Location: Palm Coast, Fla.
Course architect: Jack Nicklaus
From the tips: 7,201 yards
Saturday morning green fee: $$$$$ ($207-$225 in off-seasons, June 18-Sept. 30 and Nov. 29-Dec. 25; $251 in shoulder seasons, Dec. 26-Feb. 8, May 1-June 17 and Oct. 1-Nov. 28; $295 in peak season, Feb. 9-April 30; prices also drop after 11 a.m. and after 1:30 p.m.)
Caddie service: No
Walker friendly: No
Fairways: Platinum Paspalum
Greens: Platinum Paspalum
Starter: Any course named Ocean ought to come with a view, and Hammock Beach’s layout lives up to its name. With six holes that play along the Atlantic, the Ocean Course scores off-the-charts numbers in aesthetics. The ubiquitous seabreeze – some days, more like a gale – tightens otherwise generous fairway corridors. For golfers who test the brawny tips – known as Level VI on the scorecard – forced carries abound. For all others who smartly tee it forward, the numerous canals and lakes aren’t quite so perilous, although they certainly come into play. In a nod to the resort setting, Nicklaus designed some generous bailout options and even run-up approaches.
Play because …: For a state with 1,350 miles of coastline, Florida features surprisingly few seaside courses. From the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico, the condo and hotel developers beat the course architects to most of the prime beachfront property. At Hammock Beach, a happy medium exists between the condos and single-family residences and the golf holes, resulting in one of the state’s most awe-inspiring golf experiences. Hammock Beach, which is part of the Salamander Group, features 36 holes, including Tom Watson’s nearby Conservatory Course.
Takeaway: When Hurricane Matthew, a deadly Category 5 cyclone, tore through the region in October 2016, the storm surge resulted in saltwater intrusion and flooding across the Ocean Course. A complete restoration included regrassing from tee to green with Platinum Paspalum, a durable seaside, salt-tolerant turf. After reopening in November 2017, the Ocean Course presents an exceptionally consistent playing experience. It’s hardly a cheap round, but if the Ocean Course isn’t the best public-access course in Florida, it’s on the short list of candidates.
RATINGS [1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest]
Food | Beverage: 8.0
Pro shop: 8.0
Course difficulty: 9.0
Pace of play: 7.0
THE COURSE | Scorecard
Best par 3: No. 17 (174 yards). The hole plays directly toward the Atlantic, so a prevailing headwind typically will make the hole play 2-3 clubs longer. An elevated, two-tier green complex, bunkers and collection areas make this one of the most challenging and picturesque approaches on the course.
Best par 4: No. 9 (468 yards). With the ocean right, the prudent play down the left side leaves a long approach to an elevated green defended by an unforgiving collection area short and left. It’s the No. 1-handicap hole for a reason.
Best par 5: No. 10 (522 yards). The hole plays slightly downhill, which is a relief after the brutal closing hole on the outward nine. For all but the longest players, the best angle to the green for the third shot is from the left, onto a canted green with a back-right runoff.
Rated by: Steve Harmon