CRANDON GOLF AT KEY BISCAYNE****
The perfect antidote to pricey resort golf, this affordable municipal course lies tucked away in a lushly tropical county park on Key Biscayne. The unspoiled natural setting—replete with palm trees, white and red mangroves and a dazzling assortment of waterfowl—belies its proximity to downtown Miami, a mere fifteen-minute drive away. A number of holes offer mesmerizing views of the city skyline across Biscayne Bay. Originally opened in 1972—the work of Robert von Hagge and Bruce Devlin—Crandon Park, the name commonly used for the course, hosted a Champions Tour event for years, entertaining the likes of Chi Chi Rodriguez, Lee Trevino and Gary Player. The layout received a thorough redesign (courtesy of von Hagge) in the early nineties following Hurricane Andrew. From the championship tees, it can play as long as 7,300 yards, with a whopping 145 slope, and includes a collection of par fives ranging from 555 to 638 yards. The layout features numerous doglegs as well as tons of sand and water. But the biggest challenge may be securing a tee time, as reservations are taken only five days in advance and discounts for Dade County residents make the course extremely popular.
6700 Crandon Boulevard, Key Biscayne; 305-361-9129, miamidade.gov/parks. Yardage: 7,301. Par: 72. Slope: 145. Architects: Robert von Hagge and Bruce Devlin, 1972. Greens Fees: $58–$148.
THE BILTMORE GOLF COURSE*** 1/2
It seems that no golf trip is complete, at least in the eastern United States, without a dose of Donald Ross, and The Biltmore is a poster child for the phenomenon. Built alongside the ornate 1920s-era hotel of the same name, the course rings with history. Thanks to a renovation in 1992, it also remains a viable test. Short by modern standards, the holes nonetheless pose their share of intrigue in the form of Ross’s uncanny bunker deployment and baffling green contours. The number-one handicap hole, the 406-yard par-four seventeenth, plays into the prevailing wind and requires an approach over a stream to a green perched above a bulkhead. Still, this is a true resort course: Most of the fairways are wide enough for snowbirds to swing away. The Biltmore also happens to be walkable, and a high proportion of golfers opt to play it on foot. Even the housing that lines parts of the course—mostly palatial and well- landscaped Old Florida–style homes—lends a measure of charm. The course accepts public play and has a local membership as well, so be sure to book early.
1210 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables; 305-669-9500. Yardage: 6,800. Par: 71. Slope: 126. Architect: Donald Ross, 1925. Greens Fees: $85–$175.
FAIRMONT TURNBERRY ISLE RESORT & CLUB, SOUTH *** 1/2
A more recent golf heritage belongs to the South course at Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club. The layout, a rather benign Robert Trent Jones Sr. eighteen that opened in 1971 (along with a more modest sister course, the North), is being redesigned by Raymond Floyd as part of a renovation of the entire resort; closed during the project, Turnberry Isle reopens on December 15. Although the South course stretches to more than 7,000 yards and water looms on all but four of the holes—most famously at the island-green par-five eighteenth—the layout lacks some of the penal aspects (encroaching fairway bunkers, well-guarded greens) commonly associated with Jones. Still, the South is stern enough to have hosted professional tournaments including the 1980 Senior PGA Championship, won by Arnold Palmer. The resort holds a place in golf lore as the site where the idea for a senior circuit (long before its rechristening as the Champions Tour) was hatched.
19999 West Country Club Drive, Aventura; 305-933-6929, fairmont.com. Yardage: TBD. Par: 71. Slope: TBD. Architect: Robert Trent Jones Sr., 1971. Greens Fees: TBD.