DAYTONA BEACH GOLF CLUB:  SIMPLY SERENE

Story by: Mike May

During his lifetime, renowned golf course architect Donald Ross left a lasting legacy on many Florida towns and cities.  One of those Sunshine State cities where Ross left a permanent ‘footprint’ is Daytona Beach, more specifically the South Course at the Daytona Beach Golf Club (600 Wilder Blvd, Daytona Beach, Florida; 386-671-3500).  Originally named the Daytona Golf and Country Club, the first nine holes of what is now known as the South Course were formally opened for play in 1921.  The remaining nine holes were opened in January of 1923.  That means that we are fast approaching a century of golf in Daytona Beach.

The course still follows some of the original routing laid out by Ross and winds through dense areas of pine trees and live oak trees, many of which are dripping with Spanish moss.

In 1944, Ross returned to Daytona Beach to redesign some of the holes and greens.  During this redesign process, he observed that not all his design details were being carried out in the original plans. In 1997, the course was redesigned by Lloyd Clifton, who had served as the greenkeeper at the South Course in the 1950s.

Now, the 18-hole, par-71 South Course at the Daytona Beach Golf Club (www.daytonabeachgc.com) features three sets of ‘patriotic’ tees (blue, white, and red) that range from nearly 5,200 yards to just over 6,200 yards. The course – one of 53 courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail -- still follows some of the original routing laid out by Ross and winds through dense areas of pine trees and live oak trees, many of which are dripping with Spanish moss.  While there are just a few water hazards on the course, the ones that do appear are cleverly placed -- often in front of greens, such as the 3rd, 4th, and 10th.  On those three holes, if your tee shot is not struck properly, it often means a layup shot is required before you consider attacking the green with your approach shot.  Three of the par threes – the 9th, 12th, and 15th – also have ponds situated between the tee and the greens, which requires a 100% carry to the putting surface.  While the South Course is not exceptionally long, the joint creative efforts of Ross and Clifton to design many of the holes with a dogleg or the look of a dogleg have added some latent distances to the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 16th, and the 18th.

Overall, the tee shots on the South Course can be very forgiving, but the approaches are somewhat demanding if players want to get close to the flag stick.

Right now, the 4th ranks as the hardest hole on the course.  This par five stretches for 500 yards from the back tees and is bordered by railroad tracks along the left side of the fairway from tee to green.  The current 4th green is on the south side of Wilder Boulevard, which is the road in and out of the golf course.  However, the original 4th green was located on the north side of Wilder Boulevard, which meant that golfers had to negotiate vehicles that were entering and leaving the golf course.  For years, it’s fair to say that “Fore” was often heard at the 4th!  Today, that original 4th green is used as a delightful practice green complex for those wishing to improve their chipping, pitching, and putting.

The original (South) course designed by Mr. Ross was a short course with small greens that required precise second shots in order to score well.

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 the railroad tracks.  And, the 12th, 13th, and 14th holes are bordered on their right by those same railroad tracks.  Please stay clear of the railroad tracks as they are clearly marked as being out of bounds.

“The original (South) course designed by Mr. Ross was a short course with small greens that required precise second shots in order to score well. He used the surroundings to build a nice course for its time right in the middle of Daytona Beach,” says Brian Jaquet, director of golf, Daytona Beach Golf Club.  “It is one of the few courses in America that still has a train running through the middle of the course. I think if Mr. Ross were around today he would see not much has changed to his original design except a few modifications to a couple of greens.  An interesting note, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret played a challenge match on this course in 1946 with Demaret shooting 64 to secure the win. The other three gentleman shot 67, 67 and 69, respectfully. That would have been a great round to witness.”

After meandering through the pages of Daytona Beach’s golfing history, I highly suggest you cap off your experience by sampling the fare at the Fairway Tavern Italian Bar & Grill, which is located on the premises of the club.  It is a fitting way to conclude your golf day in Daytona Beach, USA!

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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

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