CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Hurricane Irma knocked down hundreds of trees and branches on The Biltmore, but Mother Nature couldn't derail the charm and character of a rare Donald Ross gem open to the public in South Florida.
Several large piles of debris sitting near several fairways in late October served as a reminder to what an active and wet hurricane season this fall has been. Conditions are on a comeback.
Ross designed the 6,772-yard, par-71 course, situated in the shadow of the beautiful Miami Biltmore Hotel, in 1925. A restoration by Brian Silva a decade ago brought back a lot of its original style.
Open to all, The Biltmore remains a local favorite. It is also the home course of the University of Miami women's golf team and annually hosts the Junior Orange Bowl International Golf Championship, which has attracted future stars such as Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler. The day I played, the course was hosting a Golf Channel Am Tour event.
Most holes dogleg gently one way or another through the majestic cypress and palm trees still standing. A handful of the toughest holes force golfers to take on water. It's a great walk for those looking to get some exercise, although you lose the advantage of having the GPS on the carts.
A recent Golf Advisor rater gave The Biltmore four stars, writing in his review: "This is an old Florida course that is worth playing. It has nice wide fairways and a good course for all skill levels. The condition was very good. Greens were nice (and) pretty fast. ... The Biltmore Hotel makes for an impressive backdrop."
There's big news brewing with famed golf instructor Jim McLean scheduled to open a new golf school Jan. 1. Upgrades to the range and practice facilities are in the works.