For many, the mere mention of Greater Fort Lauderdale conjures up images of the beach, sandy shores, and spring break. And rightfully so; after all, there are 24 miles of beach with sparkling turquoise water, sun-kissed white sand, and tall palm trees waving gently in the ocean breeze.
Golf enthusiasts will be happy to know that the Greater Fort Lauderdale area is also packed with a plethora of golf courses that are accessible to the public. Deer Creek Golf Club in Deerfield Beach is one such course. Deer Creek is an upscale public golf facility with an 18-hole championship course designed by Arthur Hills. Deer Creek is known for its undulation and rolling landscape and the consistently fast and smooth TifEagle putting surfaces. The course opened in 1971 and has hosted many prestigious professional and amateur golf tournaments including the 2003 USGA Senior Open Championship, 2002 USGA Amateur Championship, and the LPGA Tour’s Mazda Classic from 1979-1984. Other accolades include “Best Golf Course in Broward” (South Florida Sun Sentinel), “Four Stars” (Golf Digest Magazine), “Top Two Golf Courses in South Florida” (Golf Magazine), and “Top 100 Courses for Women” by Golf for Women Magazine.
In addition to a challenging golf course, Deer Creek has one of the best practice facilities in the area with a full-length driving range, putting green, sand traps, and chipping areas. Deer Creek offers several challenging holes, but nothing can make or break a round quicker than the last two. Number 17 is a short par 4 that plays 335 yards from the White tees and features a large pot bunker in the middle of the landing area off the tee. If you can fly it, by all means do so but don’t push your tee shot right, or you’ll be faced with a small cluster of palm trees about 120 yards out. Your approach shot is to a small angled and elevated green guarded in front by a bunker. A back-left pin position can be tricky because the green is tough to hold and slopes to the back left. Anything long will be a tough up and down.
Number 18 is a great finishing hole and if you can hit a draw off the tee, now’s a good time to do it. From the White tees, the hole plays 388 yards. There’s a lake that guards the front of the green about 85 yards out, so choose your approach club wisely. There’s a couple of sand traps left of the green as well as water and more sand right and long. Par is a great way to finish your round.
Ever since its opening in 1971, Colony West in Tamarachas been one of the most popular public access golf facilities in South Florida. Originally designed by Devlin and Von Hagge, the Championship Course opened for the Jackie Gleason Classic – since renamed the Honda Classic – as a monstrous 7,553-yard, par-72 track. Colony West has been rated by Golf Digest to be among the 50 top courses in the United States. Shortly after the tournament’s completion, Jack Nicklaus and the Tournament Committee said the course was too tough, so the maintenance crew set about removing 52 of the 137 bunkers. The course was shortened, the nines were flipped, and the Championship Course became a 6,648-yard, par 70. In 2018, Colony West underwent some big changes including renovation of all 18 greens on the Championship Course and the practice green, as well as the renovation of all greenside bunkers.
Strategically placed bunkers protect small, well-manicured greens, requiring players to think their way around the course to take advantage of scoring opportunities. The difference between the Blue Tees and Gold Tees is almost 1,000 yards but even from the shorter distance (5,462 yards) you just can’t bomb away. Water and sand hazards force you to think about your shot or pay the penalty.
Off course renovations continue. The Clubhouse has been torn down and replaced with a 107 room Fairfield Inn and Suites that is scheduled to open in the fall of 2021. The old cart barn has been replaced with an 11,000-square-foot state-of-the-art clubhouse with banquet and meeting facilities for 250 people. The new restaurant – The View at Colony West – is open to the public, golfers, and hotel guests alike. The new pro shop recently opened and has all of your favorite logoed apparel and everything else you need for a great round of golf.
In 2013, the city of Pompano Beach brought in renowned PGA TOUR superstar turned golf course architect Greg Norman to do a renovation of the Pompano Beach Municipal Golf Course. The Greg Norman Signature Pines Course – which borders the Pompano Beach Air Park – was originally a Bruce Devlin/Robert von Hagge design. Norman did a great job and made the course very playable and enjoyable. The course currently features Celebration Bermuda grass fairways and Platinum Paspalum putting greens. The city has been grappling with the prospects of re-grassing the Pines course and has been experimenting with several types of Paspalum turf. So far, the leader is Platinum Paspalum which can be seen on the greens and the 18th fairway from about 100 yards into the green. Look closely and you can see where the Bermuda ends and the Paspalum begins. The city is also involved with The Capillary Concrete Company in the development of a sub-surface irrigation system for greens. The city has already utilized this company’s technology in other areas of the golf course and has been pleasantly surprised. If everything goes according to schedule the city plans on using the Capillary Concrete program for the Pines bunkers during the re-grassing project. Once the city completes the re-grassing project for the Pines, they will turn their attention to the Palms course.
Galuppi’s Restaurant – located at the clubhouse of the Pompano Beach Golf Club – is destined to become not only one of the area’s best eateries but also one of the most popular entertainment venues. The vision of proprietor Grant Galuppi is to create a space where visitors and people within the community can eat, meet, and mingle and enjoy some live entertainment. There’s live music just about every night and everything we ordered off the menu was delicious. Once everything is completed – sometime in probably 2025 – the Pompano Beach Golf complex will rival any other public golf facility in the state. Get out early and do a before and after and see for yourself!
Oceanic at Pompano Beach Pier is dedicated to capturing the energy of the Pompano Beach revitalization. Oceanic is owned by LM Restaurants who also own the Beach House next door. Oceanic offers indoor and outdoor seating and the ocean liner-inspired design provides an open interior with expansive and uninterrupted ocean views. Oceanic offers superior steak and seafood dishes. Their Brussels Sprouts appetizer with a horseradish and maple sauce is a must-try. After your main course, be sure to try one of Oceanic’s fabulous desserts including Key Lime Crème Brulee or Fat Elvis Pie, an interesting selection that combines all of the King’s favorites: peanut butter (ganache), banana (cream filling), and chocolate, all on a graham cracker crust.
Celebrity Chef Fabio Viviani now has his own restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Riviera by Fabio Viviani is located in Hotel Maren on A1A and is part of Hilton’s Curio Hotel Collection. The food is considered coastal Italian cuisine; to me, it was simply delicious, probably the best meal I have ever had in almost 20 years of writing about golf travel. The signature meatball appetizer (Polpetti Di Fabio) was incredible, the Salt Spring Mussels were plump and delectable and my wife’s Mishima Reserve Wagyu Steak was the best I’ve ever tasted. I’m surprised she let me have a bite! If you’re there for Sunday brunch be sure to try their new Tootsie Roll drink. It’s the perfect breakfast drink.
While in the area, you’ll need a place to lay your head at night. I strongly suggest Cottages By The Ocean on SE 3rd St. in Pompano Beach. Not only are they centrally located to several public-accessible golf courses, but they’re also a block and a half from the beach and all kinds of restaurants and nightlife. These 1940s-era cottages and one-bedroom bungalows offer full kitchens with range, refrigerator, and microwave, a complete living room, and a king-size bed. They’ve also got you covered if you’re headed to the beach with beach chairs, wakeboards, and beach toys. Owner Elaine Fitzgerald likes to greet each guest personally and when you see her ask her for some restaurant recommendations. She’s been in the area a long time and is well-connected. She has several similar properties in the area so if the Cottages By The Ocean are booked, check out her other locations.
For more information on golf in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area, go to www.visitlauderdale.com. You’ll find enough courses to keep you busy for your entire vacation and well into the next!