Shula's Hotel and Golf Club: Where carnivores and Dolphins -- maybe even the NFL legend himself -- gather

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Down in Miami Lakes, you'll find a fine shrine to legendary Dolphins Coach Don Shula, prime beef and great Florida golf. The resort complex includes Shula's Hotel and Golf Club, two steak restaurants, Shula's Athletic Club and a spa.

Shula's Hotel and Golf Club
Shula's Hotel and G.C. is the centerpiece of Miami Lakes, south Florida's first master-planned community.
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If you go

MIAMI LAKES, Fla. -- It would be hard to misunderstand the gender of Shula's Steakhouse.

The big goal post outside the entrance. The photos of all the football players taking and giving vicious shots inside the dark wood decor. The menu, written on a football sitting upright on a kicker's tee.

"It's pretty masculine," says my wife, as we sit down and encounter the football/menu, also noting two huge men sitting at a table next to us that appear to be serious carnivores.

"Yeah," I say, intent on studying the football, and not dwelling on whether she means it as a compliment or complaint. "I'm getting the 48-ounce porterhouse. You ever eat three pounds of meat?"

No, she never has. But, being from Nebraska, she knows beef. And when the waitress beings a tray of meat to our table for our inspection, my wife falls silent, almost reverent.

Shula's, of course, is named after the famous Miami Dolphins football coach Don Shula, the one who led the Fish to the perfect season -- the only one in NFL history.

This is just one part of the coach's complex. There is Shula's Hotel and Golf Club just down the street. There is Shula's Steak 2 inside the hotel, a more informal eatery, as well as Shula's Athletic Club.

It's all located on Main Street, the town center of Miami Lakes, South Florida's first master-planned community near Miami that opened in 1963. It's one of the earliest examples of the New Urbanism movement, where shops and restaurants and other commercial districts are within walking distance of homes.

It's a wholesome, family community -- although rapper Vanilla Ice and K.C. of K.C. and the Sunshine band both hail from here -- and a good fit for the lantern-jawed, south Florida sports legend.

You can sit under an umbrella at the Vie de France Bakery on the corner and get your morning latte. Restaurants and movie theaters are all within walking distance, which of course, is how they planned it.

The Don Shula Hotel is owned and operated by the Graham Companies, established in 1932. The Graham family has been a part of South Florida for decades. Ernest Graham, a former state senator, arrived in Miami in the 1900s when Miami was still considered part of the Everglades. Bob Graham and Washington Post editor Katherine Graham are related.

But, it wasn't until the early 1990s that they decided to honor Shula and his perfect 17-0 season of 1972 by renaming the property in his honor.

It's a nice hotel that completed a $2 million renovation in January of 2007, including all 205 guest rooms, 15,000 square feet of meeting space and the hotel lobby.

In all, there is more than 22,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space, including indoor and outdoor venues, when the south Florida sun isn't burning too brightly.

The Grand Slam Ballroom is 4,100 square feet and opens up onto the Lagoon Terrace. The mezzanine floor with 40-foot ceilings and oak rafters has eight meeting rooms.

The hotel has a spa, of course, by Aveda. It includes a stone water display, seven treatment rooms and a "serenity room with a selection of tea for relaxation." I'm betting Larry Csonka never sipped tea here.

You can't catch any passes from Bob Griese or even Dan Marino, but you can show your athletic side at the golf course.

The Senator Course at Shula's Golf Club

The Senator Course at Shula's Golf Club also recently completed a $2 million renovation, done mainly because of the effects of Hurricane Wilma. Course officials say the layout is better than the pre-storm golf course.

"Although no one ever wishes for storm damage on their course, the changes caused by Wilma and course renovations during cleanup actually worked in our favor," course Superintendent Tim Sticco said. "Dealing with post-storm issues gave us the chance to improve the look and feel of the course."

They added 150 new trees after the course had wiped out many, as well as adding 1,500 new plants. They also re-built cart paths and fences, and improved drainage.

The changes were so dramatic, they decided to re-name the 6,982-yard, Bill Watts-designed course to the Senator Course, in honor of former Senator Bob Graham.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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