Shake off the winter rust with the most playable golf courses in the Miami area
After a winter of inactivity, when you've swung a snow shovel more than a golf club, do you really want a ball-busting, in-your-face challenge that'll require a calculator to keep your score?
Of course not.
What you need are playable courses that are superbly designed but don't repeatedly demand shots you realistically can't execute without a lot of practice.
Coaching icon Don Shula was known for being a tough but fair head coach in his days with the NFL's Miami Dolphins. The Senator Course at Shula's Hotel and Golf Club in Miami Lakes has the same qualities. While the back nine has tight fairways and lots of water, the first few holes are fairly open, which allows you to get into a nice rhythm.
In Coral Gables, Donald Ross -- one of the game's most revered course architects -- built the Biltmore Golf Course at the Biltmore Hotel to appeal to a wide range of golfers. Its challenge is not in length off the tee but, rather, in avoiding strategically placed bunkers and three-putts on greens that have subtle undulations and contours.
For a multi-course selection, the Grand Palms Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort in Pembroke Pines has 27 holes -- the Grand, Royal and Sabal layouts. The greens are often praised for being some of the best in South Florida, so Grand Palms is a great place to get the flat stick going after a long winter of putting on the carpet in your living room up north.
If it's your first time on the course in months, try the Sabal/Grand combination that measures 6,662 from the back tees (gold) and 6,313 yards from the blue tees.
Idyllic island golf in Miami
Set on a barrier island just a few minutes from downtown Miami, Crandon Golf Key Biscayne is the perfect place to thaw out after a long winter.
Designed by Bruce Devlin/Robert Von Hagge in 1972, the course incorporates mangrove forests, lush tropical foliage with towering palm trees and a subtropical lagoon. By all means, play the right set of tees for your skill level, and you'll enjoy the experience immensely.
Playable, old school golf in Miami
A legendary local favorite, Palmetto Golf Course, a Dick Wilson design built in 1959, is a well managed and maintained facility. While live oak trees and palms frame the fairways, the landing areas are generous, and the course is forgiving if you play the correct tees.
Founded in 1961, the Country Club of Miami, featuring the East Course and West Course was designed by Robert Trent Jones. To polish your rusty game, the facility has an exceptional short game area with a nine-hole short course and 4,000-square-foot putting green.
To ease into playing again, try the East Course first, a 6,353-yard layout with a slope of 124. Once you've upped your game, the 7,017-yard West Course, with a slope of 132, provides lots of challenge.
If you really have lots of dust on your sticks, one of the best places to start fresh is the Greynolds Park Golf Course on West Dixie Highway, a 3,100-yard, par-36, nine-hole design by Mark Mahannah that opened in 1964. While reasonably priced, Greynolds has all of the design elements to help you revive your game.
Near U.S. 1, north of SW 136th street, the Briar Bay Golf Course -- a par-31 executive-style course designed by Devlin/Von Hagge in 1974 -- is a classic design that'll quickly let you know where your game stands. Water comes into play on several holes, and the wind offers lots of challenge, so you better be ready when you put the peg in the ground on the first tee.
For those worried about length off the tee after a long winter of inactivity, Flamingo Lakes Golf & Country Club in Pembroke Pines is a great option.
Stretching only 5,854 yards, the layout doesn't require muscle off the tee, but you'll use a variety of clubs to strategize your way around this par-71 test. Measuring 4,761 yards from the forward tees, it's a great place for the ladies as well.
If you feel you're ready to take on a challenge, the Bobby Weed-designed East Course and West Course at Jacaranda Golf Club in Plantation will quickly illuminate what parts of the game you need to work on. Mix in some shot making with creativity around the greens, and you'll have great success here.
In Tamarac, the Cypress Course at Woodmont Country Club, which has five sets of tees, was a private course for more than 30 years before being opened to the public five years ago.
February 5, 2013