Located in Perdido Key, Florida, Lost Key Golf Club is an easy 15-minute drive from the eastern Gulf Shores area of Alabama, and one heck of a test of accurate golf.
An Arnold Palmer signature design that opened to the public in 2006, I had heard prior to our Gulf Shores trip from several golf enthusiast friends that this might be the hardest course in the world, and was expecting to see 10-yard wide fairways and ponds with water moccasins and alligators every twenty yards waiting for someone with an errant tee shot to come along.
I brought an extra dozen balls, and while I did not need quite that many, I will admit that it is a very challenging golf course (which is evident with its 144 slope from 6800 yards!).
The fairways at Lost Key are tight and well protected by water hazards and wooded areas. Beyond the difficulty of the driving target areas, though, the layout is very interesting with a ton of potential. My friend, Mike, who is a 3-handicap, said it was his favorite course layout of our trip, if only the greens would have been in better condition – they were a bit splotchy for our round.
I really enjoyed the par threes at Lost Key, and the course especially has some very strong par four holes. This is far from a cookie-cutter course, with a lot of interesting design elements that make for strategic golf.
In addition to the golf course, Lost Key has a ton of extra amenities, including a beautiful modern clubhouse, marina, pool and fitness center, and on-site condominiums and rentals. The property is very pretty and located just inland from the Gulf Shores coast shared by Florida and Alabama.
Lost Key starts out with a long par four. Like the majority of the course, the landing zone off the tee is narrow and tree-lined. Anything errant is likely lost, but the fairways roll out very well.
The first par three on the course, the second hole is a long one-shotter with a deep green that is over 60 yards from front-to-back. At 197 yards from the blue tees, this is a tough opening par three.
The third hole is a mid-length par four of 388 yards that is pretty straight-forward. Stay between the traps and avoid the left and right green-side bunkers – easy enough…
A short par four, the fourth hole is a dogleg left at 311 yards from the blue tees. While that sounds short, the sharp dogleg left means reaching this green would take a huge drive over the left-side treeline. The smart shot is less than driver to the fairway in front, cutting off as much yardage as possible to get a short approach in to this peninsula of a putting surface.
A sharp dogleg right par four, the fifth is a great risk/reward hole that goads players in to biting off more of the treeline than they should. Really long hitters can take out quite a bit of it, though, as Mike showed when his drive ended up [which we thought was for sure gone] about 40 yards from the green.
The second par five on the course, the sixth hole is another tight three-shotter with trees lining both sides of the fairway. It is around this point that you might realize keeping the driver in the bag is maybe not a terrible idea. A good drive here, though, leaves a great opportunity for green-under-regulation!
Another tough par three, the seventh plays from 186 yards from the blue tees and over a wasteland with an extremely sloped and risen green. The putting surface is wide although crowned in the middle. Make sure the tee shot is left of the right-side bunker, as anything right or short is lost.
A mid-length par four of 410 from the blue tees, the fairway on eight is again extremely tight. We had a tough right-side pin placement during our round, which was perched over a deep right-side trap that was next to impossible to hit.
At 387 yards, the ninth is a relatively short par four for Lost Key. The smart play is to keep the driver in the bag here, as it is all about setting up the approach. The green is located on the other side of a pond and general wasteland, so taking on too much off the tee is unnecessary.
Starting off the back nine at Lost Key is a straight-forward par four of 399 yards from the blue tees. The right side of the fairway drops off slightly and can make the approach rather blind, so the left side is certainly preferred.
At 147 yards from the blue tees, the eleventh manages to be anything but an easy par three. With a wildly sloping green and fronting sand trap, the left side of the green falls off to the gravel cart path, and makes for a tough short pitch.
The twelfth at Lost Key is a 535-yard par five with a wetland cutting through the middle of it. The fairway is mounded and is likely to leave some interesting stances for the second shot. Although not incredibly long for a par five, this would be a tough hole to hit in two! The fairway narrows toward the green, with water left and a green-side bunker short-right.
The thirteenth is the shortest hole on the course with one of the most challenging green complexes. Over water and with sand traps short-left, the right side of this putting surface is highly elevated with a sharp slope that cuts in to that portion of the green. With a front-right pin, I hit the back-right of the green only to find myself with a putt that had to ride the edge of the green in order to stay on and get anywhere near the pin. I was pretty happy with my well-earned par on this one!
A softly doglegging right par four, the fourteenth has one of the most generous driving areas on the entire course. That does not mean there is a lot of room to work with, of course, but the target area is certainly pleasing to the eye.
Lost Key is a thinking man’s golf course, and the fifteenth hole is a great time to think about using a long iron to stay short of the central traps and leave a mid-iron in on this 372-yard par four.
If you thought the first few par threes at Lost Key look tough, wait till you see this one! We had some substantial in-and-across wind at this point of the round, as rain was on the verge of finally starting to fall, and looking out over the water and with those huge traps front-left, the green here looked next to impossible to hit.
We did relatively well on this hole, though, with three of us hitting the green off the tee and taking pars.
The rain picked up on the seventeenth hole – our second-to-last hole of an entire three-day golf trip that was predicted to include 90% rain – and it couldn’t have come at a more challenging finale of golf. The seventeenth, a long par four with water bordering the left side and out-of-bounds right, is a really tough hole. There is very little room to miss left, and maybe less to the right. The green is raised and has two traps left, which are almost merciful to keep errant approaches away from the water.
Maybe the hardest finishing hole I have played in my life, the rain was coming down a bit harder at this point. The driving area is relatively short, and best hit with a metal/wood or long iron. The second shot is bound to be tough, through a chute of trees and over water to a tremendously wide open space that leads up to the eighteenth hole’s risen green complex. Keep the second shot straight, and long…
Thankfully, my friends and I played Lost Key as the final round of our Gulf Shores (AL) buddies golf trip. Following months off from the game during our Wisconsin Winter, this course probably would have been a bit too penal to start out at.
We had our swings dialed in a little better by day three, though, and knew ahead of time that Lost Key would be a tremendous challenge. It certainly was, but we also really enjoyed the course and the overall Lost Key Golf Club golfing experience.
Location: Perdido Key, FL
Yardage: Black-6801, Blue-6447, White-6001, Gold-5179, Red-4807
Slope/Rating: Black-144/72.6, Blue-135/70.3, White-123/68.2, Gold-119/68, Red-121/68.9
Weekend Rates: $79 (includes cart and range balls)