If you enjoy Southern golf courses, you cannot play any farther south than Key West Golf Club. Just being in Key West is a treat and you would probably be happy playing any old track to enjoy the tropical weather and scenery.
But the real delight here is that the only golf layout in Key West is not only open to the public, it is also a terrific 18-hole Rees Jones championship design. Just follow U.S. Highway 1 to the very end, and you'll find this wonderful golf course, your reward at the end of a rainbow.
Key West Golf Club
Originally created as an island nine-hole track back in the 1920s, Key West Golf Club was completely redone in 1983 by Rees Jones. This is the only Caribbean golf course in the U.S., with lush foliage, abundant palms, mangrove fields and wildlife throughout its 200 acres. You'll not only see the native Florida birds and the free-roaming wild chickens that seem to be everywhere in Key West, but the place is home to unusually plentiful iguanas that roam the ponds and edges of the wooded areas.If you do not have access to the few private golf clubs in the chain of keys sweeping down from the tip of the southeast Florida mainland, then Key West GC is your course. How lucky that it happens to be a championship-length layout that is not only exceptionally interesting, but challenging to play as well.
Check out these specs:
- From the back Blue Tees it measures 6,531 yards and is rated/sloped at 72.4/134. Pretty strong for a Par 70 course.
- The White Tees are 6,035 and 70.1/131.
- The Red Tees play at 5,025 and are rated/sloped at 69.5/125.
There are two outstanding Par 3 holes here. The #8 plays at 185 yards from the back, entirely over a huge mangrove field. Come up short here and you'll need to reload. You can't play from the mangroves as they are often partially submerged as the tide moves in and out. The #16 is a beautiful 160-yard hole that plays to a slightly angled and well bunkered green over a saltwater pond.
The Key West GC greens are a new strain of paspalum grass. It grows wonderfully and produces an emerald green putting surface that rolls straight and true without any pesky grain to control your ball. Putting these greens is a joy.
Key West GC also has the Wedges Bar & Grill that will set up for banquets and meetings. These folks will be more than happy to coordinate a tournament or outing with your charity, business or group and they work hand-in-hand with the local hotels to set up the golf event you may require.
I stayed at the wonderful Doubletree Grand Key Resort which is just a mile or so from the Key West GC and one mile from the Key West International Airport. It has terrific rooms and great service in a lush environment. The hotel also offers a free shuttle bus ride to almost anyplace that you'd like to go on the island. This comes in handy when you consider the tight parking available in the historic and entertaining downtown area, or if you just need a quick ride over to the golf course.
Things to Do Off the Course
Key West may have more things going on than you can cover in a short visit. Some of the more popular places to see: the Ernest Hemingway House, the Southernmost Point in the U.S. Marker, Smathers Beach and, of course, Mallory Square (a great place to watch the sun go down). There are a million things to see along famous Duval Street, from the quirky shops to the many eateries. Historic homes, maritime museums, fishing, snorkeling and sunset cruises should be on your "to do" list.
Places to Eat
There are so many places to eat in Key West that you'll have no trouble finding just the type of food that you are looking for. From the finest in dining to pub grub, it is all here.
I enjoyed the Conch Republic Seafood Company on Greene Street (right on the water). For lunch along Duval Street, try the Hard Rock Cafe, set up in a beautiful old Victorian house.
When You Go
The best time of the year to play golf at the Key West GC is from November through April (when the temperature is still in the low 80s). Call the golf shop at 305-294-5232 to book your tee time or outing or visit www.keywestgolf.com.
To contact the nearby Doubletree Grand Key Resort, call 305-293-1818. Log on to www.grandkeyresort.com for more information.