By Tim McDonald
Pensacola is mostly known to non-Floridians – and even many Floridians for that matter – as a large seaport and home to a big U.S. Navy Base and the spectacular Blue Angels.
It's a lot more, believe me. The sheer volume of water will astonish you: The area has some of the best views and some of the whitest-sand beaches in an area known for exactly that. It also has a thriving downtown, with renovated, historic buildings, and theaters, stores, bars and restaurants are jumping.
But, hey you're here to golf. Here's your perfect Pensacola itinerary: Seven days, seven courses. You'll be staying at the Portofino Island Resort and Spa
, with far-away, dazzling views of the Gulf of Mexico
and Santa Rosa Sound
We're going to start you off with a "wow" factor. The Lost Key Golf Club
is one of those rare resort courses that challenges you with some very tough holes, but manages to make you want to come back for more.
The course is laid down beautifully on Perdido Key
, a narrow, barrier island with sand dunes as white as the reflecting clouds. The island has retained that wild, barrier island feel, even as high-rise condos have risen on the increasingly developed island.
Today, notice that the back nine at Marcus Pointe Golf Club
is where the course really gets rolling, literally and figuratively. The layout has some unusually dramatic elevation changes for Florida, particularly here in the northwest part of the state. You'll enjoy the heck out of this course.
You're headed for Perdido Bay Golf Club
, which was revamped in 2000. It opened in 1963 and was originally known as a heavily-treed, parkland course. But, with a refurbishment, and a little help from Hurricanes Ivan and Dennis, Perdido Bay now sports a wide-open look, almost a links-like feel.
Some of the greens are complicated, multi-tiered jobs with slope and undulation to give you a fun day with the flat stick. The track has water on 14 holes, very picturesque and very Floridian from the visual aspect.
Today is going to be an easy one. The Club at Hidden Creek
was designed by Ron Garl
, a popular and prolific Florida architect. It's 6,862 yards from the back tees and it is a very playable course. Fairways are mounded, there are no forced carries and most of the water is lateral.
We're starting your weekend off with a bang. Tiger Point
is a superb design by hometown boy and former PGA Tour pro Jerry Pate
that has lovely views of Santa Rosa Sound.
The front nine of the East course plays along the Sound, as well as some of the back. Tiger Point is a tad more than 7,000 yards from the back tees, and there are a number of very clever and challenging holes.
Scenic Hills Country Club
was the site of the 1969 U.S. Women's Open
, the only course in Florida to host a U.S. Open event. It is also fairly atypical, with a little elevation change with rolling hills for fairways. Pate updated the course in 1992, and it underwent a full renovation in 2006, improving greens, tee boxes, bunkers and cart paths.
You'll love closing out your trip here with a day at Pensacola Country Club
. The course was awarded renovation of the year in 2007 after fixing extensive damage from Hurricane Ivan. The layout gives you beautiful views overlooking Pensacola Bay. Founded in 1902, it is also the oldest private course in Florida, an old-school gem with small greens and firm, fast fairways.