MIAMI -- It's no secret that golf in Miami -- especially during peak season around winter -- can be expensive. Everybody knows, for example, about the Doral Resort (now owned by Donald Trump) and an assortment of high-end private clubs. But there is affordable golf, very affordable, if you know where to look.
One place to start would be with Miami's municipals, of which there are four 18-hole courses and a couple of pretty good short courses.
The jewel of the lot is Crandon Park at Key Biscayne, just a few minutes from downtown Miami. You'll pay a little more if you're from out-of-town in peak season, but it's still a relative bargain at well less than $100. During the summer, it's a downright steal.
Here, then, is a look at the Miami munis:
Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne
With an upscale clubhouse and a really good design by Robert Von Hagge and Bruce Devlin, the Crandon Park golf course is one of the better munis in the country.
The course was built on a pristine island environment, with seven salt-water lakes and views of Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline. Dotted with palms, mangrove and other tropical plants, there's also an assortment of tropical wildlife and crocodiles.
The course, which underwent a major renovation in 1993, was also the host of the Champions Tour event for 17 years. With large tee boxes, the course can be stretched to nearly 7,200 yards.
Country Club of Miami
Not too many municipal golf courses have "country club" in their name, but in this case, it's most appropriate because of its history. Back in its day, Country Club of Miami's 36-hole complex, which features two Robert Trent Jones designs, was one of the area's best private clubs.
Jackie Gleason once lived right on the course, and Arnold Palmer was once the head pro. The club used to host what is now known as the WGC-Doral Championship. Today, Miami C.C.'s West Course and East Course (recently renovated with new Mini-Verde greens) are favorites among area golfers.
Both courses have plenty of water and are quite challenging. The club also has extensive practice facilities, including a lighted range and a popular sports grill.
Briar Bay Golf Course
If you're looking for a quick round, check out Briar Bay Golf Course, a par-31 executive course built on 30 acres, eight blocks west of U.S. Highway 1, north of SW 136th Street.
Also designed by Devlin-Von Hagge, the course was built in 1974 by real estate developer Alec Courtelis and opened for play in 1975. The Miami Parks Department acquired Briar Bay in 1979 and has operated it since.
With more than 40,000 rounds a year, it is popular with top players and beginners alike.
Greynolds Golf Course
You could squeeze in another quick nine at Greynolds Golf Course, a layout that features more than 2,000 live oak, mahogany and ficus trees.
There is no water on the course, but trees easily make up for that in terms of the level of difficulty on this Mark Mahannah design that opened in 1964. The par-36 course, which measures 3,100 yards, is a nice challenge for better players looking for a quick round but forgiving enough for beginners. Greynolds Park is one of the area's best values.
Palmetto Golf Course
A few holes are quirky, but the majority of them at the Dick Wilson-designed Palmetto Golf Course are good tests with water features, a few forced carries and a number of large, white-sand bunkers.
It isn't particularly long at 6,711 yards from the back tees, but it's a par 70, making it feel more like a 7,000-yard. Water comes into play on more than half the holes, and ever-present wind can wreak havoc with tee shots. And conditioning won't make you think of Augusta National, but for those who like to play golf, this isn't bad.
Best of all, there's a friendly staff, decent food in the clubhouse and a real sense of community. Also worth noting is the accompanying putting course, a well landscaped fun experience well worth the $7 they charge to play it.