The Beginning History of Golf in South Florida
The first 18-hole South Florida golf course was created in 1897 at Henry Flagler’s luxurious Palm Beach Hotel. Indeed, this was the first 18-hole golf course in all of Florida at the time, and it defined Palm Beach as an area of sophistication, high standards, and excellence.
Since the early founding of the State of Florida, golf has played an instrumental part of the region’s growth and attraction. The climate, vegetation, and flat surface made South Florida the perfect place to build some of the most magnificent golf courses in the entire United States.
Some of the most recognizable golf tournaments marked the beginning history of golf in South Florida: The U.S. Open (1895) and The Open Championship (1860).
The Next Phase
A wave of new constructions and new golf courses in South Florida took place in the 1920’s and some of those courses are still here today. Another two major golf tournaments were hosted in Florida; the Masters (1934), PGA Championship (1916), and together with the U.S. Open and The Open Championship, they formed the Grand Slam.
A new surge of creativity developed and soon, golf course architects were just as famous as the golfers themselves. South Florida golf courses began to utilize mounds and holes to challenge the players even more.
The Golden Years
The sport of golf really hit its stride again in the 1950s and 1960s. This era was the time of the greats like Bing Crosby, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. These men (with the exception of Crosby) were lifted from obscurity and placed squarely in the public limelight by virtue of their golf skills alone.
These golfers are heralded as some of the best of all time, especially Jack Nicklaus who won the record 14 majors that is still yet to be beaten.
It was around this time that golf courses in South Florida and all over the world began taking on new designs and shapes. In 1971, Deer Creek Golf Club finally opened its doors to the general public. The golf course was designed by the world renowned architect Arthur Hills, and the 2004 renovation stayed true to his vision while creating something more modern and challenging for South Florida locals.
[More about the history of Deer Creek Golf Club]
Golf in South Florida is stronger than ever, and part of that success is owed to the climate allowing for year round golf. There are charity tournaments, South Florida golf schools, and all the cups and trophies in between.
Senior golf is also quite popular in South Florida, with tournaments taking place each year to see who ranks the best in the “over 50” category.
It is said that the direct impact of golf in South Florida can be estimated at around $10 billion annually, which is not just spread across the 1,100 public and private golf courses, but in the tourist economy as well.