THE FLORIDA HISTORIC GOLF TRAIL: A HANGOUT FOR GOLF’S LEGENDS
Many of today’s stars from the PGA Tour, Champions Tour, and LPGA tend to prefer playing and practicing at golf courses such as Doral, Bay Hill, The Medalist, TPC Sawgrass, Tiburon, Heathrow, and The Bear’s Club, but that’s not always been the case. Back in the day, when golf’s household names were Gene Sarazen, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, ‘Long’ Jim Barnes, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Jimmy Demaret, and Byron Nelson, the stars of yesteryear chose to play and practice on many of Florida’s first golf courses, many of which are now part of the Florida Historic Golf Trail. Many of these golf courses were also designed by many of the game’s great golf course architects — Donald Ross, Bertie Way, Tom Bendelow, Wayne Stiles, John van Cleek, William Langford, and Theodore Moreau. The game’s great players followed the lead of the game’s great architects, which brought everybody to Florida.
When you visit many of these 53 Florida Historic Golf Trail courses, which are as far south as the Key West Golf Club and as far west as the Pensacola Golf Club, you’ll quickly discover that many of the game’s early legends spent a great deal of time, especially during the winter, playing exhibitions, challenge matches, and tournaments on these municipal layouts. When you play these Florida Historic Golf Trail courses, you will follow in the footsteps of the game’s early superstars – players and architects.
Early Days of Florida Golf
Listed below are a series of events in the early days of Florida golf that can best be described as star-studded moments:
- In 1925, the Florida Open was held at the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club, a course designed by Bendelow. The event was labeled the “Greatest Field of Golfers Ever to Play in Florida.” Leo Diegel won the tournament. The head pro/host of the event at Temple Terrace was Barnes, winner of the 1916 and 1919 PGA, 1921 U.S. Open, and 1925 British Open.
- The Miami Springs Golf and Country Club — designed by Langford and Moreau and known initially as the Miami-Hialeah Golf Course — was the host of the Miami Open from 1925-1955. Many of the great legends of golf – Sarazen, Hogan, Nelson, Demaret, Snead, Nelson, and Arnold Palmer – played in the Miami Open. Snead won it six times. The Miami Open was the site of Palmer’s professional debut.
- The Fort Myers Country Club, designed by Ross and opened in 1917, has attracted several significant championship golfers such as Hagen, Sarazen, Palmer, Jock Hutchison, Horton Smith, and ‘Babe’ Didrikson Zaharias, the winner of 10 LPGA major championships.
- The Resort Course at the Boca Raton Resort & Club has had two of golf’s greatest champions serve as golf professionals: Scotland’s Tommy Armour from 1926 to 1955 and Snead from 1956 to 1969. By the way, one of Armour’s pupils was Zaharias.
- The Delray Beach Golf Club, designed by Ross, was the ‘home away from home for LPGA superstar Betty Jameson, the 1947 U.S. Women’s Open champion.
- The Miami Shores Country Club has hosted many Florida State Open golf tournaments. It has welcomed many Hall of Fame golfers such as Snead, Palmer, and Lee Trevino, the great entertainer Bob Hope and the late baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.
- The Riviera Country Club hosts the longest-running mini-tour event in the nation. It’s The Riviera Open, which began in 1960. Some of the winners of this annual 36-hole event, held each December, include former PGA Tour regulars J.C. Goosie, Jim Dent, Morris Hatalsky, and Slugger White, a retired, longtime PGA Tour rules official. Other past and present PGA Tour players who have played in the event include Larry Ziegler and Matt Every, a two-time winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando who played junior golf at Riviera.
For more information on star sightings, back in the day, along today’s Florida Historic Golf Trail, please access FloridaHistoricGolfTrail.com