hole at the King & Bear or standing over downhill putts on coastal courses such as Hammock Beach Resort’s Ocean Course.

And even if it does wind up being a chilly day of golf, at least by Florida standards, that makes dinner and a glass of vintage wine taste all that much better in the luxurious dining areas at resort facilities such as the Sawgrass Marriott in Ponte Vedra or One Ocean Resort & Spa in Atlantic Beach. The dining experiences are no less pleasurable in the clubhouses at the TPC Sawgrass, Hammock Beach or the Honours Golf courses.

There’s also an excellent opportunity to improve both your game and what’s in your bag while on the First Coast.

The PGA Tour Academy has two locations, at the TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village, with world-class instruction backed by space-age launch monitors and digital video to work out the kinks that might have crept into backswings or chipping strokes during the winter back home.

And visitors can do both at the PGA Tour Superstore, located in the St. Johns Town Center. The 25,000-square foot facility offers indoor hitting bays, a huge indoor putting green and teachers and club fitters who will mold your swing — no doubt improved by that point — to the best clubheads, shafts and grips from name brands such as Titleist, TaylorMade, Ping and Callaway. Balls, gloves, tees, bags and training aids of all brands are available and golfers also can check out the latest fashions for men, women and children.

The First Coast during the winter has the entire package, from playing the game tee to green, accommodations and dining, getting outfitted from head to toe, or getting your game in shape from long game to putting — all at world-class resorts, courses, instructional facilities and retail stores. It’s a can’t-miss proposition. www.florida-golf.org