Story by: Mike May

Over the last 100+ years, Florida’s development can largely be attributed to the ambition of the late Henry Flagler and Henry Plant.  One of the keys to both Flagler’s and Plant’s successes was their strategic use of the railroad.  Not only did the railroad bring people to Florida, it was the key to the growth of many of its golf courses, as is explained in the book The Two Henrys – Railroads Carry Golf Across Florida.

ABOVE: A CSX train runs through the South Course in Daytona Beach.
BELOW: When playing the Winter Park Golf Course, watch for either the Sun Rail or AMTRAK train rolling past during your round.  Take time to wave to the engineer!
BELOW IN B&W: Henry Plant plays the Tampa Bay Hotel golf course.

When you look at the current list of 53 golf courses which are part of the Florida Historic Golf Trail, there are interesting tales to tell about each course.  For instance, Riviera Country Club in Ormond Beach has Sissy’s Ridge, Miami Shores Country Club in Miami Shores has “the hole,” and Lake Worth Municipal Golf Club in Lake Worth has a monument to honor “The Dogfighters.”  But, many of these golf courses in the state were built because of the railroad.

When you play the Clearwater Country Club (727-461-4188), your round will be interrupted by a passing train.  Twice a day, a train rolls through the middle of the golf course, traveling along the CSX Railroad.

The railroad track theme continues at the South Course at the Daytona Beach Golf Club (386-671-3500), which was designed by Donald Ross and opened for play in 1921.

A passing train is a common sight on this golf course, since the 4th, 5th, and 6th holes are separated from the main golf course by railroad tracks.  And, the 12th, 13th, and 14th holes are bordered on their right by those same railroad tracks.  The railroad tracks are clearly marked as being out of bounds.

“It is one of the few courses in America that still has a train running through the middle of the course,” said Brian Jaquet, director of golf, Daytona Beach Golf Club. 

At the Bartow Golf Course (863-533-9183), a CSX train borders the 8th fairway.  According to the pro shop at Bartow GC, a CSX train rolls by “several times a day,” but the presence of the train does not impact play.  It’s just part of the atmosphere of playing golf in Bartow.

Henry Flagler disembarks from a train in Key West.

While playing the Winter Park Nine (407-599-3339), when you are near the area of the 5th tee, 6th green, and 7th tee, you may well see a train from either Sun Rail or AMTRAK roll past.  The train will not impact play, but the sight of the passing train is part of the Winter Park Nine experience.

It’s worth noting that inside the Winter Park Nine’s clubhouse, the ceiling beams feature a timeline of the club’s historical moments.  The timeline describes significant events during this club’s first 100+ years and features a list of people who have helped shape this golf course’s first century of play.  There’s also a large clock next to the first tee that reminds all golfers to be on time for their tee time.

So, while golf course architects like Donald Ross, Seth Raynor, and Tom Bendelow designed and oversaw the construction of these golf courses, it was the development of the railroad, under the leadership of Flagler and Plant that made it all possible.

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