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From Miami to Fort Lauderdale, diverse designs dominate south Florida golf menu

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NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 28: Brandt Snedeker of the USA tees off on the 11th hole during The Kiwi Challenge at Cape Kidnappers on October 28, 2008 in Napier, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)  - 

Donald Ross, Robert Trent Jones Sr., Joe Lee, Bobby Weed -- south Florida has attracted superb golf architects to its subtropical environs for decades.

These and other architects designed a wide array of courses that have stood the test of time. Distinguishing south Florida layouts from ones in other parts of the peninsula are the mature trees, towering palms, tropical foliage and lakes that give the courses a sense of place and history.

The menu in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area is an eclectic one offering golfers of all skill levels great places to tee up.

High-profile gems

Host to a Champions Tour tournament for 18 years, the Bruce Devlin/Robert von Hagge-designed Crandon Park Golf Course, built in 1972, is an island paradise just 10 minutes from downtown Miami. Situated on a barrier island surrounded by turquoise and deep blue waters, Crandon is engulfed by mangrove thickets and lush, tropical foliage.

For Donald Ross design fans, the Biltmore Golf Course, which sits directly behind the opulent and ornate Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, is a testament to the Scotsman's design genius.

Designed by Ross in 1925 and later restored by architect Brian Silva, the 6,800-yard, par-71 championship layout captures the essence of Ross designs with its strategically positioned bunkers and challenging greens with subtle dips and contours that demand well-thought-out approach shots and confidently struck putts.

In Miami Lakes, the Senator Course at Don Shula's Hotel & Golf Club is a must play for those who enjoy non-gimmicky, traditional style golf courses. Originally designed by Bill Watts in 1962 and updated in 1990 by Kipp Schulties, the course has some of the most impressive mature tree growth in south Florida. The first few holes on the 6,982-yard, par-72 layout are rather benign; however, the challenge mounts as you proceed to the back nine, which is tighter with water coming into play on almost every hole.

Mature palms and hardwoods also line the fairways at the Bonaventure Country Club in Fort Lauderdale, where 36 holes of Joe Lee designed golf is the draw. Bonaventure's East Course, with its famous No. 3 Waterfall Hole, the longer of the two, measures 7,158 yards from the back tees. Much shorter at 6,128 yards, the West Course is a mixture of six par 3s and challenging par 5s that stretch to 531, 545, 561 and 575 yards. No matter your choice, you'll see lots of bird life, such as wild parrots, blue herons and snowy egrets.

In Plantation, Bobby Weed, a Ponte Vedra Beach architect who designed TPC Tampa Bay and Golf Club, has fashioned two 18-hole layouts at the Jacaranda Golf Club. Jacaranda's East Course has hosted a variety of qualifiers for USGA tournaments as well as a PGA Tour Q-School. Jacaranda's West Course is a shot maker's layout with lagoons, doglegs and bunkers that tighten landing areas.

Quintessential Florida designs

Designed by Robert Trent Jones in 1961, the Country Club of Miami -- where comedians Jackie Gleason and Bob Hope and crooner Bing Crosby often played back in the day -- has 36 holes of golf with recently re-grassed greens.

The 7,017-yard, par-72 West Course with a slope of 132 is the more challenging of the duo. For shorter hitters, the 6,353-yard, par-70 East Course, with a slope of 124, is a shot maker's course that requires less brawn off the tee and acute strategy on every hole.

In Tamarac near Fort Lauderdale, Woodmont Country Club's Cypress Course, designed by Bruce Devlin, has been a staple in the area since its opening in 1978. Once a private layout that opened to the public in 2007, the Woodmont Cypress Course, which has hosted a Nike Tour Event (now the Tour), stretches 7,043 yards from the back tees. The experience incorporates mature trees and lakes, water views, elevated tees and contoured greens.

Short and fun

One of the region's more popular shorter courses is the 5,900-yard Flamingo Lakes Country Club in Pembroke Pines, which was designed by relative unknown John Condon in 1984. Dominant features include occasional hilly terrain, narrow fairways and smooth, consistent greens.

If you don't have time to play 18 but still want a challenging nine-hole experience, head to Greynolds Golf Course in North Miami Beach. Measuring 3,100 yards, this par-36 course was designed in 1964 by Mark Mahannah, who fashioned other Florida layouts such as Rio Pinar Country Club in Orlando. Greynolds features oak tree-lined fairways in a park-like setting.

Another nine-hole possibility, situated eight blocks west of US 1 in Miami, is the par-31, 1,869-yard Briar Bay Golf Course, designed by Bruce Devlin and Robert Von Hagge in 1975. The palm-dotted layout features four par 4s and five par 3s. The longest hole is the 305-yard No. 4.