CLEVELAND HEIGHTS GOLF CLUB:
A GREAT PLACE TO HANG OUT

Story by: Mike May

While Lakeland, Florida is well known as the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers and the headquarters of grocery store chain Publix, it’s also the home of one of Florida’s oldest golf courses – the Cleveland Heights Golf Club (2900 Buckingham Avenue, Lakeland, Florida; 863-834-2377).  While it’s now a 27-hole destination, Cleveland Heights GC was originally an 18-hole golf course, which opened in 1925. 

Cleveland Heights Golf Club now is a 27-hole destination.  It was originally an 18-hole golf course, which opened in 1925.

The Cleveland Heights GC -- clevelandheightsgolfclub.com -- is one of the 53 golf courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail.  According to the Florida Historic Golf Trail website, when Cleveland Heights GC opened, it was a great place to hang out as it had “a swank $1 million clubhouse” and “all the flair of an elite country club during the Roaring ‘20s.”  Why the name Cleveland Heights?  It was named after the hometown of the course’s original developer (H. A. Stahl) – Cleveland, Ohio.

In those early years, anybody wishing to play golf met at the clubhouse on Lake Hollingsworth and they were transported to the Locker House on Buckingham Avenue to meet with local caddies.  Nowadays, caddies have been replaced with EZGO golf carts and golfers park their vehicles on the premises of the two-story Spanish-Mediterranean clubhouse complex that houses the pro shop, the cart shed, and Bosko’s Clubhouse Grill.

In the early 1980s, an additional nine holes were built, giving the course its current 27-hole configuration:  A (Azalea) Course, B (Bougainvillea) Course, and C (Camelia) Course.

Nowadays, when you play Cleveland Heights, it’s a cocoon-like experience.  You get a warm and fuzzy feeling at Cleveland Heights as you are surrounded by acres of well-maintained and manicured tees, greens, bunkers, rough, fairways, and shady trees.  That is why Cleveland Heights is such a great place to hang out.

In the early 1980s, an additional nine holes were built, giving the course its current 27-hole configuration:  A (Azalea) Course, B (Bougainvillea) Course, and C (Camelia) Course.  Generally speaking, the A Course has the most wide open fairways, the B Course is the most demanding of the three courses, and the C Course is the longest of the three layouts.  One trait that all three courses share is a number of views of Lake John.  It’s worth noting that all three courses have been through renovations in recent years and are ready for play -- today.  Since 2013, the greens and tees of all three courses have been renovated by world renowned golf course architect Ron Garl.  In 2013, the driving range and practice putting green were also renovated, while the chipping green had a major makeover in 2015.

The three most memorable holes at Cleveland Heights GC are (1) the 505-yard, par-five fifth hole on the C Course.  From both the white and blue tees, your tee shot must carry a portion of Lake John.  It’s a ‘big-boy’ par five which requires three shots to reach the green in regulation.  Take the most conservative route from the tee; (2) the 188-yard, par-three ninth hole on the A Course.  It’s an uphill tee shot to a raised green with the clubhouse looming in the background.  The view from the tee is an attention-getter.  Closing with a par on the A Course is pleasing; and (3) the 390-yard, right-to-left, dogleg, par-four third on the B Course.  As you approach the green, you’ll see Lake John in the distance.  The approach to the green is often into the wind.

The bridges can best be described as miniature versions of the Swilcan Bridge, the famous crosswalk that appears on the 18th fairway at St. Andrews in Scotland.

One of the common themes at Cleveland Heights is that ten of the 27 holes are short par fours, which measure less than 360 yards (from the back tees).  In many cases, the greens on these short par fours are raised putting surfaces that are protected by sand bunkers.  Pay attention to the pin placements on those short par fours.

Another distinguishing aspect of Cleveland Heights is the number of stone bridges that cross the many streams, creeks, and water hazards on the course.  The bridges can best be described as miniature versions of the Swilcan Bridge, the famous crosswalk that appears on the 18th fairway at St. Andrews in Scotland.  Those stone bridges add to the historical mystique of Cleveland Heights.

So, on your next trip to Lakeland, bring your golf clubs and play the historic Cleveland Heights Golf Club.  It’s really a great place to hang out.

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The author of this story is Mike May, a south Florida-based golf writer, who can be reached at mmaymarketing@gmail.com