Crandon Golf Key Biscayne is the Course of Choice in Miami

By Elaine Gallant, Contributor

Miami, FL - When your coveted Titleist Pro V1 lands in a water hazard right next to a horseshoe crab, you've got to figure you're playing on a pretty special course. Then, when the local, scratch golfers tell you they get so spoiled here that they can't play anywhere else, well that should just about confirm it.

But if it doesn't, consider this -- the sculpted fairways of Crandon Golf Key Biscayne meander along the sea throughout a pristine, 250-acre tropical paradise lined with coconut palms, red and white mangroves and seven saltwater lakes. On one side of the island is the Atlantic Ocean, on the other is Biscayne Bay, and the only connection between you and Miami's sizzle is a 10-minute drive over the Rickenbacker Causeway. It is, according to official statements, where players can experience nature on the only subtropical lagoon in North America.

Carlos Mckeon, manager of golf course operations, believes it gives you a sense of being in a local, native environment that tells you about south Florida. That could mean the crocodiles (they have three) or the numerous raccoons and Jurassic-sized iguanas darting across the course. It could also mean the blue and tri-colored herons, white ibises, snowy egrets, pelicans and anhigas gracing the fairway roughs and saltwater banks.

But what McKeon really means is that Crandon Golf provides a protective sanctuary to all the creatures, man included, as there are no homes and never will be. The course, which measures 7,180 yards, is part of Crandon Park and a municipal facility run by Miami-Dade County. It is located on the barrier island of Key Biscayne and is one of the island's first points of interest.

Subtle but enticing, Crandon is a well-planned challenge built in 1972 by Robert von Hagge and Bruce Devlin. In 1993, a redesign by von Hagge brought new greens and bunker configurations. And soon, McKeon says another 65 yards will be added to selective black tees throughout the course.

"I'm adding 15 yards to number 7," he says. "It is always rated as one of the 18 toughest holes in the tri-county area. Now with the new technology, that's changing...but I'm bringing it back."

Already at 432-yards, number 7 resembles a barbed fishhook that's baited with a blind landing area just beyond the mangroves. From the black tees, many players think a power fade is just the answer, but seasoned players will think twice and factor in the left-to-right wind thereby avoiding the marsh where the mangroves grow. The second shot will either be a long or mid-iron over the same marsh, or a short iron for the lengthy hitter to the hard-to-hold, oblong green.

Also gaining ground by 25 yards is the 521-yard finishing hole at number 18. Here is where McKeon says that during the 2000 Royal Caribbean Classic -- first established at Crandon in 1987 and held annually -- at least one or two Senior PGA Tour players in every group found the water off their drive.

"Now the tee shot will have to carry 230 yards to clear an inlet in front of the forward tees," McKeon teases, again tipping his hat to technology.

The final 25-yard addition will be divvied amongst two other fairways, but likely won't be attached to the "choke" hole at number 12. While only a par 3 at 178 yards, this intimidator is all water to a bunker-backed, crescent-shaped green. There are a variety of tee boxes, and depending on the flag placement and challenge of the day, any of them can be put into use. However, while number 12 is one of the finer tests at Crandon, you're apt to blame those shakes on the hole you just left behind - number 11.

Considered Crandon's highest handicapped hole, this dogleg right fairway is a 435-yard bruiser. Here, it feels as if the black tees are shooting out from deep within the thickets. And according to McKeon, anything less than a prodigious hit will have to contend with the palms blocking their shot to the green. Finally, if approaching from the right, caution is needed, as the fourth of Crandon's seven wet wonders waits, as does the deepest set of penalty bunkers surrounding any of its greens.

As for Crandon's remaining holes, they offer a variety of challenges and have collectively afforded it recognition by Golf Digest as "One of America's Top 75 Upscale Public Access Courses" and by Golfweek as "among the top 10 municipal golf courses in the state of Florida." In 2001, Golf for Women Magazine placed it within the "100 Top Fairways for Women," and Florida's Best Golf Courses magazine once wrote, "The course is nothing less than magnificent."

But you are the judge. Is it the course, the environment, or the views over the bay toward the panoramic, multiple skylines of downtown Miami, Biscayne Boulevard, Coconut Grove, and Virginia Key? As for McKeon, it's everything.

"You're on a tropical island," he says. "It just doesn't get old. I mean, you drive here, go across the bridge, and play, and it just doesn't wear off on you."

From the blacks, Crandon currently plays at 7,180 yards and carries a course / slope rating of 75.4 / 129. The blues measure 6,842 yards at 73.9 / 125, the whites 6,528 yards at 71.7 / 120, and the yellows 5,423 yards at 71.8 / 125.

Amenities at Crandon Golf include digital color G.P.S. systems on every electric golf cart, a fully stocked pro shop, Titlest club rentals, locker rooms, a lighted driving range, PGA golf instruction, and The Links Grill. It does not, however, associate itself with any particular hotel. So, if you're staying on Key Biscayne, consider either the Ritz-Carlton Hotel or The Sonesta Inn. Otherwise, Miami offers a tremendous "A" list of resorts and hotels from which to choose.

6700 Crandon Boulevard
Key Biscayne, FL 33149
Phone: (305)-361-9129
Fax: (305)-361-1062

To reach Crandon Golf Key Biscayne, take I-95 south to the Rickenbacker Causeway directly to the island of Key Biscayne.

Elaine GallantElaine Gallant, Contributor

Elaine Gallant is a freelance writer specializing in golf, tennis, and travel. Her many experiences with travel and golf have taken her around the Untied States, Europe, Greece, the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaiian Islands, Australia and points in between.

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