PALM COAST, Florida – South Florida generally is considered ground zero for the Sunshine State’s private golf communities. Indeed, the Turnpike and Interstate 95 corridors between Jupiter in North Palm Beach County and Miami are home to some of the state’s top private golf communities.
But take the three-and-a-half-hour drive I-95 from Jupiter here to Palm Coast and you’ll find the jewel of Northwest Florida’s private golf communities – Hammock Dunes Club. With golf courses designed by Tom Fazio (Links) and Rees Jones (Creek), Hammock Dunes Club over the past 31 years has helped turn Palm Coast – 30 minutes north of Daytona Beach and 30 minutes south of St. Augustine – into one of the more desired destinations in all of Florida.
A bit of history: Palm Coast was the brainchild of ITT Corporation, which in 1969 began buying large portions of land basically to create a retirement community for its employees in the Northeast U.S.
The centerpiece of the Palm Coast community was to be Hammock Dunes Club. While ITT over the years sold off its land and business interests in Palm Coast, which wasn’t incorporated as a city until 1999, Hammock Dunes Club has been the one constant – probably even more successful in 2019 than when ITT first envisioned in 1982 – the year it unveiled plans for a private beachfront golf community.
“There still is a lot of small town feel here,’’ said Director of Golf Brad Myers, who spent 14 years as head professional at famed Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., before coming to Hammock Dunes in 2013. “People from Orlando and South Florida and as far away as Atlanta enjoy coming here. You can still see a lot of ‘Old Florida’ here in the trees and wildlife.’’
But with the “old,’’ there also in the “new.’’ For example, Hammock Dunes this year completed a 5,500 square-foot expansion of its clubhouse. The expansion brought the clubhouse, near the ocean side Links Course, to a total of 42,000 square feet that includes a outdoor dining facility as part of the 19th Hole Bar expansion, and an ocean view fitness center. The clubhouse’s new second story is resplendent with ocean views, as well as views of croquet court – one of the few in the country that also has an ocean view.
Two walkovers from near the Links clubhouse make the beach easily accessible.
Fazio opened the Links Course in 1989 – arguably the height of his fame and design prowess. For all practical purposes, the 6,904-yard (back tees), par 72 layout put Hammock Dunes Club and Palm Coast on the radars of golfers up and down the East Coast.
Hammock Dunes’ membership options also make it appealing. Unlike many private clubs in Florida, Hammock Dunes does not require real estate ownership to be a member. The Club offers four membership: Equity, Regular, Corporate and National.
That said, nearly 70 percent of the property owners at Hammock Dunes belong the Club. Homes at Hammock Dunes range from $400,000 to more than $8 million.
Fast and firm, particularly around the greens, the Links Course has three holes on the ocean, beginning with the sixth, a 532-yard, par-five that rises from the tee box to the green overlooking the Atlantic. Protected by the ocean breeze, which can be subtle or brutal, the sixth is the real deal – one that few golfers have ever conquered with eagle.
The course finishes with the 397-yard, par-four, 18th that requires a solid second shot to an elevated green overlooking the ocean.
Hammock Dunes will host the 2019 Florida Open this July 12-14, with the Links and Creek courses each in play. The final round will be played exclusively on the par 72 Creek Course.
The Creek Course, which opened in 2003, is expected to play 7,000 yards (and can be stretched to 7,300 yards) for the Florida Open – long enough to show enough Jones’ masterful design that is set on 690 acres of undisturbed conservation area. Although only five miles away from the Links Course, the Creek Course seems as if it’s a world away, thanks to its views of the marshes and tidal wetlands combined with the fact that there are no homes anywhere on it.
Simply stated, the Creek Course is two things: Pure Golf and Rees Jones at his best.
The Creek Course consistently has been rated as one the tougher courses in Florida, but its seven sets of tees make it playable for players of all skill levels. And its lack of contrived pathways and structures adds to the minimalist ambience to create that “pure’’ golf experience – a rarity for a Florida golf community.
“Just flag sticks and tee markers,’’ Myers said. It’s awesome.’’
Hammock Dunes’ members agree.
“Five years ago, three-quarters of the rounds were played on the Links Course,’’ Myers said. “Only low handicappers played the Creeks Course. But since we renovated each course (within the past three years), the members got used to going over there.
“And now we rotate them, so play is around 55 percent on the Links and 45 percent on the Creek.’’