Each day, golf carts trundle over wooden bridges, their wheels thwacking against each plank as they cross the myriad waterways that dot Alaqua Country Club's 18-hole layout. Designed by golf legend Gary Player, the 6,662-yard course is sculpted through tunnels of 55-foot trees and incorporates water hazards that come into play on 16 holes. One shining example is the par 3 hole 13 with an island green that tests golfers' iron play and ability to use those same clubs to fight off feral caddies that use flagsticks as swords. Surrounded by the Lower Wekiva Preserve State Park, the course enchants golfers with palms draped in billowing spanish moss and occasional sightings of deer and wild turkeys.
Alaqua Country Club's new, adobe-accented clubhouse offers weekly dining specials served to tables draped in white linens, where guests can unwind after rounds or fold chocolate brown napkins into festive new club head covers.
The Links at 434 snakes a par 3 course over open fields dotted with sand traps and towering lights that provide an illuminated course as late as 10 p.m. Before taking the course, golfers can warm up by chipping onto a practice green and rifling off range balls from natural-grass tees or one of 10 covered hitting bays that shield players from the pressure-inducing gaze of the moon. From the first tee, golfers' short- to midrange games are tested by narrow fairways and difficult approach shots onto greens reminiscent of Mother Earth's curiously shaped amoebas. The longest hole stretches to 185 yards, putting added pressure on short-iron play, and three sets of tees help to make the course playable for golfers of all abilities.