On and off the Course!

By: Chris King

Ready for Daytona?

Speed is the topic of conversation in Daytona Beach from late January through February as the sports world turns its attention to the Great American Race. Golfers, of course, are always in search of their own version of speed: courses with great pace of play.

With that in mind, Daytona Beach might be the game’s fastest destination.

As surely as Daytona Beach is a mecca for auto racing enthusiasts, the area is equally appealing for golfers in search of a sub 4.5-hour round. How can we be so sure?

Because Daytona Beach is home to courses that were designed to provide a complete golf experience at a pace that would make Jimmie Johnson proud.

If you want to play in four hours or less, here are three Daytona Beach golf courses where the caution flag is never waved.

At a time when many are advocating for ways to shorten the amount of time it takes to play, Crane Lakes has beaten everyone to the punch, without infringing on the spirit of the game.

Crane Lakes

A par 66, Crane Lakes is home to eight par 3s and a pair of par 5s, but it’s not a pitch-and-putt. The course, which can comfortably be played in 3 ½ hours, offers a formidable test.

Traveling golfers love to have a signature hole to talk about, and Crane Lakes delivers with the par 4 14th. The 370-yard two-shotter features an island green and players often play their approach from a downhill lie, adding to the challenge.

While 14 is the course’s most photographed hole, the par 5 18th is its best. Water plays up the left side of the 482-yard hole, so there is more than a whiff of danger on the tee, and for long hitters there is the option to go for the green in two.

A trip to Crane Lakes promises golfers a good time, great conditions, and outstanding pace of play, a hard combination to beat.

Hidden Lakes is the type of course golf needs more of. The par 69 layout places a priority on providing a player-friendly experience, a trait that begins with the length of the course – 5,454 yards from the tips.

Hidden Lakes

There is only one par 4 that plays 400 yards and none of the three par 5s are more than 479 yards, and that’s a good thing. Hidden Lakes is a perfect course to play on the first day of a trip, allowing players to enjoy the area’s natural beauty – the layout plays along the Turnbull Bay estuary and around beautiful lakes and winding creeks – while posting a good score.

The course isn’t “easy,” but it’s a lot of fun, particularly the two sub 300-yard par 4s on the back nine, giving players a chance to drive the green. Throw in a superb practice facility that includes one of Daytona Beach’s best short game areas, and the reasons to play Hidden Lakes are many.

The Riviera Country Club opened as a nine-hole layout in 1930s and was purchased by the Meyers family in 1953. The Meyers family added the final nine holes and they continue to own and operate the property, setting the tone for a course that is a favorite among locals and traveling golfers alike.

Riviera Country Club

Riviera isn’t long, playing just 6,300 yards from the tips, but offers outstanding conditions, pristine Champion Bermudagrass greens, and the chance to score, all powerful lures for golfers.

The relative lack of length doesn’t mean the layout is without defense, particularly on the back nine which features a pair of 400+ yard par 4s from the white tees (6,004 yards). Riviera strikes a perfect balance between playability and challenge.

The front nine is nearly 300 yards shorter, so players are well served by getting off to a fast start, but either way, a round at Riviera feels like a visit with an old friend and a good time always ensues.

No matter how golfers are playing, pace of play is always a point of emphasis at this “old-school” gem.

“The course, owned since it opened in 1953 by the Meyers family, is practically everything an everyday, local-treasure golf course should be,” Golf Channel’s Tim Gavrich wrote of Riviera.

Daytona Beach is home to nearly 30 courses and all of them emphasize pace of play, but you will likely reach the checkered flag first Crane Lakes, Hidden Lakes and Riviera.