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|The No. 9 tee box juts out into one of Perdido Bay Golf Club's many small lakes. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
PENSACOLA, Fla. - If it's been a while since you've played Perdido Bay Golf Club - say seven or eight years - you might want to re-visit.
Golf architect Bill Bergin came around in 2000 and revamped the golf course, which opened in 1963 from a Bill Amick design. Before Bergin got a hold of it, Perdido Bay was known as a heavily-treed, parkland course.
After Bergin and his bulldozers finished, the course looked completely different. With help from hurricanes Ivan and Dennis, Perdido Bay now sports a wide-open look, almost a links-like feel.
"It used to be ridiculously heavily-treed," said Director of Golf Todd Rice. "It's a completely different way of playing it now."
The wholesale removal of trees, from both architects and hurricanes, helped in other ways. It opened up the course for more sunlight and air movement, for example, cutting down maintenance costs and keeping grass healthier. The renovation included installing TifEagle greens.
The original routing remains much the same, with only a few holes changed, but Bergin did use his bulldozers in other ways, scooping up mounds and hillocks to give what is essentially a very flat piece of land some needed movement and flow.
In fact, the mounds around the green produced one of my secret pleasures. Many of the mounds can be used to funnel your approach shots to the hole; it gets so boring firing at the pin every time, does it not?
Bergin also changed some of the green contours, making them more interesting. Many of the greens are relatively tame, but there are some complicated, multi-tiered jobs with some fairly radical slope and undulation to give you a fun day with the flat stick.
The openness took away one challenge in avoiding the trees, and added another. As with all open Florida golf courses, wind will always influence the way you play this course on any given day.
Another benefit from the haircut: Perdido Bay has water on 14 holes, though most of it is lateral with only a handful of forced carries, but it opens up the views to all the water. The result is a very picturesque golf course, very Floridian from the visual aspect. The tee box at No. 9, for example, is stuck out in one of the small lakes.
Perdido Bay has some history behind it. It hosted the Pensacola Open for 10 years; Jack Nicklaus, Payne Stewart, Tom Kite and Curtis Strange have all strode these grounds. It was nominated as "best new public course" by Golf Digest when it opened.
Perdido Bay plays all of its 7,072 yards from the back tees.
"It's very playable from the up tees," Rice said. "It's a truly challenging golf course from the back. It forces you to use driver, separating the good player from the also-ran. You don't get a lot of roll, and there aren't any big doglegs with false yardages. You get aggressive from awkward positions, you can get in trouble - all that water around the edges, and bunkers. Still, the old bump-and-run is available on almost every hole."
All the water attracts a variety of wildlife, including one of the bigger alligators I've seen on a golf course, lounging on the No. 13 tee box.
Said Rice: "We don't have a big Carolina goose problem. They're a delicacy."
Green fees are in the $80 range, which some golfers have complained about. Still, this is one of the better Pensacola-area golf courses.
Meyer Real Estate is the largest provider of accommodations on the Gulf Coast, from Perdido Key to Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island in Alabama.
They rent out individually-owned beach houses from two to 11 bedrooms and coastal condos from one to four bedrooms in more than 180 buildings. The company specializes in hosting large groups of golfers.
There are four offices for check-in at Perdido Key, Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island, the office at Gulf Shores being open 24 hours a day.
If you want to stay close to the course, within walking distance, check on availability in one of the condos overlooking it. The units are big, with private patios and full kitchens. You can look down, literally and figuratively, on other golfers being manhandled by Lost Key.
The Lost Key Golf and Beach Club has "sky homes," single-family homes and villas for rent, and the Lost Key Marina and Yacht Club is a waterfront community with mid-rise towers with views of the Gulf of Mexico and Intracoastal Waters.
More golf villas are planned.
May 22, 2008
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.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Referred to by its hosts as a "hidden gem," the greens alone at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, Calif. make this a stone worth turning over. Located an hour northwest of L.A., it's a pleasing, quiet and generally engaging round that will appease players of all levels.
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