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La Gorce

Miami Beach, Florida
Miami Beach, Florida
  • Address5685 Alton Rd, Miami Beach, FL 33140, USA

More than two million cubic yards of Miami Beach’s Biscayne Bay was dredged back in the 1920s during the construction of the 18-hole layout at La Gorce Country Club.

Leading English amateur golfer, Captain Herbert Charles Coningsby Tippet, originally laid out the course at La Gorce, which opened in 1927. Tippet was a close associate of property tycoon Carl G. Fisher, who was instrumental in the development of the new resort city of Miami Beach.

La Gorce Country Club thrived until the Second World War when the running of the club was handed over to the city council and the course became a pay-and-play facility. The property was almost turned over to real estate development when a group of public-spirited men stepped in, raised $1m, and commissioned Robert Trent Jones to renovate the course in 1953.

The club then enjoyed a renaissance, which was driven by the club’s teaching professional, Jack Grout, who became Jack Nicklaus’s first and only swing coach. Ironically, the club doesn’t like to mention the Golden Bear due to a legal spat with Nicklaus Design over a subsequent restoration project.

According to the Miami New Times: “When the organization's members decided to redesign their links in 1994 (‘To help the image of the club,’ explains general manager Darren Betz), they called on one of the world's greatest golfers and most prominent course designers, Jack Nicklaus, who practiced on those same fairways during his childhood. La Gorce shelled out $2.5 million for Nicklaus's efforts and got a splendid new facility – on clear days. After a rain, though, it's another story; the course acquires a lake-belt of new water hazards and is difficult to play without a flat-bottom skiff.

‘I wouldn't say it's a problem,’ posits Betz. ‘It's just a fact of life.’ He is being a little disingenuous: The situation is so displeasing that La Gorce has entered into legal arbitration proceedings against Nicklaus's firm, Golden Bear International, Inc., and Paragon Golf Construction, the contractors who rebuilt the course. But in his attempt to tone down the seriousness of the issue, Betz does inadvertently hit on the crux of the matter: Around here, flooding is indeed a fact of life. More to the point, most of Dade was once under water.”

Nowadays the club prefers to promote “playing in the shadow of legendary greats from a bygone era, with the silhouette of the Miami Beach skyline in the background.” And why not?

More than two million cubic yards of Miami Beach’s Biscayne Bay was dredged back in the 1920s during the construction of the 18-hole layout at La Gorce Country Club.

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Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus will forever be associated with greatness on the golf course, but it’s his design work that should also be remembered in equal measure to his magnificent competitive achievements on the links.

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