You can play a classic Donald Ross layout at the Biltmore Golf Course in Coral Gables. (Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor) The sixth hole on the redesigned Blue Monster at Trump National Doral Miami features sand galore. (Courtesy of Trump National Doral Miami) Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne: a tropical delight without a house in sight.  (Courtesy of Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne) The historic Country Club of Miami has a loyal following. (Courtesy of Country Club of Miami) In 2013 the Senator Course at Don Shula's Golf Club got new bunkers, new Champion Bermuda greens and Celebration Bermuda on the tees. (Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor)

Miami-bound? You don't have to drive up the south Florida coast to find good public golf courses

There's no shortage of golf courses in south Florida, of course, but what if you're in the heart of Miami and don't feel like driving up to Fort Lauderdale, the Palm Beaches or Jupiter? After all, the traffic can be a bear.

Miami proper is actually a pretty small area, so there aren't as many public golf offerings in the immediate vicinity as one might think. But there are some quality golf courses that should be on your short list, courses that don't require a 90-minute commute if you flew into Miami International Airport. Here are some recommendations:

Biltmore Golf Course

It's not often you get a chance to play a public-access, Donald Ross-designed course, and the Biltmore Golf Course next to the historic Biltmore Hotel is a great opportunity. Built in 1925 and restored a few years ago by Brian Silva to perfection, this 6,800-yard golf course in Coral Gables just outside of Miami is a joy to play.

It's not overly difficult tee to green, but once you get around on the greens, it gets pretty challenging as you might expect from Ross. It can be a little pricey (rack rate is around $200 for visitors outside the Miami area), but check the Internet for deals.

Trump National Doral Miami

When Donald Trump bought this Miami resort out of bankruptcy in 2012, he vowed to make the 52-year-old resort U.S. Open worthy and then some. Basically, the 800-acre resort got a complete makeover, including the famed Blue Monster Course, which is now more than 7,500 yards.

The pros are getting their first look at the new course, which was extensively altered by architect Gil Hanse, at the 2014 World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, and you can, too. Better yet, play all five courses at Doral, which also include the McLean Signature Course, designed by resident teaching pro Jim McClean, and Greg Norman's Great White Course, which was redone in 2005.

Country Club of Miami

For a great look at Miami golf history, check out the Country Club of Miami. Once the host of the Eastern Open, which later became the WGC-Cadillac Championship, comedic legend Jackie Gleason lived right next to the courses for years and, of course, played it often. And Arnold Palmer was the club's first club professional.

While its glory days are beyond it, the former country club (now a Miami muni) has a loyal following. Both the West Course and East Course have been reconfigured a few times since the club opened a half century ago. But one thing has remained constant about these two Robert Trent Jones designs -- they are both good tests of golf, just as they were decades ago for the pros.

Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne

The best muni in Miami, and one of the better munis in the country, is Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne. With an upscale clubhouse and a really good design by Robert Von Hagge and Bruce Devlin, Crandon Park was built on a pristine island environment, with seven saltwater lakes and views of Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline.

Dotted with palms, mangrove and other tropical plants, there's also an assortment of tropical wildlife, such as crocodiles. The course, which underwent a major renovation in 1993, was also the host of the Champions Tour event for 17 years. With large tee boxes, the course can be stretched to nearly 7,200 yards.

Senator Course at Don Shula's Golf Club

In 2013 the Senator Course at Don Shula's Golf Club got a much-needed renovation, and the reviews have been solid so far. First opened in 1962, the course has undergone a couple of renovations over the years, but last year, it got all new bunkers, new Champion Bermuda greens and Celebration Bermuda on the tees.

The Senator Course at Shula's Golf Club, which is nearly 7,000 yards, is a classic-style course with more than 500 tree-shaded acres. You can also enjoy the original Shula's Steak House, considered one of America's top restaurants, next door. And though Shula really doesn't have anything to do with the club, there are still plenty of artifacts celebrating the Miami Dolphins' 1972 undefeated season as well as Shula's Hall of Fame coaching career.

Mar 04, 2014

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Mike Bailey

Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.