It’s no secret that Florida is home to a lot of golf. Then again, what would you expect from a state that touts year-round sunshine, 1,200 miles of coastline, three annual PGA Tour events, and an influx of sun-and-golf seeking snowbirds? If you’re familiar with Florida golf, chances are places like Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and Palm Beach/Jupiter pop into your mind as must-visit destinations. Rightfully so — these cities each boast a plethora of outstanding courses.
However, a recent trip to the sunshine state opened my eyes to another, perhaps unexpected, worthwhile destination: Palm Coast. It may not carry the reputation of the other Florida stalwarts, but it’s coastal location and proximity to places like the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine (30 mins) make it worth a look. And as we discovered, it’s home to the some amazing golf at the oceanside oasis, Hammock Beach Resort.
How About Those Views: Oceanside Livin’
Following a week in Orlando (stuck inside a convention center!) for the 2018 PGA Show, Brittany and I felt we’d be remiss to jet home without first squeezing in some golf and R&R. We too considered all the aforementioned ‘popular’ Florida spots, but after spending the past 2-years RVing around North America, it’s now part of our DNA to search for a new place to explore.
Enter: Hammock Beach Resort.
36-holes of championship golf, oceanfront accommodations, on-site dining, beach access, numerous pools, hot tubs, and a lazy river!? Our research yielded a quick decision, and we were on our way, making the 90-minute drive from Orlando to Palm Coast.
Our arrival was met with a grand welcome from the larger-than-life resort, followed by a jaw dropping view of the Atlantic from our well-appointed room.
As much as we enjoyed the views, I was equally as excited to see an in-room kitchen! Resort restaurants are great, but being able to whip up a few meals and enjoy dining from our own balcony was a bonus for us.
We did take full advantage of the kitchen during our stay, but to kick-off the weekend at Hammock Beach we strolled over to Atlantic Grill to experience an elevated culinary experience right by the water. Highlights included a Jeff Gordon sighting (seriously, he was a few tables over from us!), an incredible Chili & Ginger Fried Cauliflower dish (you’ll never look at cauliflower the same), and some of the friendliest and attentive service we’ve had in awhile.
Enough already, let’s talk golf.
As tempting as the poolside bar and lazy river were, I opted to take full advantage of the resort’s golf. It’s not often you find a single destination that offers two truly different golf courses, but that’s exactly what you find at Hammock Beach Resort.
The name says it all when it comes to Hammock Beach Resort’s Ocean Course. My arrival on the practice tee — just a few hundred yards from our room — set the tone for the day. Closing my eyes, the gentle sound of crashing waves clears the mind, energizes the body and creates an uncanny anticipation for the round.
The visual experience works wonders as well, as a photo worthy view of the resort looms just beyond the driving range, while the nearby sea make for eye candy between warm-up shots. And perhaps the best news of all? There’s plenty more of that to come.
The beginning holes of the outward nine mimic much of what you might expect from Florida resort golf. Friendly fairways, flat lies and a well-conditioned course kick things off. Don’t be lulled to sleep though, as the finishing four give a taste of what this course is really about.
Hole 6 begins to challenge your nerves and mind, as this reachable par 5 features a forced tee shot over water and an approach to an island-feeling green (technically it’s a peninsula). Lots of trouble, required decision making and risk-reward components make this a superb hole. And, all components of many holes on the inward nine.
Seven presents a beastly par 4, with more water lurking the entire way, before eight and nine turn toward the sea. Warning: prepare for the wind. Up until this point, the wind had been steady, but largely subdued on the inland holes. With the final front nine holes fully exposed to the water, the switch was flipped. Hang on, eight and nine are a wild (and beautiful) ride!
The back nine is where the Ocean Course really comes to life. Holes 10-14 all work a bit inland, but each are really incredible golf holes. A reachable par 5 (#10), amazingly tempting (yet risky) drivable par 4 (#11), and stout waterside par 3 (#12) make for some potentially big swings on the scorecard.
The course saves it’s best for last, with the final four holes — known as “The Bear Claw” — finishing right along the water. And again on these holes, the wind will blow! A mix of braun, strategy and sheer determination are required to tame these beauties. Have those cameras up-and-ready, as postcard worthy snaps await. Seventeen tee is a fantastic viewpoint, with an infinity-style green framed by the looming Atlantic.
Do your best to secure a par on the sliver of a green, before trotting over to the 466 yard par 4 finisher. It’s another photo worthy hole, and to secure a par, it’s going to take all you’ve got. For great views and some really fun risk-reward golf holes, be sure to check out the Ocean Course.
The Ocean Course may get all the hype for it’s seaside location, but the Conservatory Course is a players course. It’s a quick 15-minute drive from the hotel (transportation provided when set-up 24-hours in advance) and well worth a play. In terms of the golf itself, I actually preferred the Conservatory Course.
Measuring 7,740 yards from the back tees, the course is the longest in all of Florida. If you’re feeling confident in your game, back it up and see what you’ve got. Or, choose one of the other six more friendly sets of tees for a more enjoyable round. Note: this is not the course to be a hero!
What the Conservatory Course lacks in ocean views, it makes up for in every other way. Some surprising changes in elevation (nothing crazy, but enough to make you think about club selection), hundreds of uniquely shaped and astutely positioned bunkers, and heavily undulating greens make for a challenging layout.
Those same characteristics marry together to make it an aesthetic gem, too.
Each fairway is seemingly defined by rows of bunkers, rolling grassy dunes, and plenty stretches of waters. Lengthy holes mean the driver will see plenty of action, but accuracy is also at a premium on the Conservatory course. If you find yourself spraying it around, be sure to reach for the 3-wood to avoid the many lurking hazards.
An island green adds to the fun, and although it’s tough, players of all levels really will have a lot of fun on the Conservatory Course. Pick the right set of tees, put yourself in a good mindset, enjoy the beauty the course has to offer and you’re sure to enjoy the round.
We had a blast during our weekend at Hammock Beach Resort, and honestly my only disappointment was that we didn’t have more time to stay! I’d specifically recommend the resort for families and couples, as the breadth of activities and beachside access make for the perfect spot for relaxing, or keeping the whole family entertained.
And of course, while the kids are splashing down the lazy river and your better half sips a Pina Colada by the pool, grab the sticks and pencil in 36. Rest assured, you’re going to love Hammock Beach.