|photo courtesy of the course.|
Course conditions are excellent and the layout hasn't changed since the day Gene Sarazen walked off the course and declared it a monster while warning the owner to not change a thing. The moniker was well-earned. From the tips, the Monster plays an astonishing 7,650 yards with a course rating of 76.8 and slope of 137. Move up to the blue tees and you're playing 7,471. The whites are almost manageable at 6,989. Two shorter tees (green at 6,068 and red at 5,201) are available for sane golfers. Length notwithstanding, the layout itself is challenging and fun.
Water is in play on half the holes, there is a good mix of short(er) and long holes at all three pars, and you'll see enough elevation changes, bunkers, and contoured greens to keep you from being bored. There are even a couple of reachable par fives--depending on which tees you play. The first hole may be the easiest par you'll have all day. At 522 yards (all my distances are from the white tees), a long hitter can get there in two and even a regular guy like you and I can make a birdie with a wedge. The first really big hole you face is the fourth, a 585-yard par five (632 from the black tees!). Watch out for the water on your left from the tee, then carefully plan your second shot because that same water splits the fairway, then cuts across it about 100 yards from the green. Depending on the pin position, you might want to play the left fairway by hitting over the lake with your second shot.
The par threes are all killers. The fifth hole is 207 yards to a green surrounded by bunkers. The seventh is a place to seriously think about laying up, since you're playing 216 yards to a steeply-elevated green with a gigantic bunker in front and a rock-faced cliff on the left. On the back side, the one-shotters are shorter (both are about 160 yards) but both are all carry over water and both have false fronts that will send inadequately-struck balls back into the drink.
The back nine on the Monster is a little shorter than the front but plays tighter and rewards good strategy. The tenth hole is only 352-yards but it has water, water everywhere to punish hooks, slices, and under-clubbed shots from both the tee and the fairway. The seventeenth, a 405-yard par four, is a confusing mess from the tee. It has pine trees in what looks like the middle of the fairway (it's not), a forced carry of nearly 200 yards over a lake to what really is the best landing area, and a lay-up option to the right that is surrounded by water and will leave you over 200 yards to the green if you choose it. Then you get a two-tiered green with three-putt written all over it to finish the hole.
A big part of the fun of playing the Monster is imagining what it would have been like to take it on using a persimmon driver, forged blades, and a balata ball like the golfers who tackled it in 1963 when it opened. Even though it was never chosen as a tour stop, nearly everyone in the game played it during the resort's star-studded heyday. Dashing and debonair Jimmy Demaret was the official club professional when it premiered. Raymond Floyd held the course record (67) solo for many years. Sam Snead, Jackie Burke, Jr., Gene Sarazen, and Lee Trevino all frequented the resort along with entertainers like Bobby Darin and Englebert Humperdink.
The legendary course has gone through some rough times, closing during a recent bankruptcy and reopening only a couple of years ago without its hotel and clubhouse. The current owners have preserved the most important part of the facility--the golf course itself--and are preparing a major overhaul of the amenities and other attractions to re-establish the property as a major tourist attraction. In the meantime, you can still enjoy--or at least endure--one of the toughest rounds of golf you'll ever play for just a few dollars.
Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf