Get your golf combat-ready in the Navy town of Pensacola

By Alan Katz, Contributor

Pensacola, Fla. is worth a look for your next golfing holiday, especially if you're interested in military history and you'd like to enjoy some beach time.

The city's history dates back to Spanish explorers of the mid-16th century. The city is also known as the cradle of naval aviation. The National Museum of Naval Aviation, with its display of 170 vintage aircraft, attracts air-power enthusiasts from all over the world, and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels perform thrilling aerial stunts at this sprawling beach city of 360,000. You can also visit the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a series of natural harbors and waterways protected by a strand of tiny islands. If you've got a little extra sightseeing time, drop by Fort Pickens, where the Apache Indian leader Geronimo did a stretch as a prisoner of war.

OK, Pensacola's a military coastal town first and foremost, and not the ritziest of places. But this city's no slouch when it comes to golf. Pensacola boasts a variety of decent public and private courses for players of all skill levels. Throw in the climate (343 sunny days per year), the fresh ocean seafood, sugar-sand beaches, emerald gulf waters and funkadelic nightlife and you've got all you need for a memorable golf holiday. So pack your clubs, an ice chest and two cases of brew (don't forget your radar detector) and make a beeline for the Florida Panhandle.

Must plays

A mature golf resort, Perdido Bay Golf Club (formerly Sportsman of Perdido Golf Resort) is a long, narrow course with tee-to-green Salam Paspalum, an, aggressive, fast-recovering, creeping type of grass that enables the groundskeeper to create a striped effect when mowing. Perdido Bay also has a state-of-the-art practice facility for sharpening your skills. Located only 20 minutes from downtown Pensacola on Doug Ford Drive, this course was the longtime site of the PGA Tour's Pensacola Open. At 7,072 yards from the championship tees, this challenging course will more than test your mettle. For tee times, call 800-767-3574.

Solid seconds

Designed by Arnold Palmer, the heavily wooded Lost Key Golf Club is a public course with fast, undulating greens, tree-lined fairways, water hazards on 11 holes and dogleg fairways on six. The par-3 signature No. 13 requires a tee shot over water onto an island green. Power golf cards with a computerized GPS yardage system are mandatory on this course, which measures 6,810 yards from the back tees.

Hilly and rigorous, the semi-private Scenic Hills Country Club, built in 1959 and redesigned in 1992 by Jerry Pate, is the only course in Florida to host the U.S. Women's Open.

For the grip-it-and-rip-it weekend golfer seeking wide-open vistas with few trees, not many out-of-bounds areas and flat, average-sized greens, the public Creekside Golf Club is the place to go. Creekside offers numerous birdie opportunities for those who avoid the creek that comes into play at almost every hole. For tee times, call 800-767-3574.

Where to stay

Residence Inn by Marriott
601 E. Chase St.
(800) 359-2522

Luxury Suites
6703 Pensacola Blvd.
(850) 484-5451

Hilton Garden Inn
12 Via De Luna Dr.
(850) 916-2999

Dining out

Dharma Blue downtown has a coastal atmosphere and seats overlooking Seville Square. The menu features steaks, many seafood dishes, game, pasta and sushi.
300 S. Alcaniz St.
(850) 433-1275.

Jamie's French Restaurant is a casual, 25-year-old place that offers provincial French cuisine with an emphasis on sauces and wines.
424 E. Zarragossa St.
(850) 434-2911.

Jerry's Cajun Café and Market serves authentic southern-Louisiana Cajun food.
6205 N. 9th Ave.
(850) 484-6962.

McGuire's Irish Pub and Brewery features seafood fresh from the gulf and around the world. Menu features fresh gulf shrimp, Pensacola Bay red snapper and Irish pub fare.
Highway 29 at Gregory Street
(850) 433-6789.

Fast Fact

The 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman, starring a young Richard Gere and Debra Winger, was originally slated to be filmed in Pensacola, site of the Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School.

The U.S. Navy balked at granting permission and the movie was shot in Port Townsend, Wash.

Alan KatzAlan Katz, Contributor

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