Recently, the good folks in Tallahassee launched a new initiative known as the Florida Historic Golf Trail. The objective of the trail is to not only help grow the game of golf, but also raise awareness of the historic tracks in Florida that date to the “Golden Age” of golf course architecture.
The Florida Historic Golf Trail encompases over 50 courses all of which opened for play between the late 1890’s and the end of World War II. Most of the courses are sure to be considered off the beaten path, even to us Floridians, and especially as compared to those we see each year during the “Florida Swing.” Yet among this list of relative unknowns we find six courses designed by Donald Ross, and still others by Seth Raynor and Tom Bendelow.
While the majority of courses on the trail don’t come with the stamp of a fabled architect, nearly all of them feature an intriguing story. There’s the Vinoy Golf Club, which came about thanks to a bet that involved Walter Hagen hitting shots off the face of a pocket watch. Meanwhile, the Bobby Jones Golf Club was dedicated with a round by the man himself in 1927, and Babe Zaharias served as professional at the course in Tampa that now bears her name.
In addition to the famous designers and intriguing stories, with so many courses from the Panhandle to the Keys, golfers across the Sunshine State are sure have their own personal connection to the Florida Historic Golf Trail. For yours truly, the story begins at Key West Country Club, where my great-grandfather and grandfather both served as head professional. Fast forward roughly 50 years and the Ocala Golf Club is my home course, a beauty that belies its “Muni” nickname among locals. No doubt there are thousands of personal connections to each of these courses, that only serve to enrich the history found along the golf trail.
As a lifelong Floridian, I’ll be the first to admit that “historic” isn’t a word I often toss around when describing our courses. Sure, there’s no shortage of well known clubs in Florida, but in terms of historic value it’s hard to put Doral or Sawgrass in the same league as say a Pinehurst or Shinnecock. However, thanks to the Florida Historic Golf Trail, it’s clear that a wealth of history has been right under my nose this entire time.
From legendary architects to courses rich in historic and personal sentiment, The Florida Historic Golf Trail is a unique initiative that I only wish was launched long ago. Whether you’re planning to visit on a golf trip or you call the Sunshine State home, consider adding a round on the trail to your list. Better yet, join yours truly in the quest to play them all.