The Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Golf Resort & Spa gets the lion’s (or bear’s) share of the attention, but here’s a piece of advice: Don’t forget about the resort’s Conservatory, a Tom Watson Signature design that is only a few miles inland in Palm Coast, FL. It’s as good a “little sister’’ course as you’ll find in the Southeast U.S.
Little sister? Hardly. At 7,776 yards (par 72) from the tips, the Conservatory is one of the longer courses in Florida. And with approximately 140 sand and coquina bunkers, it’s as strategic a layout as any in the Sunshine State. The Conservatory also might be the easiest “hard’’ course you can play, particularly if you choose correctly from as many as eight tee boxes..
From any of the tees – the course can play as short as 5,235 yards – the links-style layout is all there in front of you. No tricks or gimmicks. Just a solid test of golf resort guests and members of the Club at Hammock Beach – one where you never feel beat up after a round despite your score.
“Watson knew it was going to be a long course,’’ said resort general manager Brad Hauer. “But you want a fair test of golf. So he didn’t have any forced carries off the tees or into the greens. He wants you to be able to roll your ball up on the greens.’’
The Conservatory and Ocean courses, each managed by Troon , are the centerpieces of the Club at Hammock Beach and Hammock Beach resort, the latter of which features a series of one-bedroom suites and two, three and four-bedroom condominiums, ocean and Ocean Course views.
Located between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Hammock Beach is an outstanding destination for golf buddy trips and families. It’s an ideal headquarters to explore nearby historic St. Augustine and even the World Golf Village and World Golf Hall of Fame.
Back at the resort, there is a pool complex that includes a lazy river, marina, tennis center and 10,000 square-foot spa. Hammock Beach recently added some new restaurants, including an Italian chophouse and sushi eatery. A new 200-room hotel is currently in the planning stage.
The Ocean Course – completely renovated after the damage inflicted by 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, likely will be the final golf course ever built on any Florida coastline. The 7,201-yard (par 72) layout can play as hard as the ocean winds can blow, meaning the par-three holes that play uphill toward to the Atlantic, and ninth (437 yards, par 4) and 18th holes (466 yards, par 4) can be brutes unless the correct tee boxes are selected.
Like many Nicklaus golf courses, the Ocean Course in spots dares you to bite off as much – or more – can you chew. It’s a classic Nicklaus resort design that never disappoints and makes you want to come back for more. It parts perfectly with the Conservatory, the combination of which makes Hammock Beach a bucket list destination for any golfer.
Feature Photo: The Conservatory