Story by: Mike May

For children around the world who are fans of Mickey Mouse, Dumbo, and Goofy, Disney World in central Florida is the place where they always dream about visiting.  For golfers from around the world who are seeking that same ‘Disney like’ feeling, they actually need to travel an hour south of Disney World to Avon Park, where they will find the Pinecrest Golf Club.  Just like Disney World, the Pinecrest Golf Club – located just off State Road 27 -- is rather easy to find, but it’s difficult to leave.

One of the interesting stories about this golf course, originally named the Pinecrest Lakes Golf Course, is the issue of who actually oversaw its design and construction which started back in the mid 1920s.  The website for the Pinecrest Golf Club indicates the course was designed by the well-known golf course architect Donald Ross.  With access to earth-moving equipment, which was powered by horses, Ross efficiently used what he found on this piece of property – wooded areas, rolling topography, and Lake Lotela -- to build this golf course.  Newspaper articles from the Tampa Tribune and the Tampa Times in early August of 1925 report that Bertie Way,  a nationally known and respected golf course architect from Cleveland, Ohio, was hired to design this course.

With the mystery shrouding the true identity of the designer of this golf course, it’s not surprising that Pinecrest is one of the 54 golf courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail.

Today, this course is known as the Pinecrest Golf Club (2250 South Little Lake Bonnet Road, Avon Park, Florida).  It’s an 18-hole, par-72 layout, which features five sets of tees that play from 4,900 to 6,700 yards.  Unlike many Florida golf courses, Pinecrest doesn't wind its way through neighborhoods, condominiums, residential areas, and resort hotels. Instead, Pinecrest is surrounded by Mother Nature – pastoral countryside, beautiful orange groves, natural wooded areas, and the lovely Lake Lotela. 

Today, Pinecrest GC ( features relatively open fairways, but the approach shots to the greens require tactical thinking since the putting surfaces are filled with creative contours and undulations.  Navigating your way around this golf course without making a three-putt is a worthy achievement.

“Pinecrest has continued to make upgrades to the golf course with bunker renovations and new Tif Eagle greens, which were installed in 2016,” said Joseph Staffieri, club manager, Pinecrest Golf Club.  “New ownership has taken the lead (in July 2018) and it is committed to continuing the improvement process, beginning with a total clubhouse renovation, which is ready to be enjoyed. Many exciting projects are a part of the long-term planning here at Pinecrest.”

This golf course, originally named the Pinecrest Lakes Golf Course Without a doubt, Pinecrest, back in the day, was the place to be and be seen

It might be fair to say that Pinecrest’s best days are in its future.

One of the most newsworthy and historical events to take place at the Pinecrest Golf Club took place in 1959, according to Staffieri.  That year, the club hosted the first-ever televised match-play elimination golf tournament.  The event featured eight golfers who had played for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.  The eight pros played for one of the biggest purses in golf at the time -- $171,000. The tournament was part of "World Championship Golf,” which was later broadcast a few months later on NBC.  Dr. Cary Middlecoff won the event.  Three other well-known names in that field were Sam Snead, Gardner Dickinson, and Don January.

From 1959-1963, Pinecrest and another nearby course (Harder Hall) hosted the Haig & Haig Mixed Scotch Tournament.  This event attracted great names from both the PGA and LPGA Tour.  Some of the more well- known players included Arnold Palmer, Tommy Bolt, Julius Boros, Kathy Whitworth, Mickey Wright, and Joanne Carner.

In the early years, Pinecrest attracted other public figures in American society such as former U.S. Presidents Grover Cleveland and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as well as Baseball Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  Hollywood celebrities George Burns and Gracie Allen also played golf at Pinecrest.  Without a doubt, Pinecrest, back in the day, was the place to be and be seen.  The course remains as appealing today as it was back then, as Pinecrest’s star appeal continues to shine, every day of the year.

To reserve your tee time in the spotlight, call the pro shop at 863-453-7555.

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