Framed by the natural beauty of Perdido Key and playing through a 200 acre nature preserve, Lost Key Golf Club is unquestionably one of the toughest, if not the toughest, courses in the area as well as one of the most fun, unique, and memorable. The course plays through a nature preserve (bring your binoculars if you're a birder( it was my only opportunity for a birdie) and Lost Key Golf Club won the fanciest-sounding award from Audubon International, called the Silver Signature Sanctuary. The course, marina, community amenities, and rentals are owned and managed by who has an excellent reputation and a portfolio of impressive communities and properties in Florida.
The course opened for play in 1997 and the par 71 signature designed championship course was redesigned by the Arnold Palmer Design Group in 2006. Unlike most Palmer courses we have experienced, which are typically very golfer friendly resort style courses, Lost Key Golf Club is a very demanding shot makers course where you may want to leave the big dog in the bag and you'll need to utilize some of your best course management and club selection skills if you want to score well and you best be accurate with a wide variety of your clubs – some would call this a real shot makers course. If you're off you're game like I was, you'll quickly learn why Lost Key Golf Club is nicknamed "Lost Ball Golf Club."
Palmer carved the course out of ambient wetlands and vegetation interspersed by swaths of powdery sand and the wetlands will come into play on every hole. The cart paths are mostly natural coquina shells, and there is little rough to speak of – just fairway and hazard.
Lost Key Golf Club leaves you with the impression you could do better if you come back for more and according to Roger Willoughby, the head golf pro, "once you get to know this course, it gets friendlier." We can't wait to see if that is true – love to play this beast again, and again, and again.
No question, this may be one of the most challenging courses within the state(slope of 72.6 and rating of 144) but if you pick the right set of tee boxes (don't bite off more than you can chew – this courses is a bear from the tips so move up a set of tee boxes), leave the big guy in the bag, play smart, study the score card for hints on playing each hole, and study the green contour closely – you'll have a very enjoyable and fun round.
Each hole is a little different from the others and most are unique and memorable and require a different strategy. Some of what you'll encounter that makes for a fun and challenging round includes:
- demanding tee shots – #8 is a long skinny fairway bordered by wetlands waiting to devour your golf ball and #9 requires a precise drive to stay in the fairway and avoiding the big bunker, wetlands, and lake before the fairway ends and requires a forced carry over a natural area to the green
- strategically placed bunkers – most are well placed like the bunker crossing the entire fairway on #15 or the monster in front of the green on 11
- outstanding risk reward opportunities – #4 a 329 yard par four with a reachable green if you want to risk flying the wetland to reach it or #17 will temp you to fly a lot of the lake and a huge long facing bunker for a potential birdie
- challenging green complexes – some are raised, others are well guarded, and most have some challenging slope, undulation, and subtle breaks
- interesting and unique holes – #5 with an intimidating carry over a natural area and a dog right past 2 huge bunkers or #18 with a 90 degree dog leg left, a risk reward shot over the wetlands for a birdie approach, a huge bunker with five fingers at end of where the fairway turns left, and a tough approach
- precision approach shots – #11 is a raised green with steep slope off all sides and a huge bunker in front and #13 is about the same plus a huge bunker and water on the left side
- wetlands, marshes, and lakes – every hole has some or all of this on both sides of the fairway and around the greens
The fairways range from ample to tight and all have wetlands, lakes, or natural areas on both sides that will devour your golf balls. The fairways were starting to go dormant, were in fair condition, and firm offering extra roll that you need to manage. Most of the fairways have slope and contour. The rough is playable, in fact the ball tends to set up giving you a good shot.
The greens at Lost Key Golf Club range from huge (your ball may end up in another zip code from the pin) to small and odd shaped. You'll also encounter plenty of slope and undulation. They were running at a good speed of around 10, were soft and true, but have plenty of subtle breaks.
The bunkers also ranged in size from small to some huge long monsters with lots of fingers. They are all fairly steep faced and the sand ranged from soft and fluffy to a tad shallow and gritty.
Bottom line – this is a very demanding track but one you can manage if you focus and one you will want to play again.
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The clubhouse is great and includes a well stocked pro shop and a good bar and restaurant. The staff is excellent - friendly, helpful, and dedicated to ensuring you have a fun round. The practice facilities are very good and make sure you spend some time on them before you head out.