Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hammock Beach Resort - The Conservatory

Hammock Beach Resort - Conservatory Course
Palm Coast, Florida, USA


7776 YARDS (PAR 72)
COURSE RATING/SLOPE: 78.4/155
COURSE ARCHITECT: Tom Watson (2006)
ACCESSIBILITY: Resort
COURSE WEBSITE: http://hammockbeach.com/golf/hammock-beach-courses/
ROUNDS PLAYED: 4
LAST PLAYED: April 26, 2008.
LOW SCORE: 79 (+7)

On day two of our vacation to the Hammock Beach Resort, Harry and I intended to play 36 holes, with the first round at the Tom Watson-designed Conservatory Course and the second round back at the Ocean Course.

Thank goodness Harris made the decision to rent a car for the trip - the Conservatory was a 10-15 minute drive from the main resort and on the other side from the Bobby Ginn, errr, Palm Coast toll bridge.

We actually couldn't believe how far away it was and we stopped at one of the many gated retirement communities to ask the security guard if we were on the right track. He gave us directions that STILL made us skeptical but we finally arrived at the resort with about 5 minutes to spare before our tee time.

This place was gated too and we got our pass from the security guard and were let in down a long road on our way to the clubhouse.

Now, keep in mind that there are precious few pictures of the Conservatory Course on the internet so we didn't really have much in the way of expectations for the place. We knew it was a beast from the tips and quite difficult even from the middle tees after seeing the course ratings but had no idea just how beautiful a place it really was.

There looked to be NO ONE on the golf course but there were a few groups around by the practice range when we finally reached the clubhouse. And what a clubhouse it was! Just spectacular! Harris likened it to the palace in the Eddie Murphy movie "Coming to America". Here is Harry's goofy ass with the palatial clubhouse in the background.

Just a beautiful place. It doubles as a resort/spa and they had that New Age, Enya and Kenny G type music going in the background all over the place to calm our club throwing, leg-slapping asses down after bad shots. It was very zen...does that even mean anything?



We didn't have an awful lot of time to enjoy the place at the moment, as we were pretty much on the tee right away upon signing in.

Now, we decided to try the back tees at each course at least once on the vacation and being all fresh early in the morning, decided that we'd go all the way back for our first go-around at the Conservatory. Course rating and slope? How about 78.4 and 155? Oh yeah, it measures a sporty 7776 YARDS FROM THE TIPS.

You read that right.

The Conservatory will be hosting the Ginn Sur Mer Classic in October on the PGA Tour so we knew we would be in tough to score from the backs out here. The one positive was the fact that there was very little rough on the golf course. This is because the type of turf planted out here is Paspalum, a strand of grass that doesn't really grow long but needs much less water than other strands. Not that this would matter, as there were plenty of bunkers, waste areas and heavily sloped green complexes that could mess with our scores.

The game that day was 36 hole match play, with the winner getting a free dinner courtesy of the losing player. We had an idea of what was ahead just by looking down the first fairway.

A long waste bunker framed the entire left side and two quite large fairway bunkers guarded the inside of the dogleg right, 444 yard par four. I'd hit into the first of those right fairway bunkers, blast out in front of the green and was unable to get up and down, making bogey to Harry's par and I was immediately one down.

I'd get that hole back on the 440 yard, uphill par four second when I was lucky to JUST miss going in the water left while Harris lost his ball in the junk on the right side. He'd double, I'd bogey and we were even once again.

Harris would retake the lead after parring the tough one-shot third hole which brought us to the immense 613 yard par five fourth. I'd MURDER a drive here and leave myself only 276 yards for my second shot. Let me tell you: these courses down here played very firm and fast and if you hit it straight with a lower ball flight off the tee, the ball would roll forever. I'd hit a 2-iron rescue into the greenside bunker (!) but was unable to get up and down, making a disappointing par and tying Harris. Still one down.

I'd throttle another 300+ yard drive on the 460 yard par four fifth (shown above) and make par to beat Harry's double and get back to even in the match, then finally take my first lead when he doubled the next hole as well.

Now, we were quite impressed with the golf course already but the visual stimulation just kept coming and coming. The 440 yard par four 7th (shown above) continued the trend, with a neat tee shot needed to go between the two oak trees that frame the fairway. Then you had to navigate a raised green surface with three tiers that proved very difficult to get close and even tougher to putt. Excellent hole, one I'd three-whack for bogey but Harris couldn't better me so I still had the one up lead.

The par three 8th (above) is another beauty, a downhill 199 yard one-shotter over water to a large green surface. We'd both bogey this one as well before hitting the incredibly tough par five 9th, a 570 yard par five that demanded a 260 yard tee shot from the tips just to reach the fairway, something we both barely accomplished. Well, Harry accomplished it while I was in the bunker. Again, we'd both bogey and I had the nine hole lead, 1up, shooting 43 to Harry's 45. My poor putting on the vacation was in full effect on the front, with 19 little stabs at the ball. Peutrid!

The course was gorgeous but unrelenting from the backs and it was taking its toll on us. We'd both bogey the 636 yard par five 10th while my bogey five was good enough to win the 467 yard par four 11th hole after Harris made double.

We could only laugh when we reached the serene but deadly par three 12th, all 243 yards of it. We both hit rescues and both came up woefully short, each making bogeys.

The 491 yard par four 13th (shown above) might just be one of the toughest and best golf holes I've ever had the pleasure of playing. A huge waste area frames both sides of the fairway and runs all the way down the left side. Literally a 500 yard waste bunker!

The fairway falls off on the right side and if you are lucky enough to hit it, you still have a 200+ yard shot way up hill to a sliver of a green that falls off dramatically to the left, propelling balls either into bunkers well below the green surface or worse, into an immense pond. No offense to my female readers but this hole is MANLY, BABY! Not surprisingly, Harry would double while I'd make TRIPLE and my lead was back to one.

The match took a turn for the worse for Harry on the downhill 502 yard par FOUR 14th, as he'd make a double to my par to fall back to 2 down once again.

The neat 377 yard par four 15th was next, another hole that features a waste bunker that spans the entire right side of the hole. From the front tees you can actually try to hit a driver at the green over the huge pond but from the backs, you just hit a long iron or hybrid to the middle of the fairway on the left side. It was here where I'd make my first real putt of the day and for birdie no less, to take a commanding 3up lead in our match.

I'd give it right back on the 414 yard par four 16th, snap hooking my drive into the water left of the fairway, something that would become a common occurance for me on this hole as the week went on. Harry would par to take this hole but I'd get it right back on the 200 yard uphill par three 17th, getting up and in for par to his bogey.

The last hole (above) is just tremendous. A 602 yard par five from the tips, with bunkers and beautiful vegetation on the left and an expansive waste area framing the right side of the fairway. You then have a second shot that you either layup well right or go toward the green over a large pond. Then you have to navigate a WICKED putting surface with three tiers and some unbelievable pin placement opportunities. Just a fantastic risk/reward finisher, one that I'd take down with a bogey to Harry's double to take a commanding 4up lead into our second 18.

We both enjoyed this course tremendously and we had second thoughts about leaving for the Ocean Course but did just that, keeping with our planned itinerary.

However, upon reaching the Ocean Course, we found out that the next available tee time was around 3:30pm. Ugh. It was only about 1pm at this point and we had no real intention of sitting around for that long to play. So we asked if there was any availability on the Conservatory for our second round and we got booked in for around 2:15 or so. Perfect!

We quickly headed to Publix, Harry's new favourite grocery store for some sugar cookies (for me) and Red Bull (for him) and then took off back to the Conservatory.

Just as we arrived there, it started to just POUR RAIN. We were told it was just a small front and it did subside within 10 or 15 minutes, just enough time for Harry and I to grab some lunch, the only time I did so on the vacation. Harris, on the other hand, ate like a horse the whole time but that was okay by me if he kept having to pay ;)

When the rain cleared, we pretty much had the course to ourselves. There were one or two groups in front of us and one of them would let us through, meaning a very quick second round. It also helped that we decided to move up two decks to the Blues, which measured a much more modest 6792 yards, with a course rating of 74.0 and a slope of 142. Still tough, but one we could navigate.

The match wasn't even close. I'd build on my 4up lead right away, starting off only one over par through the first 7 holes to build a 9UP LEAD. I'd bogey the 8th and par the 9th to shoot 38 on the front to Harry's 43 and have him dormie on the 10th.

I'd win that with a par to win the match in DECISIVE FASHION, 10 & 8, redeeming myself after he throttled me at PGA Village a couple years earlier on the Dye Course.

We'd absolutely fly through the back nine with no one in front of us and the sun back in the sky. Harry started playing great, making a fantastic birdie two on the tough par three 12th then following it up with a rock-solid par on the aforementioned beastly par four 13th. He'd finish it all off with a birdie four on 18 to shoot an excellent 40 on the back nine to my 42, giving him an 83 for the round and me an 80.

We were both pretty jazzed and still had energy. Our round had only taken a little over 3 hours and it was about 5:30pm or so at this point.

"You wanna try to play a few more holes?", he asked me.

I thought about it for a second and decided to give it a shot.

"Yeah, we can maybe get in a quick nine."

Ha! 45 in one day? Crazy.

We booted to the clubhouse and got signed in as the club cleaner guy marvelled at our stamina. Off to the first tee again and we both killed our drives down the middle with our swings in a great groove.

There was no one in front of us at all. We were literally the only ones on the golf course at this point and it felt like heaven. I don't know if there is a better feeling in the world than having a course to yourself.

Nine more holes? Don't think so...how about ANOTHER 18?!?! We'd boot around in just over TWO HOURS and both play our best golf on the vacation to this point. Harry just made par after par along with a nice birdie at the long par four 15th (452 from the blues) and shot a scintillating 77 (+5) while I birdied the 18th to break 80 for the first time all year, shooting 79.

54 HOLES IN ONE DAY!!!

We got back to the clubhouse, exhillarated after a great day of golf and there were literally three people other than us at the course: the head pro, an assistant and the club cleaner guy. They were all waiting for us to finish our round and were very nice about us keeping them from going home, as they were on the practice green having a little putting contest.

We left the Conservatory with crazy smirks on our faces. We really took it to Bobby Ginn on this day and got more than our money's worth.

We'd finish the day by downing a couple $2.00 Stella's from Cafe Gelato in the European Village Resort while waiting on a delicious pie from Mezzaluna Pizzeria. Of course, we'd have to let our buddy Toast know what he was missing out on and decided to give him a call while we chilled out on the patio on a gorgeous Spring evening in Florida.

Without a doubt, one of the best golfing days I can remember. And we still had two more days to go!

I'll finish off the rest of the vacation in a post tomorrow.


2 comments:

  1. Wow, i made a lot of double boogies in that first round.

    ReplyDelete
  2. great story... and nice rounds too! my back could never hold up for 54 ;)

    ReplyDelete