I’ve seen a lot of pictures of Florida golf, but the picture to the right was a new one for me. New -- and very, very old.
Living less than a mile up Highway A1A from the famous Castillo de San Marcos National Park in downtown St. Augustine, I was floored to see this shot of golf being played in the shadow of the fort.
It’s easy to forget there was golf all over Florida long before the nationally ranked resorts and top-end daily fee public courses that now draw visitors from around the world.
The Florida Historic Golf Trail, created by the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources, is helping preserve Old Florida golf, celebrating the game’s heritage from the late 1890s through World War II through a website a future “Florida Historic Golf Trail” publication.
Some avid players may know some of the courses on the trail’s list, from Mission Inn’s El Campeon to the Ocean Course at the Breakers (the oldest 18-hole course in Florida) and Ponte Vedra Inn and Club’s Ocean Course.
But there are so many more gems to be discovered, from an original Donald Ross-designed course in Palatka to layouts from Clearwater to Clewiston and from Miami Beach to Mount Dora.
Florida’s golf history dates to the 1880s, when several courses were associated with hotel and railroad development. Sounds familiar, huh? Put a golf course next to a hotel, and watch the tourists come in.
Do yourself a favor sometime and hit the road to Florida’s off-the-beaten-path golf destinations, and soak in some of that great history.