Lost Key Golf Club near Pensacola is a saucy, salty, mischievous enchantress
Lost Key Golf Club is a Pensacola-area golf course that will keep you coming back for more, even though it can be difficult.
PERDIDO KEY, Fla. - The Lost Key Golf Club is one of those rare resort golf courses that likes to whip up on the guests, then entice them back for more. It's like a woman who tells you "no, no, no" with her mouth but "yes, yes, yes" with her eyes.
"I can't tell you the number of times resort guests have complained to me that the course beat them up," said Assistant Professoinal Roger Willoughby. "Then they say, 'You got any tee times tomorrow?'"
That's because of several factors, the No. 1 reason being the sheer beauty of the place. The golf course is laid down gently on Perdido Key, between downtown Pensacola and Gulf Shores, Ala. It's a narrow, barrier island with sand dunes as white as the reflecting clouds, and it has retained that wild, barrier island feel, even as high-rise condos have risen on the increasingly developed island.
The designers had to take pains to rout the course through the natural wetlands that flow through the 150 acres. They did a god job: Lost Key was the first course in the state to earn the fanciest-sounding award from Audubon International, called the silver signature sanctuary.
It's an Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay design, one of their better ones, with Palmer's characteristic, distinct bunkering. Here, the bunkers are both strategic and aesthetic, with sharp, well-defined edges that also blend in with the natural dunes and vegetation.
It's immaculately maintained with salt-water resistant Paspalum from the tee boxes to the rolling, undulating fairways to the arresting green complexes. The cart paths are mostly natural, coquina shells, and there is little rough to speak of - just fairway and hazard.
Another part of the equation is that the course leaves you with the impression you could do better if you come back for more.
"Once you get to know this course, it gets friendlier," Willoughby said.
True. The rookie may have some problems with his maiden round, especially if he or she plays it from the back tees, where the yardage is over 6,800 yards and the slope rating is a rollicking 144.
Yes, it can be a difficult course, but it will keep you focused on your game management skills, and you will use a lot of clubs. It has an excellent collection of par 3s.
Lost Key Golf Club: The verdict
Perdido does indeed mean "lost" in Spanish, but the connotation of the word comes out as "incorrigible" or "hopeless." There's a little bit of that in Lost Key, with its narrow fairways and tricky green complexes, but it is a course that you can score on once you know the secrets, because it is not overwhelming with length.
You can learn to use the angles on the rolling and undulating fairways - some of them banked dramatically - and the greens, with their beautifully crafted contours. In my case, of course, it helped to play it with the pro; otherwise, I may have been cursing along with other first timers.
You can get into trouble off the tee if you insist on sticking with your driver - one of the reasons some have nicknamed it "Lost Ball Golf Club."
Lost Key opened in 1997 and was redesigned by Palmer in 2006. It has a new clubhouse, and the practice facilities are excellent, as is the service.
Green fees are higher than your typical Pensacola-area course, around $100, but in my opinion it is well worth it. The course is open to the public.
Meyer Real Estate is the largest provider of accommodations on the Gulf Coast, from Perdido Key to Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island in Alabama.
They rent out individually owned beach houses from two to 11 bedrooms and coastal condos from one to four bedrooms in more than 180 buildings. The company specializes in hosting large groups of golfers.
There are four offices for check-in at Perdido Key, Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island, the office at Gulf Shores being open 24 hours a day.
If you want to stay close to the course, within walking distance, check on availability in one of the condos overlooking it. The units are big, with private patios and full kitchens. You can look down, literally and figuratively, on other golfers being manhandled by Lost Key.
The Lost Key Golf and Beach Club has "sky homes," single-family homes and villas for rent, and the Lost Key Marina and Yacht Club is a waterfront community with mid-rise towers with views of the Gulf of Mexico and Intracoastal Waters.
More golf villas are planned.
February 19, 2008