GOLF & MOTOR SPORTS:
IT’S THE ‘THING’ IN SEBRING
Story by: Mike May
When people think about Sebring, Florida, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the annual auto race, The 12 Hours of Sebring, which is held each spring. While that event is a great reason to visit this south-central Florida locale, it’s not the only ‘game’ in town. The other sport which shares the spotlight with auto racing in Sebring is the game of golf. And, golfers have been playing their sport longer than drivers have been racing at the Sebring International Raceway, the oldest permanent road racing track in North America. It’s worth noting that the blend of golf and racing is evident when you look at the Sebring Golf Club’s logo, where the flags on the two criss-crossing flagsticks are actually checkered flags. It’s fair to say that all golfers get the checkered-flag experience in Sebring.
The roots of golf in Sebring can be traced back to the mid 1920s. In 1924, Sebring’s city hall appropriated the funds to build a municipal golf course. The city fathers chose 160 acres on the south side of nearby Lake Jackson to build the Sebring Golf Club. This piece of property is nestled among the orange groves and cattle ranches of south central Florida. In January of 1925, golf architect W. H. “Bert” Way, who hailed from Cleveland, Ohio, arrived in Sebring to begin work on designing the golf course. Landscape architect and city planner A.D. Taylor, who also came from Cleveland, was responsible for overseeing construction of the course. In early 1926, the first nine holes of the golf course were opened for play, while work continued on the other nine holes. The complete 18-hole course officially opened for play in 1929. And, the greens were reconstructed as recently as 2009.
Today, the Sebring Golf Club (3118 Golfview Road, Sebring; sebringgolfclub.com; 863-314-5919), one of the 53 courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail, is a par-72 layout featuring four sets of tees that range from 4,900 to 6,200 yards. It is nicknamed “The Muni” among local golfers. For golfers who are fitness enthusiasts, they will be delighted to know that walking is permitted at “The Muni.” Another plus for walkers is that the distance between greens and tees is minimal. In some cases, you can make the trek to the next tee faster on foot than in a cart.
“In the style of an older, traditional Florida golf course, Sebring offers a relaxing, enjoyable round of golf for players of all skill levels,” is the description on the Florida Historic Golf Trail website. It’s true!
Two consistent traits of the Sebring Golf Club are its raised greens and the many dogleg holes on the course. The most distinct dogleg is the 2nd hole. This par four actually turns at nearly 90 degrees. Depending on how much you are tempted to cut the corner with your drive, the hole can play as short as 245 yards and as long as just over 300 yards. This is a hole where you should use your driver and go for the green. It’s a risk worth taking as the upside of the reward is more likely than the downside of the risk.
“I think one of the reasons golfers enjoy playing here at the Sebring Golf Club is the open layout,” says Kim Darrow, head golf professional, Sebring Golf Club. “This course appeals to golfers of all abilities. It can present a challenge to the lower handicap players from the back tees while the higher handicap players can enjoy the open fairways from the forward tees. Golfers in our area have been enjoying our course for years. Many of the golfers that play here grew up in our area. Their parents brought them out to learn the game here, and now they are bringing their children out to enjoy the game. We also see golfers that have visited the area come back year after year to play our course.”
At the conclusion of any given round of golf (or possibly before), stop by the Caddyshack Bar & Grill (863-471-0505), located adjacent to the pro shop, for a meal, a snack, or a thirst-quenching beverage. The names given to some of the menu items have a distinct golf theme: eight iron burger, buckaroo caddy burger, and the caddyshack shrimp scampi. At dinner, the Caddy Shack Daily Specials are a great deal, as the locals would agree.
Because of this area’s wonderful year round weather, golf and auto racing are alive and well 12 months a year. While golfers show up every day to pursue ‘Old Man Par,’ the Sebring International Raceway is also active 365 days a year with automotive testing, club events, racing schools, corporate events and other activities. Golf and motor sports: a daily-double delight. It’s the ‘thing’ in Sebring!
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The writer of this story, Mike May, is a south Florida-based golf writer. Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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