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|There's a lot of water at Key West Golf Club, so you better be on your game. (Courtesy of Key West G.C.)|
KEY WEST, Fla. -- Just as quickly as a toothy barracuda snaps through a stout filament, the Florida Keys make you slow down and enjoy the pace. Tee it up at Key West Golf Club, then settle in for a lazy, sunny vacation sprinkled with golf, nightlife, and world-class deep sea fishing that even attracted two presidents -- Harry S. Truman and George H.W. Bush.
Key West is 129 miles southwest of Miami and a mere 94 statute miles from Havana. Today it is a seaport destination for many cruise ships, and those tourists head for Old Town, which is the original Key West Historic District that includes classic bungalows and guest mansions in an area around Mallory Square, Duval Street and Fort Zachary Taylor. Truman's winter White House is here, along with Hemingway's home.
Rees Jones designed Key West Golf Club, the southernmost golf course in the continental United States and situated seven feet above sea level. Since real estate is at a premium in the Florida Keys, the golf course rolls out at 6,512 yards, short by today's standards, but it has plenty of scenery to keep you interested.
Most golfers talk about the infamous "Mangrove Hole" -- the 143-yard, par-3 eighth that is a test for the best players. But the golf acreage includes dense foliage, tall palms, mangroves, lakes, rolling fairways, multi-tiered contoured greens and wildlife, including plenty of egrets.
A recent renovation improved the golf course, rebuilt its 90 bunkers and improved its conditioning with newer salt-resistant Paspalum grass. The golf course was built in 1983 and has had numerous chances to improve. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma destroyed many greens and left little grass on many fairways. Today's bunkers include some with sand and some coral waste areas.
Most people don't come to the Florida Keys to play golf, but Key West Golf Club will keep you interested. But be sure to bring plenty of golf balls if you are hitting them crooked.
"I thought Key West Golf Club was a great experience," said Jake Schmidt of Wilmington, Del. "When I made my tee time I thought about a tropical-styled course and I wasn't disappointed. The price is not that bad, the rental clubs were new, and great, and the new greens rolled smooth and true. I wasn't disappointed.
"My advice for the 'Mangrove Hole' is to hit a solid shot and don't baby it. The hole plays like an island green. This place doesn't rival the majority of Florida's great courses, but when you come to Key West you don't really come for golf. You come for the fishing or scuba diving."
Management likes to call Key West Golf Club the "Gateway to the Caribbean" and claims to have put more than 4,000 students through its Sunshine Swing Solutions instructional programs. Also, it is now featuring V1 and Zelocity Software computerized swing analysis. Don't expect a state-of-the-art practice facility when you visit, however.
The new Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorda is a classic -- a place that has been in business since 1946 and is proud of its "barefoot elegance" decor that includes wood-beamed ceilings, wood-paddle ceiling fans and tropical plants. It even has a pitch-and-putt executive golf course to hone your short game, as well as six lighted tennis courts.
The resort has attracted sports and fishing enthusiasts such as sportscaster Curt Gowdy, General Norman Schwarzkopf and President Bush, as well as families seeking active vacations that include a saltwater lagoon for swimming and a palm-lined, 1,100-foot white-sand beach furnished with tiki torches and thatched cabanas.
The classic wood pier jutting 525 feet into the Atlantic Ocean is ideal for fishing and moonlight strolls. A 25-yard adult lap pool is ideal for exercise, and all kinds of water sports are available along with sunset cruises.
The property sits on 27 acres and has 203 guest rooms, including 48 suites that all have full kitchens. In addition, Cheeca Lodge offers an extensive range of services and amenities.
Cheeca Lodge is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World and a AAA Four-Diamond Resort.
Temperatures average in the 70s in the winter and in the 80s in the summer, with an almost constant ocean breeze. The Florida Keys has a colorful history, populated by the Calusa Indians, Spanish explorers, homesteaders and Bahamian wreckers who made their living off salvage from vessels sunk on the coral reefs. Today it is a fascinating, popular and easy-to-reach destination.
February 18, 2011
David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter at @David_R_Holland.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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