The Daytona Beach area is good place for golfers, no question about it.
The greater Daytona area has 20 courses. Two are part of LPGA International, the area’s premier golf destination. Since 1994 it has been the home of the Ladies PGA Tour, and it hosts the final stage of the circuit’s Qualifying School each year. Its courses were designed by luminaries Arthur Hills and Rees Jones. Enough said.
Three of the other courses have withstood the test of time, as they’re included in the 50 facilities selected for the Florida Historic Golf Trail. One of the oldest such conglomeration of courses in the country, it honors courses that were built between 1897 and 1949 that remain open for public play.
That trio includes Riviera, in Ormond Beach. It’s the home of The Riviera Open, the longest-standing mini-tour event in the U.S., and two designs by the legendary architect Donald Ross – New Smyrna Beach and the South course at Daytona Beach Golf Club.
Ross designed the first nine holes of Daytona Beach South in 1921 and completed the 18 in 1923. He also did a re-design in 1944. In 1945 the course celebrated with a star-studded foursome – Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Jug McSpaden were brought together for an exhibition — and the following year Jimmy Demaret replaced McSpaden and won the competition by shooting a 63.
New Smyrna is one of Ross’ last creations, but he only did the front nine. He started his work there in 1947, died in 1948, and the first nine opened in 1949. The full 18 wasn’t available until 1956 and Bobby Weed did a complete renovation in 2006. A footnote on New Smyrna is that Jim “Bones’’ McKay, the well-known caddie for Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas and part-time TV analyst, grew up there.
Another course in the mix is Spruce Creek Country Club in Port Orange. It’s part of the largest fly-in community in the country.
As far as a golf destination goes, Daytona has a problem, however. Chances are the golf – while interesting – will always play second fiddle to Daytona’s biggest attractions, its white sand beaches and the Daytona International Speedway, home of the Daytona 500 auto race. More