"So I jump ship in Hong Kong, make my way over to Florida and Turnberry Isle."
Miami is, in my opinion, one of the best destinations for golf anywhere in the world. The climate and the condition of some of these world class golf courses are a huge step up from the golf courses we play here in Australia. Turnberry Isle is one of these golf courses. I have thought of many different words to describe the Turnberry Isle golf course, but the one I am going to use is "Flawless." This golf course is so good, it's flawless. From the very well stocked pro shop, to the magnificent looking buildings making up the resort, to the friendly staff, to the majestic manicured fairways, to the abundance of wildlife, to the fast perfect greens, this Ray Floyd designed golf resort will blow your socks off. The initial design was done in 1971 by Robert Trent Jones, but Floyd's 2006 revamp was just what Turnberry needed.
My hosts for the day were Dustin Irwin (Director of Golf) and Hiro Suzuki (Head Pro). I had emailed Dustin some months prior to playing here and he was more than helpful. He and his team organised a perfect days golf for me and let me know they were more than happy to organise more for any touring Australians heading Florida's way. In fact, this is the golf course we will be looking at taking Aussie golfers to on our golf trips, starting soon. The 600 room resort and the two 18 hole golf courses will be the base for the Miami golf trips. After playing the courses, I could not think of a better place to be.
The Soffer course is the harder of the golf courses here and the way it plays is very different to the Miller course. The Soffer is a perfectly manicured, rolling green, water hazard laced picture of golf. Ray Floyd has designed a extremely tough test of any golfer here and has done so in a very limited space. Although the Soffer measures just over 7000 yards, the course itself is squeezed into a small area. There is not a lot of room off the fairway, so you will have to keep it straight or the water hazards and deep rough will swallow your wayward shots.
Speaking of water hazards, they are on every hole here, except the 5th and the 10th. They are always there, reminding you to keep it straight. In fact, the 1st hole will make you avoid the water from the first shot. With a waterfall and creek run off on the left hand side of the fairway, the 1st will make your caddy work from the get go. Driver is not really the play here, unless you can fly it down the right hand side over 300 yards.
The 2nd hole is a 558 yard par 5 from the back tees and the tee shot will need to be right hand side to avoid the fairway bunkers. Your second will again have to be away from the left side bunkers and avoid the water on the right. It's tight, but an easy 3 shot par 5. The 3rd is the first of the par 3's and at only 164 from the tips, you may think it's easy, but the water carry will make your knees shake a little. Hole your nerve for a par and move onto the 4th.
4 is a nearly 500 yard par 4 with water down the left side and a deep green surrounded by bunkers left, right and long. The 5th is a dogleg right and is one of only 2 holes here without water. Fade your tee shot around the corner to have a easier shot to a sand surrounded green once more. If you make it through 4 and 5 with pars, you are doing very well.
The 6th may get you a shot back. It's a 574 yard, par 5, but if you can get a drive away, you can reach this green in two. If not, a small water hazard crosses the fairway and you will have to lay up. The 7th is the second par 3 and again, water features prominantly in your vision of the green. You can bail out with a draw, but at only 190 yards, just go for it. If the pin is on the right, it's a brave shot to go right at it.
The 8th will again, give you an opportunity to make a birdie. At only 405 yards, a good drive will see you only a wedge into a pretty open green. Ignore the water right off the tee as it will not come into play. Drive straight with a little draw and you are in perfect position. The 9th is a great way to finish the front nine. At only 402 yards on the card, you may be thinking birdie, but the water left and right may have you thinking survival instead. Fairway wood off the tee is the best play. Keep it down the middle or you will be in danger. The left fairway bunker comes out and narrows the fairway if you take driver.
Making the turn and heading to the 10th, I was reasonably happy with my 39 on the front. Sitting 3 over and still with all my golf balls intact, I was ready for the back nine. The 10th is a straight away par 4. Keep your drive out of the left and right fairway traps and have a nine iron to the green. Should be a simple par to start the back.
11 is one of the great holes here at Turnberry. At several points along this hole you will think you have it made, only to find that the water hazard goes further than you think and perhaps you should have played it a bit further right instead of going for it. Lost ball number 1. The drive here is simple enough, but after that, keep your ball down the right for an easy shot into a difficult green. Great hole!
The 12th is a tricky dogleg right. The right hand corner (where you want to go) is protected by 2 fairway traps. The best play is to take fairway wood and hit it down the left side with a fade. This will leave you with about 8 iron into a raised green. Don't miss right or you will have a tough up n down. 13 is a par 3. It's again a over the water carry shot, so get the club right and you should not have too many problems. The green here is big, so try and hit it in the right part or a three putt will be almost guaranteed.
The 14th begins the stretch of the best holes here at Turnberry. It's a 435 yard par 4 with water down the left and a heavily undulated fairway. Fairway bunkers all the way down the water and one on the right will have you making sure of hitting the fairway. The remaining holes will really test your nerve. 15 is a 235 yard par 3 which again crosses over a water hazard. The large 2 tiered green is tough to make a putt on and if the pin is on the left, the shot is made harder by large greenside bunkers. There is no good shot here except on the green.
16 may look like an easy par 4 on the card, but looking down the fairway, you won't be so sure. The large fairway bunker on the right will catch anything fading and the water is just over the right hand side of the fairway ready to swallow anything not hit correctly. 17 is another par 3 that will test your mid irons. It's 184 from the back and has nowhere but sand or water to hit to if you miss the green.
This brings you to the 18th. This par 5 is one of those holes that you will remember playing for as long as you live. It's a magnificent golf hole and I'm sure there are many ways of playing it. Without the aid of having a caddy, I took my drive down the right and then safely hit my second out to the left hand side and about 100 into the island green. That's right, an island green lies at the end of this 571 yard par 5. I'm sure you may be able to go for this green in 2, but remember, the green is surrounded by rocks and has a large uphill front to it. I'm sure many golfers have had the heartbreak of hitting this green, only to roll back in. Without a fairway wood though, my lay up worked perfectly as I dropped a wedge to 10 feet and made the birdie.
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That was only the Soffer course. After heading back to the starter well satisfied with the golf course I had just played, I was informed that I could head out onto the Miller course if I wanted to. I was, however pretty hungry after playing early and having no breakfast. Dustin joined me and walked me through to the members dining room, he then proceeded to buy lunch for both myself and my wife. An outstanding act of generosity that really, in my mind, set this resort apart from all the others I played while over in america. This resort's staff treated me like a guest. All of the other places I played, treated me well, but not like Turnberry Isle did. I hope Dustin and his staff read this review because I really thought that the way we were treated there, made for the best day's golf I have had in a long time. I can't thank them all enough.
After a delicious lunch, I headed out onto the Miller course front 9. The Miller course is very different from the Soffer. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd holes I have to say, were not exciting me and I thought I really missed the Soffer course. That was, before I stood on the 4th tee and looked upon the lake in the middle of the course and the surrounding holes. The large lake is the centre of this front nine. The holes all stretch around it or across it and it makes for not only a beautiful scene, but a tough one as well. The 4th requires a drive across the lake, the 5th requires a second shot over the edge of the lake, the 6th you need to carry the lake to the green, the 7th you almost need to cross the lake twice. I even saw a pink flamingo walking through the lake! The small par 3, 8th did not have any water on it, but then the 9th did. Although I did not play the back nine here on the Miller, from looking at the scorecard, I can't wait to play it next time I am back here.
1. Tees 15/15
2. Fairways 14/15
3. Bunkers 14/15
4. Greens 14/15
5. Design 14/15
6. The 19th 13/15
7. Price 8/10
Turnberry Isle was a fantastic day out. The course and the staff were just magnificent. The design of the course squeezes 36 holes into a space that should hold less, but never makes you feel crowded. The lake on the Miller course, surrounded by Miami skyscraper hotels is perfect for taking pictures and your game may be distracted by the great scenery around this golf course. Although the price is $295 for 18 holes, it includes a caddy, a cart, range balls and a gps as well, so it is pretty good value. When you consider that Doral Blue Monster is $450, this golf course represents not only great value, but I think, a better days golf. This golf course may not have the quantity of golfers coming to it, but it has the quality to make those who come, extremely satisfied. Miami is a perfect destination for golf and gets 10/10.
*Check out the Turnberry Isle website for yourself and have a look at the magnificent accomodations as well Turnberry Isle website