For those that don't know me well, golf plays a huge role in both my personal and travel life. Thanks to my grandfather who was a professional, I've been playing the game since shortly after I could walk, though as an adult my scores often belie that early teaching. I don't play nearly as much as I should, but with free time mostly being found on vacation, I am often able to squeeze in a round during our travels. With golf related travel being a multi-billion dollar business, it seems only appropriate that the game I love should also find a home here in my world.
So without further adieu, I present my first golf review of The Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort. For you golfers, enjoy. For the non-golfers, there are plenty of pretty pictures.
|The 18th at The Ocean Course|
Since opening in 2000, The Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort has earned countless accolades, and has even been called the "Pebble Beach of the East." The course is currently ranked in the top 50 public courses in America by Golf Digest, and comes in at #2 in Florida, only behind the famed TPC at Sawgrass.
We decided to have lunch at The Lodge's Atlantic Grill before our round, and as I took my seat at our table, I quickly realized how The Ocean Course came to earn its nickname. The view was jaw dropping to say the least, and was the only thing which could distract me from the incredible burger on my plate. By the end of our lunch, a pit had developed in my stomach. The fear of maiming a sunbather on the beach with an errant drive on the 18th hole was hard to ignore...
|The Lodge at Hammock Beach Resort|
After a nearly perfect warm up session on the driving range, combined with perhaps the finest weather of the year, we headed to the first tee with high hopes for the day. The course's practice area made a great first impression, which more than carried through onto the links. From tee to green, the course was in excellent condition, with lush fairways, and rough that was just thick enough to be annoying, but not so much that it wasn't fair.
|The 10th Hole|
The Ocean Course is certainly not designed for those that like to "grip it and rip it," with nearly every hole featuring water or thick palmetto lining the tight fairways. Translation: Bring plenty of golf balls.
Easily the most impressive thing about the course's condition were the greens, which were some of the fastest I have ever putted. There were many times that I was too aggressive on the green, and paid the price with a lengthy putt to save bogey, or worse...
|Try putting with that backdrop...|
Obviously the main attraction at The Ocean Course is, well, the ocean. There are about 6 holes in total where the Atlantic is visible, with the 9th and 18th both running parallel to it. When I heard the nickname "Pebble Beach of the East," I imagined greens and holes with unobstructed views to the sea, but this is not the case. There is a natural barrier of palmetto between the course and beach which blocks the view of the ocean in most cases. On a few elevated locations you have a clear view of the Atlantic, but for the most part, it is the sound of crashing waves which makes its presence known.
Unlike other courses, there simply are no easy holes at The Ocean Course to make up ground. Golfers that play smart and conservative will likely be at home here, but those words are decidedly absent from my golf vocabulary.
Ask the average golfer about their least favorite course, and they will give you a laundry list of reasons why it would be better served as a cattle ranch. Chances are, however, the 114 on the score card is the #1 reason they hate it, but you'll never hear that side of the story. Therefore, in the spirit of full disclosure, I will bear a little of my soul in this and future golf reviews.
|Not something you see every round.|
92... On my home course, this would have been a dreadfully disappointing day, however given the difficulty and unfamiliarity of The Ocean Course, I feel it is only about 5-7 shots higher than what should have been reasonably expected on my part. For the record, that is the first time "reasonably" and "expected" have been found in the same sentence when discussing my golf score.
To quote the late Steve Jobs, our day at The Ocean Course was "insanely great," and for the first time in my life I could have cared less what was on the scorecard. The only blemish in the entire experience was the obnoxious member that yelled three times on one hole for us to speed up, when there were 5 groups stacked in front of us. There's one at every club, and this guy wasn't going to come close to ruining our day.
|The 17th Tee|
The Ocean Course is perhaps the hardest test of golf I've ever experienced, and in my opinion could give TPC Sawgrass a run for their money for the #1 spot in Florida. The course is tough, but fair. Good shots are rewarded, and bad ones are penalized....harshly. At the end of the day, The Ocean Course left me bruised and bloodied, but I still walked out of the ring with a smile on my face.
~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~