Donald Ross originally designed Seminole in the 1920s and it was the first outstanding course to be built in America’s deepest South. Situated on the Atlantic side of Florida’s coastline, Seminole Golf Club is considered by critics to be one of the finest examples of golf course routing. With small greens and serious trouble lurking beyond the flagstick, this is not a course to attack.
The site chosen for the course features a number of sand dune ridges that were carefully brought into play with some fairways directed towards elevated green sites while others drop down from sandy peaks to flatter terrain. Both nines set out from the clubhouse on level ground before veering into the 40-foot dune ridge that runs alongside the western edge of the property.
The greens at Seminole are the main line of defence for the course and many of them are cleverly angled, narrowing towards the back, which makes rear pin positions a very tough proposition. Fairway bunkers are generally shallow but flash-faced sand traps adjacent to putting surfaces are often deep and troublesome.
The par four 6th is a wonderful hole on the outward half, played to an offset putting surface that’s protected by bunkers on both sides of a long, narrow green. Holes 11 and 14 are memorable for the uphill approach shots to be played to the pin and the all-carry second shot to the par four 12th is another highlight on the inward half.
Seminole was one of 18 “Gourmet’s Choice” courses selected for The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses Volume 2 – The Americas (winter destinations). Tom Doak commented as follows:
“The faces of the bunkers, flashed up by Dick Wilson in the early 1950s, were returned to grass by Brian Silva a decade ago to cut down on the washouts from summer rains here, but the club keeps the faces mowed tight so that a ball that finishes short of the green (or rolls back off) will roll down into the sand. Only one new tee has been added: and extension of the 1st and 10th tees that connects the two back by the prop shop, which Ben Crenshaw had noticed on Ross’ original drawing for the course.
Otherwise, there has been no concern for adding length to the course. At 6,800 yards, the coastal breezes make Seminole plenty for any golfer to handle. Unlike many clubs, the members here understand that the professionals are their guests, and you don’t build new features for the guests.”
A few extra yards were found for the TaylorMade Driving Relief event in aid of Covid-19 charities. The Seminole card measured 7,265 yards for the skins fundraiser and the layout proved to be a decent challenge when Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson needed to win a nearest-the-pin tiebreaker to beat opponents Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff.
The locker room may be the best I have seen so far. Tradition just screams out at you when you walk in. Its walls are lined with dark, old wooden lockers and pictures and placards that depict the history of the game in America. The names that surround you are Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, and Ben Hogan. In fact, Seminole became Hogan’s winter digs…
Scott told us an amazing story as we stood on the 4th tee, a par 3 of 161 yards. His wife had been a five-time Tennessee amateur champion and had played in the Curtis Cup. One day, years earlier, he and his three buddies were playing at Seminole, while his wife and her three friends played in the foursome in front of him. Number 4 is 141 yards for women, and the four women had a combined score of six. Think about it; two birdies and two holes-in-one. Scott saw the entire thing and says he heard one of the women who had scored birdie walking away from the green mumbling, “What do you have to do to win a hole around here?” The odds against such a feat are astronomical. Larry Berle.