Story by: Mike May

The Highland Florida Golf Club in Lake Wales, Florida has a ‘checkered’ and ‘inconsistent’ past, but this course’s best days are in its future, according to AJ Hill, the superintendent/general manager of the Highland Florida GC.

When this golf course was first built in 1923, the original track had nine holes and was called the Highland Park Golf Club.

For Hill, by getting this course in tip-top shape, is her way of honoring her parents and grandparents.

“The history of this course along with the roles in which several of my family members have played here are what inspires me to keep things moving in an upward direction here,” said Hill.  “In the early 1990s, when the course was restored to 18 holes, my father, Dave Hill, was the golf professional here and is responsible for finding the original blueprints for the restoration, as well as helping with the labor. My grandmother, Jean Scott, managed the apartments in the village of Highland Park and, for a short time, acted as a temporary superintendent for the golf course while my grandfather, Bill Scott, remained the shop mechanic for over 30 years before his passing.”

When this golf course was first built in 1923, the original track had nine holes and was called the Highland Park Golf Club, but the golf course was not well designed and it was susceptible to flooding following heavy rains.  Fortunately, in 1927, golf course architects Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek were hired to redesign the golf course and expand it from nine to 18 holes.  In order to construct 18 holes, some property in the middle of a nearby orange grove was used to complete the 18-hole course.  This 18-hole layout was just under 5,900 yards and featured small greens and strategically placed bunkers.  During World War II, the golf course experienced further ‘change,’ as six of the holes were converted to orange groves due to a labor shortage.  This golf course remained as a 12-hole track until the 1990s. 

In the early 1990s, this golf course was restored to its original 18-hole configuration.

In the early 1990s, this golf course (1503 South Highland Park Drive in Lake Wales) experienced further ‘change,’ as it was restored to its original 18-hole configuration.  It now features three sets of tees which range from 5,100 to 6,100 yards.  The par is 72.  In recent years, this golf course, one of 53 golf courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail, was given an agricultural ‘facelift,’ when the irrigation system was updated as were the grasses used on the fairways and greens.  Today, this golf course is situated in a special setting as it is perched along the rolling hills of the Lake Wales Ridge and features more than 110 feet of elevation change, which adds geographic diversity to the overall golf experience.  According to Hill, the view of the lower part of the course from the 10th tee is the most powerful visual takeaway from the Highland Florida golf experience.

“Highland Florida GC has every potential to be polished into a real gem on Central Florida's ridge and I am fighting to do just that,” added Hill.

A.J. Hill stated, “I encourage all golfers to come out and see for themselves what makes us unique.”

When you are ready to tee it up at the Highland Florida Golf Club, call the pro shop – 863-679-9478.  You will definitely discover that the course has come a long way from its humble beginnings when golfers – back in the 1920s -- were once allowed a free drop if they found their ball sitting in wagon tracks.  Nowadays, the biggest takeaway for any golfer who visits Highland Florida, which sits between Lake Easy and Lake Amoret, will be “a great day of golfing,” according to the golf course’s website.

‘While we may be a little rough around the edges in our current condition, the friendly and relaxing atmosphere along with the incredible view keeps our parking lot full,” stated Hill.   “I encourage all golfers to come out and see for themselves what makes us unique.”

That’s refreshing and fun to know.

#   #   #