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, and Doral in Miami. 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.

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 and is now listed as one of the 53 courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail as 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, gigantic banyan trees, and many naturally bamboo forests confirms that you immersed in a tropical setting.

Photo: Digital Commonwealth

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. While he missed the 36-hole cut, Palmer’s best days were certainly ahead of him. This tournament was also won by legendary Toledo-based amateur Frank Stranahan in 1948, with a score of 270.

Nowadays, Miami Springs Golf & Country Club – 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. 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 and he made sure that this golf course was 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.

Photo: Erika Tuesta Photography

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.

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 which are served inside the clubhouse at the Harvest at Hole #10 restaurant. Those Cuban sandwiches are locally acclaimed. Try it. Walk in the footsteps of legends. The experience was memorable for Arnold Palmer and Jackie Robinson…and it will be for you.

Cover photo: Greater Miami and the Beaches

Mike May is a freelance golf writer based in Wellington, Florida. Mike, an avid golfer, is also a member of the Golf Writers Association of America. He traces his roots as a golf writer to the 1983 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale — which he attended for all four days — and then voluntarily wrote his own account of that major championship event. One of his current projects is to write a story about all Florida Historic Golf Trail locations.  Those stories appear in Golf Central magazine and on GoGolfandTravel.com.  In addition to being a golf writer, Mike coaches girls high school basketball, officiates high school soccer, and works with a cause (PHIT America) that is focused on bringing daily P.E. back to all U.S. schools. Mike is a 1985 graduate of the University of Florida where he earned a degree in broadcasting.