HALLANDALE, Fla. -- You don't have to spend much time in south Florida to realize they take their swank mighty seriously around here.
And the more flash the better. Tour the coastal streets from Ft. Lauderdale to South Beach, and it's difficult to turn your head without seeing scores of babes decked out in designer fashion - or sporty convertibles zipping around its palm-lined roads.
They're living the good life down here, and they aren't subtle about it. So, golfers looking to play and stay in style in south Florida will find a posh haven with all the trimmings at the Diplomat Country Club & Spa and Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, right off the coast between Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
The semi-private country club has been a mainstay in south Florida since 1957, back when there was actually a little bit of available real estate on several corners. Not anymore; the coastline is, of course, incredibly built up these days, and the golf course is right in the middle of it all, taking up 155 acres of prime property within a whiff of the Atlantic coast.
The golf course, operated by Troon Golf, received a facelift in 2000 from course architect and Florida favorite Joe Lee, which helped to restore it to its place among the best resort courses in south Florida. The redesign added length up to 6,800 yards, new bunkers and a revamped signature hole: the par-4 second hole, which features an island green surrounded with flowers and plant life within view of the club's back patio.
That said, the course fits pretty tightly into its land parcel for modern standards, with condos and parking lots all just beyond a black fence on the perimeter. The first fairway also collects a fair share of stray balls from the next door driving range. This is prime real estate.
While the signature second hole is the highlight of the front side, the highlight of the Diplomat is its memorable finish, beginning at the par-5 16th hole. The tee shot loosely resembles what the "Road Hole" at St. Andrews might look like if it were in south Florida - so substitute wild gorse and the Old Course Hotel for palm trees surrounding a condo high rise and swimming pool.
The hole is a sharp, dogleg right, and if you hit a straight ball down the fairway, you'll likely run out of fairway, and water creeps down the left-hand side. So for the longer-hitting, low-handicapper, the best bet here is to take it over a collection of palm trees on the right side - perhaps even over a few sunbathers at the pool - and cut the corner enough to give yourself a shot at a long iron or fairway wood into the green. Considering the lingering water left of the fairway, this might even be the safer of the two plays, as long as you're confident you won't slice the ball into a pool-goer's martini.
After the 16th, the course concludes with a short, knee-knocking par 3 over water, followed by a difficult, finishing par 4, which features a tight driving area with water down the left side to an elevated, well-guarded green. In all, the Diplomat is a pretty manageable course for the low- and mid-handicapper, offering plenty of scoring opportunities, though wind coming in off the coastline will serve as a prominent defense for par on most days.
"The course was gorgeous and in great condition," said 24-handicapper Jim Dailey, a south Florida resident who said the Diplomat was the nicest course he'd played during his time in south Florida. "All of the water and the condos lining some of the holes make a few holes a little intimidating for the novice like myself. I think I lost about a dozen balls"
Course conditions and clubhouse facilities are all five-star at the Diplomat. Golfers can enjoy lunch at the clubhouse restaurant overlooking the island green second hole, and there are full locker room facilities.
The Westin Diplomat and Diplomat Country Club & Spa
The Diplomat offers two very different - albeit both five-star luxury - options to stay while in south Florida. You can stay on site at the cozy and elegant Country Club, which features 60 guest rooms of its own in an Italian villa-style setting, along with a full-service spa and 10 tennis courts.
For visitors looking to stay on the ocean or for larger groups and conferences, they'll want to stay at the Diplomat's sister hotel, the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, a 39-story, high-rise hotel located on the ocean and just a short drive to the golf course. Guests receive complimentary shuttle service to the country club and have access to the club's spa and golf course.
The Diplomat Country Club and Westin Resort & Spa are both located between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami International Airports, making it a popular choice for the business traveler and corporate events.