CLEWISTON GOLF COURSE:
A SOUHERN ‘SWEET’-SPOT EXPERIENCE
Story by: Mike May
If you are a golfer looking for a one-of-a-kind triathlon experience that includes golf, but does not involve running, swimming, or riding a bike, I would suggest you make plans to travel to Clewiston, Florida. There, you can fish for largemouth bass in nearby Lake Okeechobee, play golf at the well-maintained and renovated Clewiston Golf Course, and go skydiving with Skydive Spaceland at the nearby Airglades Airport, where you’ll get an amazing view of the southern section of Florida. If you get up early, you can do all three adventures in one day. Or, you can take three days where each adventure will be the focal point of that particular day.
|Located just off U.S. 27, which bisects the bottom half of the Sunshine State, Clewiston is an outdoor paradise for golfers, fishermen, skydivers, and birdwatchers, too.
Nicknamed ‘America’s Sweetest City’ because the U.S. Sugar Corporation is based in this community, Clewiston is located an hour’s drive east of Fort Myers and an hour’s drive west of West Palm Beach. Located just off U.S. 27, which bisects the bottom half of the Sunshine State, Clewiston is an outdoor paradise for golfers, fishermen, skydivers, and birdwatchers, too.
The Clewiston Golf Course (www.clewiston-fl.gov) opened for play on Sunday, February 23, 1929. At the time, the daily greens fee was 50 cents. And, for two dollars a month, an entire family was given access to the course. On February 21, 1930 (a year after the course opened), The Clewiston News reported that an important feature of the announcement of the opening of the new golf course was that the nominal green fees had been established to make it possible for everyone in the community to enjoy the course. While Clewiston’s daily rates have increased in the last 80+ years, golf remains a fairly priced recreational endeavor for local residents and visitors alike at their local golf course which is one of 53 golf courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail.
In 1928, the city of Clewiston hired golf course architects Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleech to design an 18-hole course. Captain Deane Duff, the general manager of the Clewiston Company (later named U.S. Sugar Corporation), was the local business leader under whose direction the course was built. Stiles and Van Kleech were influenced by the popular Donald Ross-style of golf course design philosophy, which was popular at the time. If golfers from the 1930s played the course today, they would be delighted to see that most of the surroundings have not changed. Golfing at the Clewiston Golf Course is a yesteryear experience. With Clewiston’s existence so closely connected to the sugar cane industry, it’s only appropriate for the club’s logo to be a flagstick ‘growing’ from the base of a sugar cane plant.
It is worth noting that while the golf course was being built, there was a five-hole golf course at the Clewiston Civic Center Park in downtown Clewiston which local golfers used at the time.
The golf course, under the direction local PGA golf professional Robbie Rush, is a delight to play right now. This par 72-layout – where Rush holds the course record of 63 -- measures nearly 6,500 yards from the tips (white markers), nearly 5,800 yards from the middle tees (yellow markers), and a shade under 5,000 yards from the forward tees (red markers).
"At the Clewiston Golf Course, we take great pride in our service to the golfers that come and play here,” says Rush, whose father was the pro at Clewiston for 30 years. “Everybody that comes to Clewiston to play golf always walks away pleasantly surprised by the quality of our golf course, especially for a small, south Florida community. We get many repeat visitors every year.
At the Clewiston Golf Course, water comes into play on every hole, especially the par three 9th and 15th where it’s a 100 percent carry from tee to green. The 351-yard par 4 18th is a left-to-right configuration where water borders the entire right side of the hole from tee to green. If in doubt, stay to the left-center of the 18th fairway. There’s a good reason why the two highest handicap holes are the 424-yard par four 7th and the 412-yard par four 12th: multiple watery graves. The toughest portion of the course is the seven-hole stretch from the 5th to the 11th, which features three of the par fives and five holes that measure more than 400 yards, from the back tees. In other words, proceed with caution at the Clewiston Golf Course, especially on your maiden ‘voyage.’
There are a few items worth mentioning about the Clewiston Golf Course. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day; fivesomes are permitted; the pro shop expects you to play your 18-hole round in “time par,” which is four hours and 20 minutes or less; walkers are permitted after 10:00 am on weekdays and after 1:30 on weekends and holidays; and tee times in the winter on Tuesday mornings are reserved for the Ladies Association, until 8:30.
So, are you ready for a yesteryear golf experience at the Clewiston Golf Course? The pro shop (863-983-1448) opens at 7:15 a.m. and is ready for you to enjoy a memorable golf outing in ‘America’s Sweetest City,’ preceded, of course, by your local fishing and skydiving experiences.
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The author of this story is Mike May, a south Florida-based golf writer, who can be reached at email@example.com