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Miami golf courses primed for Super Bowl -- book tee times now

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

MIAMI, Fla. - If you're coming to Miami for Super Bowl XLI, you're coming for two reasons (besides rooting for your team): staying warm and being cool.

TPC Blue Monster golf course at Doral
The TPC Blue Monster at Doral is the best of five golf courses at the resort.
TPC Blue Monster golf course at DoralCrandon Park golf course in MiamiBiltmore golf course

Winter temps are in the low to mid-70s, perfect for wearing wrap-around shades to protect your retinas from the bright pastels by day and all that neon at night (yes, they wear sunglasses at night here).

Golf might not be a quintessentially cool sport - and perhaps for that reason - Miami hasn't quite dived into the game like the rest of Florida. It's pretty much overwhelmed by all the other cool stuff here.

Still, what would a warm-weather Super Bowl be without golf? There are some great, warm places to play here and still keep your cool. Here are some of the best Miami golf courses.

Doral Golf Resort & Spa: This is the golf resort in south Florida, a 650-acre complex with five courses, a world-class spa and a classic Miami look, palm trees swaying in the ocean breezes under cloudless blue skies.

Synonymous with Doral is the TPC Blue Monster course. Recently reopened after a $1.5 million renovation, this is one of the country's most recognizable courses, a regular PGA Tour stop since the early '60s, and many first-timers try to play it "like the pros" - that is, they blast off from the tee.

Think again. Doral's difficulty lies in its thick Bermuda rough and bunker- and water-squeezed landing areas. You must be long and accurate or - like the actual pros - wily. Fairways woods and long irons matter here. Even Tiger Woods keeps his 5-wood handy out here.

Then there's the Atlantic wind that comes swirling through the wide-open course after cooling the muscle boys and silicone vixens at South Beach. It can mean a three- or even four-club difference.

The most prestigious of Doral's five courses, the Blue Monster understandably gets the most play.

Crandon Park Golf Course: This municipal layout on the distinctly non-muni island of Key Biscayne is only a few minutes from downtown Miami, but it's a world apart.

This is one of the best muni golf courses in Florida, maybe in the country, with an upscale clubhouse and a great design by Robert Von Hagge and Bruce Devlin (who oversaw a renovation in 1993, 21 years after the course opened).

It's a pristine island environment, with seven saltwater lakes and views of Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline. The course is dotted with palms, mangrove and other tropical flora, and there's an assortment of exotic wildlife, including iguanas and crocs.

You can play Crandon Park in the summer - which in Miami is essentially seven months long - for $30 after 10 a.m. During the high season it's $75 for Florida residents.

Biltmore Golf Course: The Biltmore in Coral Gables is one of the Miami area's most luxurious, historic and prestigious hotels. You won't see hunks and honeys frolicking in tiny bathing suits, but for golfers, it's no big deal.

"We don't have the ocean here, which is OK," said Jason Epstein, Biltmore's head professional. "The ocean is overrated. We've got a Donald Ross golf course."

That they do, and they're doing everything they can to bring it into high relief. Like many Ross courses, the Biltmore layout, built in 1930, lost much of the master's imprint over the years, through storms, neglect and the biggest destroyer: time. A recent renovation replaced the unsightly St. Augustine grass in the rough with Bermuda.

They also filled in many of the more than 200 (!) bunkers. This is, after all, a resort course, and pace of play is always important.

Shula's Hotel and Golf Club: To go to Miami during Super Bowl week and not visit Shula's would be a sacrilege.

The Miami Lakes resort is named, of course, for Don Shula, the former Miami Dolphins coach who led the Fish to two Super Bowl titles and the only perfect season in NFL history (17-0 in 1972). The sprawling complex includes two golf courses, a Shula's Steak 2 and other eateries, and a 44,000-square-foot athletic club.

The semi-private Senator course at Shula's recently underwent a $2 million renovation to undo the effects of Hurricane Wilma. Course officials tout the 6,982-yard Bill Watts layout, renamed after the redo for former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), as better than the pre-storm track, with 150 new trees, 1,500 new plants, rebuilt fences and cart paths and improved drainage.

There is also an 18-hole executive course.

Turnberry Isle Resort and Club: This Aventura resort has a pair of player-friendly resort courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Raymond Floyd. Both are being redone as part of an overall refurbishment of the resort, which should be completed by the time the Super Bowl arrives with a crash.

Jones' South course measures more than 7,000 yards but doesn't throw many of the usual RTJ hazards at you. Not surprisingly, given the region's demographics, this is where the idea of the Senior Tour was hatched.

Honorable mentions: Country Club of Miami, Fontainbleau Golf Club, Miami Beach Golf Club, Miami Shores Country Club, Miccosukee Country Club, Calusa Country Club.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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Dates: January 1, 2018 - March 31, 2018
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