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Historic Local Golf Course Set to Celebrate 85th Anniversary

Dunedin Golf Club, a former headquarters of the PGA, is a hidden gem among the myriad area courses.

With so many excellent courses and country clubs to choose from in this area, it’s inevitable that some spots are going to get lost amidst the likes of courses such as Innisbrook, Westchase and TPC of Tampa Bay. 

But the residents of Dunedin and its surrounding communities have a classic course that is infinitely playable and rich in history — the a former headquarters of the PGA — hiding in plain sight.

“What we have here is so incredible,” Jane Baird, president of the club's board of directors, said. “Many of our members have moved to the area just to be close to the course.”

Indeed, as its 85th anniversary year began on Jan. 1, the history of the club reads like something out of a Hollywood script.

After a visiting surgeon and avid golfer told a group of local businessmen in 1925 that Dunedin “would never grow until it had a golf course,” the city set out to build one close to the downtown area.

The city purchased 90 acres from local developer L.D. Skinner, and then recruited world-renowned course architect Donald Ross. Two years later, on Jan. 1, 1927, Dunedin Isles, named for the newly built residential district surrounding the course, officially opened.

“All the signs of a Donald Ross course are still here,” longtime member and unofficial club historian Bob Herdman said of the 6,625-yard, par-72 course. 

“There are a lot of doglegs. Almost every green is elevated and surrounded by bunkers. And because of the prevailing winds off the nearby water, the course never plays the same way twice. It's what makes the course so enjoyable.”

The course was so attractive in the early days that the Professional Golfers Association of America, the sport’s governing body, made Dunedin Isles its headquarters in 1945, renaming it the PGA National and bringing it much prestige. 

“Many people think we are a private club, because of our name and the history of the club,” Baird said. “But we are not private, we are open to the public.” 

From the time the PGA took over until today, the club has played host to a slew of golf celebrities and special events that have served to enhance its reputation.

Notable luminaries who have played or visited the course include Bobby Jones, Babe Zaharias, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazin and Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome.

Babe Ruth even graced the course in the early 1930s, and it was also home to 18 PGA senior championship events and the first ever PGA merchandise show. 

Today the club hosts numerous civic and social gatherings, including the annual Dunedin Teachers Association breakfast, which takes place on Jan. 20, as well as weddings, reunions and golf-related parties.

According to Baird, the club has about 400 members.

The PGA eventually outgrew the single 18-hole course and moved its headquarters to Palm Beach Gardens in 1962, and the club has changed names a few times since. 

But no matter what name it goes by, the aura of tradition and the lure of whiling away a gorgeous Florida day on a picturesque, intimate course still hangs over the club like a warm Gulf breeze.

“The course has basically remained unchanged since it was designed by Donald Ross...and we have players who come from France, the United Kingdom, Canada and all of Europe to play it,” Baird said. “We even have one member who lives in Germany, but he plays whenever he comes over here.”

“And we have a lot of repeat players, people come off the course and immediately book their next tee time. That is the purest form of compliment for a golf course."

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