Say the word “Florida” and most golfers risk whiplash. Their heads snap and swivel around at an alarming pace. The sunshine state is known for its cornucopia of golf courses, and the Jacksonville area is no exception. Standing out from all the wonderful public and private courses and clubs is the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass. Built in the early 1980s, the drained swamp became a memorial to the power of the bulldozer and the back hoe. Pete Dye’s most famous course, with its island-green 17th hole, host the Players Championship each March. It is also yours to play, provided that you’ve saved enough pennies.
Fortunately, not all golf in greater Jax is priced prohibitively. There are a number of courses to be had for a song, which makes the green fee at Sawgrass more manageable. Home to the PGA Tour, TPC Sawgrass is presently ranked 11th on the Golf Digest best public courses list, and 49th on its best American courses list. It ranks 68th in the world at Golf Magazine, and inside the top 65 (no official place) at Planet Golf. Sawgrass is a bucket list course, for certain.
As with other, bucket-list courses, your green fee at the Stadium course approaches $500. The good news is that Dye’s Valley, the second course on site, comes in at a third of the freight. Designed by Pete Dye and Bobby Weed (who just completed Michael Jordan’s uber-exclusive Grove XXIII club near Hobe Sound) the Valley course reminds you of its bigger sibling, without trying to copy it.
Let’s move westward, to the university of North Florida. Located near the I-95/Route 202 interchange, the college course is home to a wonderful practice facility and a 4-hole course. A weekday tour of the course is $10, while a weekend round will set you back $14.
To the north of Jacksonville center, on the coast, is Amelia Island. The Amelia Island Resort has two courses: Long Point and Oak Marsh. Each course currently offers green fees of $100 for guests and $120 for non-guests.
Near Sawgrass, in Ponte Vedra, is the eponymous Inn and Club. Its two golf courses, the Lagoon and the Ocean, have also been restored by the aforementioned Bobby Weed. Weed’s architectural sensibility has evolved over time, and although there is evidence of the master’s (Pete Dye) influence, its clear to see that Weed has developed his own brush strokes.
We would be remiss if we closed this piece without mentioning the elegant and ancient, Hyde Park golf club. Designed by Donald J. Ross, jr., the course opened nearly 100 years ago. In a region where three-digit fees are commonplace, the thought of paying $30 or less for 18 holes of golf is equal parts shocking and exhilarating. No matter where you peg your ball in Jacksonville, the weather and the golf will most likely be wondrous.