GOLFING IN PARADISE
By Alexander Albrecht
© Jana M. Jones
an iguana on the fairway qualify as a 'moveable object' and
thus fall under the governance of USGA Rule 26? It isn't covered
in the rulebook and you may not need to know the answer, but
when golfing in Miami, be prepared for anything.
Setting the Scene:
on the pleasure of the unexpected, Miami has drawn people searching
for extraordinary experiences for nearly a century. The range
and quality of its golf courses and their often dazzling, supernatural
settings are part of that allure now more than ever.
in most geographic locations, being able to play a round of golf at any time
during the year in semi-tropical temperatures has drawn
some of the world's best players, course designers and tournaments to Miami,
making it an absolute Mecca when exploring golf in America. And
this being America, there naturally seems to be a course for every
skill level, schedule and budget. The bonus shared by all golfers
in the area is the excellence that has become standard - design,
maintenance, service, and, of course, setting - making it possible
to experience courses that are often rated near the top in their
racing may be the sport of Kings, but in America golf is the sport
of business titans. Golf etiquette is essentially universal and very rarely does a
seasoned golfer have an awkward moment. Pace of play, consideration before and during a stroke,
priority of two ball matches over three or four and such are the
same everywhere. As for noticeable differences on the courses,
environmentally sensitive areas are found on many courses in Miami and
are marked by white, red or yellow stakes with green tops; these areas are declared off limits by various U.S. government agencies. Players may
not enter an area to retrieve or play a ball.
Miami has a disproportionate number of women on
its courses compared to almost anywhere else; it is estimated that over 30% of the area's
golfers are women - many are formidable players.
Guest Room at Doral Resort
© Doral Resort
codes are somewhat relaxed in Miami, especially at the public
courses, but collared shirts and spikeless shoes are pretty much
The experience you are looking for will be directly related to
its price tag. A weekday morning's round at a public course can
be as little as $40 -- but a package at a resort such as the Doral Golf Resort and Spa or The Diplomat
complete with golf clinics, tennis, spa treatments and a day camp
for kids can go for upwards of $300 per person, per night.
is fairly easy to book a tee time, but doing so in advance is
strongly recommended. At the Doral for example, priority is given
to the resort's guests, but for a pre-book fee, outside players
can book up to 30 days ahead.
over 650 acres, The Doral Country Club is the granddaddy of clubs
in South Florida. The club maintains five courses - the best being
the Blue Monster. Rated one of the best in the country, the par
72 course was designed in 1960 by Dick Wilson and was restored
in 1996. Some of the highlights of this challenging course include
its formidable length of 7,125 yards, the numerous bunkers (restored
in 1999) and the splendid landscaping. Of special note is the
4th hole - the hardest par 3 on the course. A near miss here is
certain agony. Two deep bunkers on the left and water on the right
are ominous and foreboding, but to triumph over them is a total rush.
On the 18th hole, the right hand corner of the dogleg has a sand
trap surrounding the water hazard that stretches into palm trees
near the landing zone. Don't feel badly if you have a tough time
here - it is considered the most difficult hole on the PGA Tour.
The Blue Monster - 18th Hole
© Doral Resorts
The other courses at Doral
- the Red, Gold, White and Silver courses- are also all well worth
the challenge. A round of golf here is expensive, but there are often specials for guests staying at the resort, which offers nearly 700 guestrooms
in lodges around the clubhouse, a spa, the Arthur Ashe Tennis
Center and the Blue Lagoon water recreation park.
Park is rated one of the top
50 public courses in the United States by Golf Magazine. The course
has spectacular views of Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline while
providing for excellent, challenging golf at a very good price.
Crandon Golf Course
© Miami-Dade Parks
Designed in 1972 by Devlin/Von Hagge and restored
in 1993, the course is a favorite of many on the PGA Senior Tour
who compete yearly in the Royal Caribbean Classic. Here's why.
The solid layout seems, in some places, like a Scottish course;
the fairways are kept in excellent shape with an often challenging
approach to the greens, and the greens themselves often undulate
and are very fast.
At 7,180 yards, the course seems enormous due
in part to the fact that it is surrounded by water - it is located
on Key Biscayne - and has 11 water holes.
Highlights include the
432-yard 7th hole with a blind landing area tucked behind a mangrove
swamp, complete with resident crocodiles. Hole number 11, at
435 yards, with deep-set bunkers, palm trees as potential obstacles
and one of the courses' seven saltwater lakes, is also a force with which
to be reckoned.
The scenery here is stunning. Filled with native vegetation
and in an area protected from development, the park attracts iguanas,
pelicans, parrots, herons and egrets. Most golfers visiting Miami
consider Crandon a MUST PLAY; and there is only one caveat on this course:
Get an early tee time, as by mid afternoon the play becomes very
you have the time and the funds after playing Doral and Crandon
there are several other excellent courses to choose from: The
International Links, Golf Club of Miami and the California Club
among them. All of these courses are favorites with locals.
International Links has recently been refurbished. It is known for its "Heartbreak Ridge"
- hole number 14 - comprised of 439 yards of calculation culminating
on an island green. The course requires stamina; it becomes more
challenging as you progress through it.
At the Golf Club of Miami,
the PGA maintains three courses with the stated objective of "providing
the public with the ability to experience PGA quality golf." It
has a new clubhouse and restaurant and an illustrious past - Jack
Nicklaus played his first pro tournament here, Lee Trevino won
his first pro title here, and Arnold Palmer was the club's first
© Jana M. Jones
is known as a Mecca of escape - from oppressive cold, from oppressive
taxes, and from old age. Golfers see it a little differently,
more as an experience, and an experience that is unrivaled -
for within minutes of this very real, tactile thrill are the thrills
of Miami's other creations - but that is another story.
the way, iguanas are very shy creatures and will scamper off long
before you get close enough to decide whether to go over or around