You’ll really need to hang on to Frigyes Karinthy’s “six degrees of separation” theory in order to get a game at Floridian Yacht & Golf Club (now called Floridian National), for this was Huizenga’s retreat. Many people, well only the lucky few really, reckon that Gary Player’s Floridian should be right up at the top of Florida’s golf course rankings.
Only the lucky few got the nod from the billionaire ex-Blockbuster head honcho, Wayne Huizenga, to tee it up here at the Floridan. However, things may change as Huiizenga sold the property to Texan entrepreneur James Crane in April 2010.
The Floridian is set on the western bank of the St Lucie River and the property extends to more than 300 acres, which not only includes the Gary Player-designed golf course (redesigned by Tom Fazio in 2011), but also two helicopter landing pads, a number of guest cottages, a deepwater marina and an impressively large four-storey clubhouse. The course, which measures more than 7,000 yards from the tips, opened for play in 1996 and it is very much one of the Black Knight’s proudest North American endeavors.
The course, which is routed along part of the waterfront, is very much a Floridian design and there’s nothing other than some ultra-bold bunkering to set this course apart from numerous other Sunshine State layouts. Certainly the two best holes are the closing holes on both loops of nine, which use the waterside setting to good effect.
In 2005, Gary Player and his design team went back to the Floridian to remodel the 18th hole. Hurricane damage necessitated the building of a seawall which created an opportunity to move the home hole – from tee to green – nearer to the water. “We now have something that reminds me of the 18th at Pebble Beach, with the dogleg-left and its risk-reward opportunities,” commented Player after he’d played the remodelled 18th.
Club membership numbers were not a priority for Wayne Huizenga as the Floridian was his private playground and he and his wife were the only two members in the monthly medal. However, under Jim Crane’s stewardship, Tom Fazio was drafted in to facelift the course in 2011. We suspect getting a game here will become a little easier and we feel sure there will be rather more than two Floridian members in the future.
It is not often one plays a golf course designed by one well known player and course designer (Gary Player) that is essentially done over within a short period by another architect (Tom Fazio), but when a new owner wants to make a club his own, that is what can happen. That is the history of the Floridian. My understanding is that the new owner essentially kept the routing and playing corridors that Gary Player laid out, but then brought in Tom Fazio to re-do the bunkering and green complexes.
The clubhouse, extensive boat dock, practice facilities, and accommodations are all beautiful. You might never stay in a better “cottage.” Claude Harmon has his teaching academy here and several well-known and top-ranked pros take advantage of it as do a few former US Presidents.
When I asked my caddie the lowest round he had “fore-caddied,” he replied Dustin Johnson shot a 64 that should have been lower. When I asked what was the highest, he said the number could not be calculated because the player picked up on about ten holes, not even being halfway to the hole. After playing the course (I play it again in a few days), I am not surprised by a low score here but actually very surprised at a high score as I do not think the course is overly punitive.
The back tees are listed at 7114 yards but I saw several tee boxes that would provide another 150 yards. We played the 6735 tees.
Having played Lake Nona, another course designed by Tom Fazio, just a few weeks ago, I had a good point of comparison as both are roughly the same length and both are ranked by Golf Digest in the top 30 in Florida. Being ranked so highly in Florida is noteworthy as Florida is the self-proclaimed golf capitol of the USA having the most courses.
Lake Nona is ranked lower than Floridian, yet I thought Lake Nona to certainly be its equal, even slightly better, although the facilities at Floridian are far superior. Yet the facilities are not meant to be a part of evaluating a golf course.
Much like Lake Nona, one does see water on the course, particularly on the par 3 holes, but it often does not come into play. I do like how it creates a nice visual on many of the holes, albeit nothing really unique to a top-ranked course in Florida.
As is the case with Mr. Fazio, the bunkers are enormous here. They are well-shaped and placed in the appropriate locations. There are over 60 bunkers here but it feels like even more given their size. There is certainly no need for more sand. Most of the bunkers offer a good chance to escape.
However, the combination of water and bunkers does lead to a golf course that does not require much thinking in terms of strategy. The fairways, except for one hole, are ample and I always felt I knew exactly the place and length of shot I needed to execute. Strategy is an important part of golf for me, and here one will not find a requirement for contemplating options for decision-making. For me, Lake Nona offered more options being tighter off the tee and having more defenses through the use of grass bunkers, water, the placement of trees and bushes, and more interesting greens. However, I would not argue it too hard one way or the other. Both are very good golf courses.
Along with the large bunkers at Floridian are large greens. The long par 3 sixteenth has one of the largest greens I have ever seen, and it is on a par 3. The large greens are tilted and have good slopes to them, but they do not have crowns, mounds or real undulations. They are well maintained, smooth, but rarely do they offer a larger break that one does not see (except on that sixteenth hole as getting above the hole is much faster). One is rarely out of a hole and there is usually a good chance of recovery. Given the size of the greens, three putts are a possibility if one has a putt longer than 40 feet. The course can play very differently as some of the greens are shaped such that front pin placements are easy whereas back pin placements bring into play another bunker/water to carry to a smaller section of the green. For example, on eleven, a par 4, we had a front pin whereas the shape of the green fronted by water with a left pin placement would have required an additional fifteen yards for a quality shot. This same mix of green shape/water is also on the par 3 twelfth hole.
There is only one hole I did not like and that is the seventeenth, a short par 4 listed at 333-385 but if one goes at the green it likely cuts nearly 100 yards. There is not enough land here for a different hole so I think having a driveable hole for the longer/better players is a good idea. However, I think the hole is weighted too heavily towards risk than reward. After having to clear a lengthy section of wasteland, there are many large bunkers fronting the green with water directly behind it, a huge valley front left of the green just behind the last bunker. I suspect this does not bother the tour pros, but for me I felt my only option was to hit away from those bunkers and have a 60-80 yard gap wedge.
I liked the rest of the golf course although I did not consider there to be any world-class holes. The holes here are all good. The combination of generous fairways and large greens make this a very playable golf course. Many might point to the eighteenth as a world-class hole but I think the green would need to be located closer to the water to make that a reality.
The par 3’s are all solid with the long second being the only par 3 that has no water. However, the second hole has a very good green. I felt the fourth to be the best par 3, playing over a pond down the left side of the green. The green has a nice ridge in it that a player could use to get to a left pin without taking on the water. Four of the par 3’s are somewhat lengthy with there being one short par 3, the eighth. Others might argue the sixteenth as the best par 3.
The par 5’s offer a good mix of length and a possibility for birdie. The par 5’s on the front side are 584 and 571 yards from the tees we played and on the back side are 504 and 536. The fifth and the fifteenth both have water behind the green. We had front pins on both on these holes which made the approach shot an easier shot to execute; a back pin would have required a completely different shot.
In terms of par 4’s, other than the seventeenth, they are all nice holes with the class of them being ten, eleven, thirteen, fourteen and eighteen. The fourteenth has the most difficult drive due to the water on the right side of the fairway while the eighteenth bends to the left around the St. Lucie River with a nice view of the boat docks and clubhouse in the background.
I liked the golf course because it is very playable, well-conditioned, with very nice green complexes. I only disliked one hole and liked many of the others. Unless one hits a truly irrecoverable shot into the water or off the tee into the ferns or palm trees, there is a good chance to make par. It is a pretty golf course but certainly not as beautiful as many inland courses in England, or a links course along the sea. My only critique is that it does not require a lot of decision-making as everything is right in front of you. But in Florida, the land of relaxation and sunshine, that is likely what the members desire. Mr. Fazio and the owner have delivered a golf course that is near-perfect in that regards.
Finally, the par 3 course is a delight and should not be missed.
The Flo (as the members call it) is a special golf course, and you can tell as soon as you step foot on the property.
The Clubhouse is gorgeous, the range is huge and meticulous and the Harmon Short Course is the absolute perfect way to warm up for your round.
The staff are all happy, hard working and treat every person like they are the Club President.
The Tom Fazio designed 18 hole championship course is a joy to play. It is challenging, but fair. The greens are some of the best I've ever putted on and have rolled at an 11 or better every time I've played it over the previous 4 years. The layout is fun and forces you to hit a variety of shots, shapes and clubs. It has some great risk/reward shots, and many of the greens are turtle shells which repel balls that are not struck well, or into the wrong part of the green. I could go on for much longer about this course and how awesome it is, but I'll leave you with this:
It is a must play for anyone who is lucky enough to get the opportunity, and I hear the Transfusions at the 19th hole (while hitting 100 yard wedges from the steps of the clubhouse to a practice green over the Marina) are pretty damn tasty.
Floridian National is another high-end club in Southeast Florida that has an impressive list of professional golfers who hold memberships. When you can essentially sail your yacht to the back of the clubhouse, you quickly understand why there are so many Rolls Royce’s at the front of the clubhouse.
The course was originally laid out by Gary Player, but in recent years Tom Fazio has remodeled the entire layout and added his signature architecture.
There was no money spared to create a golf course with the highest standards of conditioning and you simply couldn’t imagine better surfaces to play on. There is plenty of width from the tee and each hole progressively gets tougher as you approach the greens.
From an architecture perspective, there is a healthy variety of tough par 4s, reachable par 5s, impressive integration of water features and drivable par 4s on each side. While a few holes looked the same, for example the dog-leg left par 5s that had the same bunkering, I thoroughly enjoyed the course and give compliments to the Fazio team for creating a very attractive and rewarding course to play.
Players will love the strategic drivable par 4 17th hole that plays straight towards the water, before you embark on the epic dog-leg left 18th hole that hugs the coastline and feels just like the last hole at famed Pebble Beach. ‘Floridian National’ as it’s now known also boasts a newly created par 3 course which just adds to the enjoyment of this outstanding club.