In this blog post we’re going to explore some of the best public golf courses in Fort Lauderdale. This is a beautiful coastal city, north of Miami and Hollywood, whilst just south of Pompano Beach.
Like the whole of Florida’s south-eastern coastline, there is ample wealth and consequently a large supply of private golf clubs. Some of these are considered the finest golf courses in the country.
But it’s the ones joe-public can play that interests us. And the public golf courses around Fort Lauderdale more than step up to the mark.
It is also worth noting, there is some crossover with the article I wrote looking at Fort Lauderdale’s best golf courses which you can find here – What are the best golf courses in Fort Lauderdale?
But on this occasion, we’re just focusing on the public courses. With that in mind, let’s dive into them.
The best public golf courses in Fort Lauderdale
|1||The Club at Emerald Hills|
|2||Plantation Preserve Golf Course & Club|
|3||Deer Creek Golf Club|
|4||Colony West Golf Club|
|5||Palm Aire Country Club|
|6||Flamingo Lakes Golf & Country Club|
|7||Grand Palms Spa & Golf Resort|
|8||Bonaventure Golf Club|
|9||Davie Golf Club|
|10||Hollywood Beach Golf Club|
|11||The Bridges at Springtree Golf Club|
|Groups||Palm Aire Country Club|
|Value for money||Colony West Golf Club|
|Clubhouse||Plantation Preserve Golf Course & Club|
|Views||The Club at Emerald Hills|
1. The Club at Emerald Hills
To kick off our list of best public golf courses in Fort Lauderdale, we start with this fantastic semi-private golf club.
The Club at Emerald Hills is a highly reputed and respected club located between Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood to the south.
The course here was designed by the great Robert Von Hagge, assisted by Bruce Devlin, and opened for play in 1969. It was more recently renovated by Charles Ankrom in the 90s.
Von Hagge is known the world-over, with some of his designs considered the greatest outside of the U.S. These include the Golf National in Paris, which hosted the 2018 Ryder Cup and Les Bordes, one of the finest golf courses in the world.
Von Hagge has many in south-east Florida. The superb Boca Rio in Boca Raton, Crandon Bay in Miami and the immense Blue Monster at Doral. Here at Emerald Hills, it is a superb layout.
Like many of Von Hagge’s designs it is yet another challenging course with accurate shot-making central to being successful. Plenty of water and beautifully contoured greens are encountered during the round.
So highly rated is The Club at Emerald Hills, it was selected to host qualifiers for the US Open, the US Senior Open and the US Amateurs.
2. Plantation Preserve Golf Course & Club
Due west from Fort Lauderdale along W Broward Boulevard, you’ll pass some fine private clubs.
These include Fort Lauderdale Country Club, which is the best private golf club in Fort Lauderdale (and which you can read about in the article: What are the best golf courses in Fort Lauderdale) and Jacaranda Golf Club.
But sandwiched between those two, is the wonderful Plantation Preserve Golf Course & Club.
This outstanding golf course is yet another designed by the great Robert Von Hagge, with support from Mike Smelek and Rick Baril. The course opened to great acclaim in 2006.
As always, when Von Hagge is involved, you can be sure you’ll be tested. Plantation Preserve is no different.There are split fairways, a green surrounded on nearly all sides by a bunker and of course Von Hagge’s favorite, an island green. This can be found on the 9th, the course’s signature hole.
This is such a high-quality public facility and consistently ranked as one of the best public golf courses in Fort Lauderdale amongst the locals.
3. Deer Creek Golf Club
North of Pompano Beach, on the road towards Boca Raton, is the fantastic, semi-private Deer Creek Golf Club. This is the Deerfield Beach area, just a few miles from the expansive Atlantic coastline.
Deer Creek Golf Club opened its doors in 1971, an era when development was booming in this part of Florida. From that day, the club has been open to the public, although there are price discounts if you are a member.
It was designed by one of the most accomplished golf course designers of the age, Arthur Hills. Hills has an impressive C.V. of golf courses in Florida and Deer Creek more than holds its own amongst this company.
In 2004, the course underwent a major renovation. Bunkers were resanded, drainage was improved and all the greens were resurfaced with the hardy TifEagle Ultradwarf Bermuda grass.
But it didn’t stop there. New bunkers and tee boxes were created whilst fairways were adjusted. This was a massive step in ensuring Deer Creek could confidently step into the twenty-first century!
4. Colony West Golf Club
It’s pretty unusual for a course architect to have designed three of the top four golf courses in a list. But that’s what’s happened here, with yet another Robert Von Hagge creation, Colony West Golf Club.
Colony West is located due west from the coast, out towards the Everglades. This serene spot has plenty of greenery and vegetation. Yes the routing makes its way through some low-rise condos, but generally there is enough trees and foliage to cover it up.
The course opened in 1971, just in time for the Jack Gleason Classic, known more recently as the Honda Classic.
However, Von Hagge and his assistant Bruce Devlin might have gone a little aggressive in the design. Measuring 7,553 yards from the back tees, they had to remove 52 of the 137 bunkers as it was considered too difficult!
Today, the course is a little shorter. Although from the backs it still measures well over 7,200 yards. There is plenty of water to avoid, with small greens the target. There are narrow fairways and deep rough to also contend with.
If you fancy a challenge, but also want to play one of the best public golf courses in Fort Lauderdale, go to Colony West!
5. Palm Aire Country Club
There aren’t many golf clubs around Fort Lauderdale with three championship golf courses. Well at Palm Aire Country Club, you got it.
To be honest, this is more Pompano Beach than Fort Lauderdale. But with just 20 minutes separating the two cities, it’s no issue.
Palm Aire Country Club has a rich history. The original course, The Palms, was designed by William Mitchell and opened in 1959. Within just a handful of years, it was already hosting top tier golfers and events, including the Florida Open and the South Florida Classic.
The facility expanded massively in 1971 and 1972, with the building of an elegant hotel and spa and two further 18-hole courses, the Oaks course and the Cypress course. Both were designed by the in-demand Tom and George Fazio.
This really was the golden-age for the resort, with numerous A-list celebrities frequenting on a regular basis.
Clearly time has moved on since then and although Palm Aire Country Club maybe doesn’t get as many celebrity endorsements, it is a great venue to go and play golf.
With the three courses, it never feels too crowded. Each one offers a slightly different challenge and clocks in just under the 7,000 yards mark. What can be said about a round here, is it is true Florida golf.
6. Flamingo Lakes Golf & Country Club
This fine semi-private golf club is located half a mile east of Interstate 75 in the Pembroke Pines neighborhood. From Fort Lauderdale, you’re looking about a 30 minute drive.
The course opened for play in 1984 and was designed by John Rondon.
Flamingo Lakes is quite a unique public course in the area, due to its terrain being relatively hilly. We’re not talking vast hills, but there is plenty of movement and undulations throughout the course.
This adds to the overall challenge on offer. With numerous undulations, come uneven and tricky lies. Water is in play on nearly every hole and there are plenty of bunkers in landing zones.
Fortunately it isn’t too long at just under 6,000 yards albeit still a par 71. This means, in theory, you can get round Flamingo Lakes in easily under 4 hours. This is definitely a unique selling point if you’re time precious.
7. Grand Palms Spa & Golf Resort
Yet another on this list located in the Pembroke Hills neighborhood. Yet Grand Palms is more than just a golf club. It is a resort with hotel, facilities and golf all located within its 500 acre verdant plot.
When Grand Palms Spa & Golf Resort opened, it was one of the pre-eminent resort hotels in the Fort Lauderdale / Hollywood area. It was 1965 and the resort was for many years one of the places to go.
Clearly over time this area has seen incredible development. And although it might no longer be as popular as it once was, it is still a great location to be based at. It is also just a short drive to the coast.
There are 27 holes of golf onsite, all designed by Ward Northrup who designed a number of courses in Florida and Georgia primarily.
The three nines are the Sabal, Royal and Grand, with the Grand/Royal combination being the longest and arguably most popular.
As for the course, there is one main protagonist and that is water and plenty of it. There aren’t too many bunkers and there are very few forced carries. Being successful at Grand Palms comes down to avoiding the water and putting well.
8. Bonaventure Golf Club
A public golf course in Fort Lauderdale with an intriguing history, Bonaventure Golf Club is definitely a place to visit.
The club is located way out west along Interstate 75. Any further and you’d be well into gator territory and the wild Everglades. That said, it’s still only just a 20 minute drive from Fort Lauderdale.
The championship golf course at Bonaventure opened in 1970 and was designed by the prolific and highly regarded Joe Lee. Lee’s qualities as a designer were well regarded, including by the likes of Jack Nicklaus.
In its early days, the course got plenty of attention. It was even chosen to host the prestigious Dixie Amateur Tournament, which included the likes of Tiger Woods and Jesper Parnevik.
Today, it’s unlikely players of that quality will be visiting the course. But as a public course it offers plenty for a good day out.
On its day, Bonaventure is a heck of a challenge. Water aplenty with numerous well-positioned bunkers keeping you honest off the tee. And if you fancy playing off the backs, you’ll be playing a yardage of over 7,000 yards.
9. Davie Golf Club
Up in the neighborhood of Davie is Davie Golf Club, which is owned by the town of Davie.
The course was formerly known as Arrowhead Golf & Tennis Club and came into life back in 1973. The original architect was a man called Bill Watts although this design was completely renovated and slightly remodeled in 2011 by Harrison Minchew.
Throughout his career, Minchew was one of the senior architects working for Arnold Palmer. Yet as is often the case, the best veer off and start their own firms.
The routing at Davie is typical Florida golf. Vast quantities of water, super scenic with plenty of native vegetation and plenty of wildlife. This wildlife includes cranes, iguanas, various birds and surprise surprise, the odd alligator.
Amongst the locals, it is known, amongst other things, for offering superb twilight rates. At just over 6,300 yards from the back tees, you can also get round relatively quickly…assuming you’re hitting it relatively straight!
The greens are fun, with very few offering a simple flat surface with no movement. All in all, good value and good fun.
10. Hollywood Beach Golf Club
Within golfing circles, the name Donald Ross simply demands respect. One of the greatest ever golf course architects, whose work inspired so many other course designs. He has countless golf courses considered ‘best in state’.
Hollywood Beach Golf Club, located just south of Fort Lauderdale airport, is another Ross design.
The original layout opened in 1924 making Hollywood Beach one of the pioneering golf courses along this stretch of coastline.
What makes this place unique, is the fact there is absolutely no housing within the 110 acre site. Just a beautiful and lush landscape devoted to golf.
It is a par 70 and from the back tees reaches just shy of 6,400 yards. But length isn’t the challenge. The fairways are narrow and the greens are small. Accuracy and consistency make a good score here.
Having stood the test of time, this classic layout is fun yet keeps you on your toes.
11. The Bridges at Springtree Golf Club
A fantastic public golf facility, The Bridges at Springtree Golf Club is a great day out. It is located in the Sunrise neighborhood, just a short drive from downtown Fort Lauderdale.
The club opened in 1972 and was formerly known as Seven Bridges at Springtree Golf Club. Wanting a distinguished and proven architect to design the course, they turned to the 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber.
McCumber had a hugely successful career on the PGA Tour. Yet after his playing days were over, golf course architecture was the obvious next step.
Fast forward to today, and McCumber has built a fantastic reputation for designing really solid and enjoyable courses. The Bridges at Springtree Golf Club maintains this record. This is even more pronounced following a 2010 major renovation.
One thing to point out is that the course is short, essentially an Executive Course. From the backs just 4,042 yards with eleven par 3s.
Although this might put some golfers off, rest assured this is great fun. Not everyone always has the time to play a 7,000+ yard layout!
What is the best public golf course in Fort Lauderdale?
The best public golf course in Fort Lauderdale is The Club at Emerald Hills. Located between Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood to the south, the course was designed by Robert Von Hagge and Bruce Devlin.