Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hammock Beach Resort - The Ocean Course

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


7201 YARDS (PAR 72)
COURSE RATING/SLOPE: 77.0/147
COURSE ARCHITECT: Jack Nicklaus (2000)
ACCESSIBILITY: Resort
COURSE WEBSITE: http://hammockbeach.com/golf/hammock-beach-courses/
ROUNDS PLAYED: 3
LAST PLAYED: April 26, 2008.
LOW SCORE: 77 (+5)

ACCOLADES -
- Golf Magazine Top 100 Courses You Can Play 2014: #72

"As it relates to the East Coast in the United States, you are not going to get any better than you have right here."
- Jack Nicklaus

NOTE:
There is some crossover between this post and a trip report I originally did in May of 2008. This post is intended to be a profile of the Top 100-rated Ocean Course and the Ginn Hammock Beach Resort as opposed to a straight trip report and I've included many new photos here.

In late April 2008, Harry and I flew into Daytona Beach, Florida, rented a white Chrysler 300 and made the short 25 minute drive upstate to Palm Coast to the Ginn Hammock Beach Resort. We would be staying four nights at the facility on an unlimited golf package, with access to Tom Watson's Conservatory course and the more heralded Ocean Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus.

We signed in and grabbed our keys for our condo at the Yacht Harbor Village, which was about a five minute drive from the main area and sits right on a marina.

Now, we saw pictures of what the place was supposed to look like before we arrived but I've found in the past that the rooms never live up to the hype. Well, this time the accommodations EXCEEDED our expectations.





This place had everything. Beautiful dining room, ceramic tiled flooring, granite countertops in the kitchen, full laundry room behind the kitchen and la piece de resistance was the living room area complete with mounted 42" Panasonic Plasma television...with Dish Network satellite too.

Oh yeah, the view from the balcony wasn't too shabby either...

There was one sticky point and that was the rooms. We had a two bedroom condo, with both having ensuite bathrooms and rooms equiped with 32" Plasmas. Very nice.

One room was modestly-sized, with a queen size bed and a small bathroom with a tub/shower combo.

The other room was just a bit more grand...


This sucker had a king sized bed, couch, chair and table, TWO walk-in closets and a mammoth bathroom with both a jacuzzi tub and a separate standup shower.

After some intense back and forth, we mutually agreed to play a match to determine who got the bigger room so we got dressed and headed over to the Ocean Course for our late afternoon tee time.

We would be playing straight up match play for the room. 18 holes of golf for the ultimate in grand comfort. Oh, it was on baby!

The one thing that's important to note is that we were playing on quite possibly the windiest day I've ever seen on a golf course, with gusts hitting 50mph. It was a three-club wind and I literally felt like I was going to blow over on more than one occasion.

For this round, we settled on playing the Gold tee deck, with the course measuring 6723 yards with a course rating of 74.8 and a slope of 142.

The course was playing firm and fast and was a bit browned out due to the Champions Tour event that had just finished a couple weeks earlier at the club.

The first hole, shown below, is a pretty routine opener, a slight dogleg right to an elevated putting surface. I'd start my round ominously, hitting my first drive through the fairway left and into the long fescue, necessitating a penalty stroke and a drop. I'd double and lose the hole to Harry's bogey.

The 540 yard par five second is a pretty tough driving hole from a visual standpoint but there is more room than you think on the left in the landing area. The second shot is either a layup short of a waste area that leaves a 100 yard third or the bolder play toward the green, which would require a shot over a bunker that guards the middle of the green.


The mid-length par four third was the first hole to really get my attention. It's a solid dogleg right that demands a shot onto the right side of the fairway for the best angle into a well-protected green, with bunkers and grass depressions both looking to grab errant approaches. Visually stunning hole.



The fourth (shown below) is a pretty tough 192 yard par three from the tips but much more benign from the other decks. The green site is very shallow but wide and protected in front by a nasty bunker. There is some nice undulation on this green and some great pin positions.

The par four fifth, a cape hole, is one of my least favourite holes on the course. Nothing really original about it I guess and especially here at the Ocean Course, as you'll eventually see. It becomes a battle of how much you want to cut off the dogleg in order to shorten your approach but the thought of getting wet means a lot of balls leak to the right. You learn pretty quickly that the play off the tee here is just to the meat of the fairway.

Our match was going well, as Harry would double the second and bogey holes three through five while I parred all of them to give me a 3 up lead.

The par five sixth hole (seen below) sticks out like a sore thumb. This course is about options and there aren't really any here, especially on the approach, which calls for a shot to an island green. Maybe I'm just mad that I lost this hole to Harry with a double bogey. It's a wide open drive that allows the big hitters to give it a go in two but any wind will make hitting the green almost an impossibility. And it's always windy here! There are multiple tiers in the green so it's vital you find the right one to avoid three putt possibilities.


The seventh is a solid par four that demands a long, accurate drive in order to give the player a chance to hit the green in regulation. There are a couple of bunkers short left that coupled with some swales give the impression that the green is closer than it really is on the approach.

Simply put, the eighth hole is just a fantastic one-shotter. The ocean breezes really make things difficult here with club selection. You just can't miss right, as the green falls off severely, leaving a very uphill pitch or bunker shot. Unfortunately for Harry, as you can see in the second photo below, that's exactly what he did on his way to a double bogey.


What a golf hole the 468 yard par four ninth is, especially into the wind! The Atlantic sits to your right as you tee off, with the ideal ball flight going over the right fairway bunker. However, on most days, a shot hit toward the left fairway bunker will suffice but that will leave you with a 200 yard second shot up to the green which is perched on top of the hill and protected by two very deep bunkers on both sides. On a downwind day, I went driver/easy 5 iron and the next day, into the wind, went perfect driver/perfect 3 wood and was still short. This is a beautiful beast if I've ever seen one.


Harry's double, double, double finish on the front gave me a commanding 5 up lead through the first nine. Harry shot a 49 on the front versus my 42, a score I should have been very happy with, considering the gusty conditions.

The great holes continue with the short par five tenth that plays downhill off the tee. There is a lot of room here so you can just rip away off the tee. Really neat greensite here, perched back up on top of a hillside with a cavernous front bunker on the right and a severely undulating green with multiple great pin locations. This is a second shot hole and it's a doozy. All three days I had short iron SECOND shots into this green and didn't birdie it once.


After parring the 10th to win that hole, I'd build on that even further on the shortish par four 11th, making my first real putt of the day from about 20 feet for a birdie and a 7 up lead with 7 to go, putting Harris dormie. The 11th is another cape hole but it's a beauty, one that presents options off the tee. You can elect to hit driver left of a centerline fairway bunker and shorten the approach to a shallow greensite but that brings the water into play. Or you can play the safer shot to the right of the fairway bunker, which leaves a much longer shot into the green but will help you avoid the big number.

The 12th is a doozy of a par three that demands a right to left ball flight into a very long green that slopes hard around the bunker toward the back. The ideal shot can come in low and runup toward the pin. Don't go left!

The 13th is a pretty straight-forward but long two-shotter. The ideal tee ball is hit over the left fairway bunker to leave the open approach but most will just go for the fat of the fairway to the right. However, your second will then have to navigate the front right bunker. The area around the green is cut tight here and there are some neat options available for chip shots.

The last three shotter on the course is the 14th but it's no picnic. There is a centerline bunker here that allows you a couple of choices: go the safe route to the left but the hole turns into a guaranteed three shotter or go right and flirt with the water but give yourself the chance of reaching the green in two. The green has a huge swale in it and is very difficult to navigate if you go long with your approach. This is yet another cape-type hole with the water on the right instead of the left.


Harris had fought me off for a couple holes, as I went double bogey, bogey on 12 and 13 but we both sawed off with bogey sixes on the 14th to give me the match 5&4 and the luxurious master bedroom for the entire vacation!

We both started to tire by the time we reached 'The Bear Claw', the great four-hole finishing stretch at the Ocean Course. The uphill par four 15th is fantastic. 450 yards from the back with a centre-line bunker in the fairway, making you decide on the tee whether to go left, right or over it.

Well, Harris went into the bunker and from there, you have about 160 yards uphill and into the wind to a green perched WAY above the fairway.

Of course, he was having the kind of day where his ball came up just short then tumbled all the way back down the hill, leaving the following crazy pitch shot back up the ridge.

Just a tremendous golf hole and easily my favourite on the course. We'd both make solid bogeys here then headed to the big dogleg left, cape par four 16th just as the winds hit their peak. Being right on the ocean didn't help matters for us!


This hole plays a bit too much like the 5th for my liking, with both requiring the player to make a decision as far as cutting off the corner of the dogleg. However, the whipping winds off the ocean right behind you make club selection a bit more important here, giving you the chance to hit anything from driver to long iron. The green is deep but very narrow so a precise approach is absolutely necessary. Missing right is dead, as the green falls off into a huge chipping depression cut to fairway length.

The 17th is another beautiful hole that plays toward the ocean but somehow feels different from the par three 8th. This one seemed to play SHORTER than it's yardage all week, partially due to the fact the green slopes sharply from front to back on the second half of the surface, which leads to a huge dropoff and another shortly cut chipping area. Long is dead, short is dead, right is dead...hit the green or say goodbye to your par chances.

The 466 yard par four 18th is a very tough finisher, especially if its into the wind. The tee shot is downhill, with a draw off the right fairway bunker leaving an uphill approach that also demands a right to left ball flight. The uphill nature of the approach limits the ability to run the ball in but at least you have a shot at making an up and in from there. The green is about 40 yards deep and has multiple tiers.

I stumble home after taking the match, finishing double, bogey, double to shoot an ugly 45 on the back and an 87 overall. Harris shot a 96 and I think we were just glad to make it in alive. The wind was just unbelievable!

We were met at the 18th green by one of the staffers, who washed our clubs after the round for us. By the way, great thing about this resort is that there is a no cash and no tipping policy in effect. Makes things VERY easy and you never have to bring your wallet around all over the place.

So, what did I think of the place you ask? Lets find out!

It's a Nicklaus course so you have to be able to execute good golf shots. Like most of the modern Nicklaus courses, his fade bias isn't as prevalent as earlier in his design career, a plus here. It's a resort so playability is important due to the various types of skill levels that will tackle the course. The fairways are suitably wide for the most part in order to help, especially in the potentially windy coastal conditions.

With a course rating of 77 and a slope of 147, you know you're in for a challenge the moment you tee it up! Mishit shots will be penalized here even with the generous width overall. A solid test of golf, especially when the wind is up, which is often out here right on the ocean. I'm a bit conflicted when it comes to discussing design variety because I see Jack really wanted to spice things up with chipping areas, centerline bunkering, fairway width and more. However, I'm a bit put off by all of the cape holes, although I think the 16th is especially well done. This is one of the only true oceanfront golf courses to be built in Florida in the past number of years. However, it never comes into play and I wonder if Jack could have better utilized that precious piece of property a bit better. Still, a memorable ride throughout with only one or two weak holes.

Bobby Ginn spared no expense when putting together this resort and the little finishing touches can be seen everywhere around the course. The course was in tremendous shape considering that they had a professional event just weeks earlier. The greens rolled very well and were a bit quicker here then at the Conservatory course. The browned out conditions made things very firm and fast, the way I'm sure Nicklaus wants the course to be played.

It's a pleasant place to play golf that is marred somewhat by the encroaching housing community. I've seen plenty worse, however, although if the economy was in better shape in '08, I'm sure there would have been plenty more houses along the fairways.

In summary, this golf course is much different from most Nicklaus courses I've played in that there are many different ways to play the hole from the tees, the fairways and near the greens. You can play it low, play it high, play a fade or a draw, bump in shots or flop them in.

It doesn't hurt that the course is gorgeous to look at and plays very firm and fast. Very pleasantly surprised by the course and the teeth it has in the wind. It's just plain fun to play!

A definite bonus is the wonderful accommodations and the fact you can play on an unlimited golf package. There truly is some bang for your buck here at the Ginn Hammock Beach Resort.

Add this to the fact the great European Village Resort is closeby on Palm Coast Boulevard, with a number of great places to eat in there. This place is very cool, built in the piazza style that is very reminiscent of Old Europe. And bars with $2.00 bottles of Stella!

You just can't beat it.

The Ginn Hammock Beach Resort and the Ocean Course is a recommended play from Now on the Tee and I expect to walk those fairways again in the future!



1 comment:

  1. You should right about Conservatory if your going to bring up old courses.

    Conservatory should be the one in the Top 100 anyways. Even by looking at you pictures you can see the course was boring all the way up to the last 3 holes.

    Every hole looked the same, flat, boring, water, blah, blah.

    Conservatory was far superior to Ocean. Big deal, you can see the ocean from a few holes.

    ReplyDelete