Deering Bay Yacht & Country Club: A Classic South Florida Private Club Community Being Reborn by
Coral Gables, Fla. - In a state flourishing with more than 1,000 golf facilities, Florida has no shortage of great places to play the game and the top golf course home market in America. For those seeking the private golf lifestyle, the Sunshine State certainly has a plethora of private clubs to pick from as the perfect place to live, work and play.
To be sure, the majority of Florida’s 400-plus private club communities are clustered in affluent South Florida locations from Naples in the west to the Palm Beaches and Boca Raton along the Atlantic side. But none quite measure up to the rich history and pristine nature of Deering Bay Yacht & Country Club, according to the latest blog from vacationhomemarket.com.
And much of what makes Deering Bay so special is its unique setting in the southeast corner of historic Coral Gables. Indeed, less than 20 miles south from the madness of Miami, lies a pocket of unparalleled South Florida luxury and serenity. It’s a sanctuary from the big-city hustle and bustle of Miami’s Sound Machine, and a place that oozes Old Florida alongside the calming waters of Biscayne Bay.
Of course, the heartbeat of this peaceful pocket of Florida paradise is the core of Coral Gables, one of the first planned communities in America made famous by developer George Merrick. Developed during the Florida land boom of the 1920s, this swanky enclave of Mediterranean Revival-style architecture is perhaps best known for being home to University of Miami and the Biltmore, a historic resort featuring a Donald Ross-designed golf course and a who’s who of regular guests from American and European royalty to Hollywood stars.
Just a few miles further south past the Village of Pinecrest - where old Florida Ranch homes and new multi-million-dollar estates line leafy Ludlam Road - is where one finds relatively lesser known Deering Bay. While it does not have the high-profile historical status of its Gables neighbors, Deering Bay Yacht & Country Club’s 220-acre oasis is equally as rich in history and beauty.
How else can one describe the newest Troon Prive property, situated in the inconspicuous Cutler area of the coastline, contiguous to a large U.S. Department of Agriculture research station whose old Florida fauna remains as untouched and pristine as when William C. Cutler, M.D., discovered the area in the late 1800s? Or a place nestled along the scenic postcard perfect shores of Biscayne Bay, where World War I pilots, Joe DiMaggio, Arnold Palmer and Pres. George H.W. Bush intersected at one time or another.
In many respects this member-owned private club golf and country club community of just 250 condo and single-family homes is truly a world all to its own. Indeed, once you get past the guard-gated entrance, Deering Bay opens up to an utterly quiet and private enclave, a place where peacock crossing signs and towering Royal Palms greet guests and members as they meander along Deering Bay Drive to the 30,000-square-foot clubhouse.
Known for its high ground and ridgelines, hardwood hammock, lush vegetation and easy access to Biscayne Bay, the area remained hidden to most early visitors and is precisely the reason Dr. Cutler first settled on the property and later opened the Richmond Cottage in 1900. Cutler’s cottage catered to people attracted to his namesake area’s natural beauty and seclusion. One of the earliest fans and subsequent cottage property owner was Charles Deering, who, along with his famous half-brother James Deering, belonged to one of the nation’s wealthiest industrialists of the Gilded Age and made the surrounding area their private winter estates.
While Dr. Cutler and Deering might be responsible for discovering what is now Deering Bay, it wasn’t until World War I when the property took off - literally. At least that’s when the U.S. government assembled 850 acres of surrounding marshland, seashore, mangroves and forests and built the U.S. Army Signal Corp’s Aerial Gunnery Field as a training base for U.S. Army pilots headed for the War.
The historic air base opened in September 1918 after the Army dredged a portion of the bayside marsh to create an airfield, a lagoon for water landings and various channels to Biscayne Bay (on Nov. 15, 1918, the airfield was officially named Chapman Field in honor of Victor Emmanuel Chapman, the first U.S. flier to be killed in France during the war).
Though Deering Bay owes its discovery to Cutler and his well-placed Deering friends, the modern-day club actually dates back to 1956, when developer Ben Cooper leased some of the land and built Kings Bay Country Club as an amenity for a 150-unit housing development by the same name. After decades of different owners and eventually financial hardship, the club was acquired in 1990 by Deering Bay Associates, a partnership led by well-known local real estate developers Edward Easton, Armando Codina, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
After completely redeveloping the property, the group unveiled the newly expanded private club-community a year later to much fanfare - featuring Joe DiMaggio as one of the residents and club ambassadors. In 1993, to celebrate the post-Hurricane Andrew revival, future Florida Gov. Bush and his late father, George, who passed away yesterday at his home in Houston, played in a foursome with Palmer and DiMaggio, who lived in one of the Deering Bay Yacht & County Club condo homes. Now that’s a foursome for the record books.
Now, the current Troon-managed membership at Deering Bay is poised to draft another memorable chapter in the long history of the property after approving a $6 million capital improvement plan in August. Like so many other private clubs these days with maturing singular-focused membership bases, Deering Bay’s ambition is to re-imagine the club as a dynamic new family-friendly facility that will make it relevant for generations to come.
For John Gale, a South Florida native and Deering Bay's new director of marketing and membership, it's a treat to share the reinvigorated club and future vision to prospective members and partners. The Miami Marlins and Miami Heat pro sports teams are just two of the latest creative partnerships recently engineered by Gale.
"What's really special about Deering Bay are the people," Gale said on a recent August afternoon while a handful of members enjoyed a midweek lunch served up by the cheerful director of food and beverage/club sommelier Max Miranda. "It's people like Max, who's going to know everything about your family, what you like and how you want to be treated.
"As our general manager Lee Andrea says, we are in the people pleasing business so you're going to get treated like a million dollars. Then, from a facility standpoint, we have the beautiful Mediterranean-style clubhouse and meticulously kept private Arnold Palmer Signature course that's right on the bay with a bit of the old Florida feel or tropical vibe."
It's certainly a special slice of South Florida's history and fauna. And a place that will never forget that unforgettable foursome of Joltin' Joe DiMaggio and our late beloved Pres. George H.W. Bush.