Miami Springs Golf & Country Club:
Walk in the Footsteps of Legends
Story by: Mike May
When many people think about golf courses in Florida, the first venues that spring to mind are the ones seen on television every year such as the Champion course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Bay Hill in Orlando, Doral in Miami, the Copperhead Course at the Innsbruck Resort in Palm Harbor, and the TPC Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, which is the home of the Players Championship. Truth be told, those are just five out of the nearly 1,300 golf courses in Florida – stretching from Key West in the south to Pensacola in the western edge of the Florida panhandle. While those five courses have been featured on television for many years, the one golf course that is the ‘forefather,’ so to speak, of professional golf in Florida is the Miami Springs Golf & Country Club (650 Curtiss Parkway, Miami Springs, Florida). From 1925 to 1955, the beginning of the winter professional golf circuit started in south Florida at what is now known as the Miami Springs Golf & Country Club. For that reason, the Miami Springs Golf & CC (www.miamispringsgolfcourse.com) is now listed as one of the 53 courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail. Miami Springs is also the oldest golf course in Miami-Dade County. As you approach the Miami Springs Golf & Country Club, you begin to sense and feel the history of this club. With the practice putting green situated in front of the clubhouse, which overlooks Curtiss Parkway, there’s a yesteryear feel to this club which makes you realize that you are in a special place of historical significance. When you play this course, the presence of a number of palm trees swaying in the breeze and many naturally bamboo forests confirms that you are immersed in a tropical setting.
In those early years, the course was known as the Miami-Hialeah Golf Course and that pro event was called the Miami Open. Many of the great legends of golf – Gene Sarazen, Tommy Armour, Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, and Arnold Palmer – played in the Miami Open, which Snead won six times. It’s worth noting that the Miami Open was the site of Palmer’s professional debut. Back in 1954, Palmer made his first appearance as a professional golfer at the Miami Open. While he missed the 36-hole cut, Palmer’s best days were certainly ahead of him.
Nowadays, Miami Springs Golf & CC – a par 71 layout -- has evolved into a wonderful golf experience that forces you to make pragmatic decisions on every shot in order to post a great score. The three biggest hurdles to overcome at Miami Springs are (1) the canal which crosses three fairways on the back nine, (2) the ever-present winds and (3) the raised greens, which can add a club to your club selection if the pin is positioned at the back of the green when you are hitting into the prevailing breeze. Access to a lighted driving range, which stays open till 9:00 pm, allows you to expand your Miami Springs golf experience beyond dusk.
One of the driving forces behind the development of this golf course was national aviation hero, Glenn H. Curtiss. He was one of the faces of modern aviation in the U.S. His nickname was “The Henry Ford of Aviation.” Curtiss, whose renovated home sits on the edge of the 5th fairway, was one of the leading developers of this course, who made sure that it got built. With the assistance of fellow developer James Bright and a number of well-to-do golfers, who called themselves the “Miami Coconuts,” they pooled their resources and hired well known golf course architects William Langford and Theodore Moreau to build this course. It didn’t take long for the mission to be accomplished as the course opened for play in 1923.
Besides its long connection with professional golf, Miami Springs’ early affiliation with the local Seminole Indians is newsworthy. When the golf course was being built in the early 1920s, local Seminole Indian women were responsible for planting the grass by hand around the bunkers and on the banks of the canals that appeared on the course. Then, when the course opened for play in 1923, Seminole Indian men, wearing their native clothing, served as caddies at the course.
Another piece of history at this course is that it hosted the North-South Tournament, the largest minority sponsored golf competition in the country, from 1953-1989. Some of its more famous participants included baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, former boxing legend Joe Louis, singer Nat King Cole, baseball Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella, former Wimbledon tennis champion Althea Gibson, and pro golfers Charlie Sifford and Jim Dent. There’s a picture hanging on the wall inside the clubhouse of Robinson and Gibson, taken at the 1962 North-South Tournament.
Miami Springs Golf & CC was also the site of the Major League Baseball Players’ Golf Tournament from 1934-1953. Some of the notable participants were Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Whitey Ford, Don Drysdale, and Billy Martin.
When you play Miami Springs G & CC, it’s a good idea to bring an appetite so that you can satisfy those hunger cravings with the delicious Cuban sandwiches (roast pork, glazed ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, hot pressed on Cuban bread) which are served inside the clubhouse at the Harvest at Hole #10 restaurant. Those Cuban sandwiches are locally acclaimed. Try it. You will like it.
It’s now time to pick up the phone (305-805-5180) and reserve a tee time at the Miami Springs Golf & Country Club. It will allow you to walk in the footsteps of legends. The experience was memorable for Arnold Palmer and Jackie Robinson…..and it will be for you.
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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