Category Archives: Course Spotlight

Juliette Falls, Dunnellon FL – A Great Place to Golf. A Better Place to Live

Ask anyone that has taken up residence here and they will tell you that the Ocala area has it all. The nearby Rainbow Springs connects to the sparkling Rainbow River and produces more than 460 million gallons of crystal clear water daily. The Gulf of Mexico and all its wonderful beaches is about half an hour away.  And as Florida goes, the climate is perfect; just look at the live oak trees, many of which are hundreds of years old; you’ll see them throughout the property. The area also offers endless recreational opportunities directed towards seniors. In short, it’s a great place to live.

One community that exemplifies a laid-back style of living and offers fantastic recreation is Juliette Falls in Dunnellon, about 40 minutes southwest of Ocala on US-40, and about 35 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico. Juliette Falls boasts 540 golf home sites on 546 acres; 136 acres of which are part of a nature preserve.  The nature preserves feature 5 miles of trails, perfect for walkers, bikers and hikers, and offers a sometimes much needed “get-away-from-it-all” ambiance. The homes in Juliette Falls are concrete block with stucco with floor plans and range from 3 to 6 bedrooms and 1,500 to over 7,000 square feet. Home prices range from $200,000 on the low end to over $1 million. Garbage collection, satellite TV, internet and lawn maintenance are all included in monthly HOA.

The centerpiece of the Juliette Falls community is the par 72, John Sanford-designed championship golf course. Sanford Design has been a part of over 60 course projects worldwide, in such locations as Japan, Egypt and Canada. Golf Aficionados may recognize the Sanford name from his days with Nicklaus Design.

Juliette Falls is consistently ranked as one of the best golf communities and courses you can play in the entire state of Florida. Shortly after opening in 2008, Golf Digest ranked Juliette Falls in the top five “Top Ten New Courses You Can Play” in the country. The next year, the magazine ranked it #5 “Top Ten Best New Courses”. Another accolade bestowed upon the course comes from WorldGolf.com, who in 2016, ranked it #4 on their “Best Under-Publicized Golf Courses in Florida” list; which is great for golfers looking to get on a great course relatively easy.

From the back tees, Juliette Falls plays 7,236 yards with a course rating of 75.4 and a slope of 143. The White Tees will give most golfers all they can handle from 6,269 yards (70.4/130) and still allow them to leave with some dignity. Ladies will have an enjoyable time playing the Red Tees (5,071/69.3/123). Five sets of tee boxes make Juliette Falls fun and challenging for all golfers who choose to play from the set of tees that best suits their game.

The rolling hills of Ocala’s horse country have paved the way for this beautiful, thought-provoking golf course. Juliette Falls winds its way through mature pines, live oaks, flowering magnolias and seasonal annual flowers which adorn the property. For most, the four man-made waterfalls are the aesthetic highlights of the course, especially on the par 3, 13th, aptly dubbed “The Falls”. Wide open fairways give way to well-manicured sand bunkers and waste bunkers lying in wait for errant shots. Water comes into play on 6 holes and creates a dramatic approach shot to the 18th green.

In addition to one of the best golf courses in the area, Juliette Falls also has some of the best practice facilities. This 10-acre practice facility makes working on your golf game fun and you can practice from dawn until dusk. The practice facility includes a state-of-the-art turf range with multiple target greens and bunkers that create a sense of actually playing the course. There’s also a short game area directly behind the driving range complete with a practice bunker and a huge, undulating putting green to get you ready for what you’re about to face.

The clubhouse features a pro shop with all of your favorite logoed apparel and golf accessories as well as separate bar and dining areas. Prime rib is featured on the last Friday of every month and at $20 a plate, attracts a large area following. The rest of the time, Kitchen Manager Scott Bartman serves up some great sandwiches and burgers. No fries though; Juliette Falls has gone the healthier route and rid their kitchen of deep fryers. Sides include potato salad, coleslaw and Miss Vickie’s Chips.

Here are some highlights from the golf course:

Most Memorable Hole: Number 17, “Double Trouble”, Par 4, 362 yards. Waterfalls aside, I’ll always remember the large waste bunker on #17 that splits the fairway in two. Keep It left and you’re more likely to hit the fairway; there’s also a lot less carry over sand to get to it. The right side is the more direct route. Either way, a good drive will leave a mid-iron slightly downhill to a green well protected by sand.

Favorite Par 3: Number 13. “The Falls”. If I can only pick one, this has to be Juliette Falls signature hole; it is by far the easiest on the eyes. At only 147 yards, it’s the shortest – and easiest – hole on the course. Water makes up the left side of the green and left pin placements can be tricky as you’ll have to fly it on if you want to get it close. The green is long, narrow and well undulated. No matter how good – or bad – you do on the green, look at the waterfall behind it and you’ll forget all about your score.

Favorite Par 4: Number 18, 408 yards. Although it plays slightly downhill, it’s going to take two well struck shots to reach the green on “Viking Challenge.” If the 408 yards is a little more than you can handle in two shots, play down the left side of the fairway. That will take the water on the right side of the green out of play. Sand left and water right makes this the most challenging hole on the back side.

Favorite (and Toughest) Par 5: Number 6, 517 yards. “Reflection Lake”. This is your first glimpse of water on the course and it only requires a short carry to put it in the rear-view mirror. Playing down the right side of the fairway takes the long waste bunker on the left out of play. Hitting your layup shot across the fairway to the left side will take the largest of the greenside bunkers out of play. Your approach shot is uphill to an elevated green that can be hard to hold. With all the roll in the green, a two-putt is good.

 Last Word: Juliette Falls is more than a place to live or a place to play golf; it’s more about a lifestyle. While the community and clubhouse may have a laid-back feel, the course is anything but. Pick the tees that best suit your handicap and you’re guaranteed a fun – and challenging – round. The course is well manicured and the greens roll true. Most holes have plenty of room off the tee, setting up what Juliette Falls is all about – the second shot.

Approaches are challenging, although unlike many Florida courses, it’s not the water that will get you, it’s the sand! And it’s everywhere, in all shapes and sizes, Waste bunkers, pot bunkers, fairway bunkers, greenside bunkers; play your round without encountering one and you deserve some sort of prize. Juliette Falls is a great test of golf with great people; every staff member I encountered was outgoing and eager to answer any questions.

For more information on joining or living at Juliette Falls, visit their website at www.JulietteFalls.com.

Gainesville Country Club – A Fresh New Look. A Fresh New Start

Gainesville CC logoSince its opening in 1963, the mission of Gainesville Country Club has always been the same: To offer its members a lifestyle that includes high quality recreational facilities, member services and social opportunities in an open, friendly and family-oriented environment.

The first part – high quality recreational facilities – has easily been accomplished. Since taking over management of the facility in March 2016, Brown Golf has made capital improvements to the golf course, tennis center and pool, including a GainesvilleCountryClub_5C-Belinda Theoretnew filtration system. As country club pools go, this Olympic size pools at the top of the list for swimming events and a separate diving area. There’s also a spacious sun deck that affords members ma modicum of privacy.

The tennis center features six beautiful Har-Tru courts that are lit for night play and according to members, are the best GainesvilleCountryClub_4C-Belinda Theoretcourts in the city. There’s also a full-service tennis pro shop and a full schedule of activities to accommodate every level of player. The men’s and women’s Tennis clubs are very active and play host to numerous citywide events.

The golf course is a special part of the equation here at Gainesville Country Club. It was originally designed by architect George Cobb and opened in 1963. In 1992, Mark McCumber and Associates rebuilt the greens and brought them up to USGA standards. Playing anywhere between 5,163 and 6,866 yards, the course is well suited for anyone from beginner to touring professional.

While there are many outstanding holes, my favorite is the first hole, a dogleg right, par 4, that plays 399 yards from the White Tees. Number one portrays the challenge of the course and brings several elements into play: elevation changes – GainesvilleCountryClub_1C-Belinda Theoretwhich are prevalent here – water and sand. You’ll need to avoid the trees on the right side of the fairway off the tee if you’re going to get off to a good start. Favoring the left side gives you a good approach to the green which sits well below the fairway. Your approach shot is played downhill, over water to a large green, well bunkered on the left. A very challenging and scenic opening hole that sets the stage for what’s in store!

Most of the members I spoke with favored Number 16, a short par 4 that GainesvilleCountryClub_2C-Belinda Theoretplays slightly uphill to a well contoured green surrounded by bunkers. Most players will need to fly the ball onto the putting surface. The green features a lot of undulation and can be tricky depending on pin placement.

One of the more interesting features of the course is the monster moss-draped oak tree that sits between #16 green and #17 tee. Some of the members told me the tree is over 200 years old and has been hit it least twice by lightning. Its massive branches stretch down into the ground, making for some incredible photo opportunities.

OK, so Gainesville Country Club has successfully fulfilled part one of its Mission Statement, now for the second – high quality member services and social opportunities. This aspect is being addressed as we speak. Shortly after taking over management of the course, a water leak destroyed a good portion of the clubhouse. Brown Golf Management saw this as an opportunity to make major upgrades and set in motion plans to revamp the men’s locker room, bar area and create a multi-purpose room.

Changes to the men’s locker room include a complete huge makeover with new lockers, a lounge area with big screen TVs and a media area with high speed Internet access. There are several tables for games and a pass thru window from the bar so that your favorite libations are close at hand.

The bar area will be a little smaller but a lot more functional and will have multiple big screen TVs. It will be located adjacent to the dining area and will provide service to diners as well. A new multi-purpose room is being added between the men’s locker room and dining area and is perfect for small family gatherings and private parties.

Presentation is everything and the food at Gainesville Country Club is not only exceptional, it looks great when it arrives at the table. Little touches such as shaved parmesan cheese on the French fries add a nice touch. The food is so outstanding, I saw a table of 18 women in the dining room and not one was eating a salad! Pretty impressive! The head waiter Phillip has been there for years and practically knows every patron by name. If you’re unsure of what to order, he’s a great help and will never steer you wrong.

Gainesville Country Club is pulling out all the stops when it comes to attracting new members. The grand opening of the new clubhouse is set for May 17th and beginning that day for a limited time, GCC is offering a “Summer Preview Experience” that will let non-club members +see firsthand all that this private club has to offer on an “a la carte” basis with limited restrictions. The program will run from April 24th – October 15th and prospective members will have access to all club social events, dining services, the pool facilities and tennis as well as complimentary Junior Golf and Tennis programs. This is a great opportunity for those who are thinking about joining a private club to experience Gainesville Country Club.

For membership information on this outstanding facility, you can reach them by phone at (352) 372-1458 or visit them online at www.gainesvillecc.com. If you’re looking for a private club where you can meet new people with similar interests and get the kids involved, check out their Summer Preview Experience.

All photos:Belinda Theoret

For Love of the Game

 

As I walked (limped) off the 18th green at Old Macdonald, my body aching from the pains brought on by a marathon of golf, and my ego aching twice as much, I felt a juxtaposition of disappointment and euphoria. Euphoric from just finishing my 72nd hole of golf (85th if you count the Preserve, a short, 13-hole, par 3 course) in four days at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Bandon DunesMy disappointment came from the realization that I would never again experience this golf paradise for the first time. I put my clubs in the car and sat in the driver’s seat, completely exhausted. I looked in the visor mirror and realized the golfer staring back at me was not the same golfer as the one who first teed off at Bandon Dunes three days earlier.

 Let me start at the beginning. I emerged from the wooded Oregon Highway 42 shortly before 3 p.m., my heart thumping in my chest. The stoplight at the confluence of Hwy 101 seemed to take forever, somehow teasingly aware I was mere minutes from my destination. But, by 3:30 I was checked into my room at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.  Small, but incredibly cozy, the room was packaged with everything a golfer needs. The mattress was soft to rest a weary back, natural stone flooring in the bathroom to massage the feet, two comfortable chairs, a TV, and of course, a fridge to store all manner of swing lubricant.  I didn’t stay in my room for long. I had to see the ocean. I climbed up a little trail near the hotel. At the top, overlooking the DSCF1348land leading to the edge of the Pacific, I couldn’t help but weep tears of joy. I made it! After months of saving, I wasn’t a golfer on vacation, I was a pilgrim on a religious journey, ready to take on the Bandon Dunes experience. Mine eyes had seen the glory of what was in store for me over the next four days.

Day 1-Bandon Dunes

Nervous, and pretty much sleepless from the anticipation the night before, I teed off at the resort’s eponymous course at 8:20 a.m. sharp, launching a beautiful drive down the right side of the fairway, flirting with the rough. My second shot, a sky-high 9 iron, put me on the back of the green. After a two-putt I walked towards the 2nd hole, ego thoroughly massaged. From 8:20 to 8:35 I was the best golfer I’d ever been. I’d parred the first hole at Bandon Dunes. However, The lord giveth…and the lord taketh away. From 8:36 to 12:13, it was a struggle.

Bandon Dunes is a resort course, no question. The undulating fairways, follow the natural landscape of the Oregon coast, and like any high end resort course, they’re as tight as a table-top. Those of us who have a tendency to hit the big ball first are in for a long day. If you aren’t familiar with the bottom of your swing, your 4 iron is likely to get you a good six feet of ball flight. I had my fair share of frustrating results, but my passion for the game was uninhibited. As I finished the Bandon Dunes course with my tail was between my legs and butterflies in my stomach, I realized I was in love. The mysterious mistress of golf and Bandon Dunes had me under her spell, regardless of how I played.

 Day 2–Pacific Dunes

As usual when one is in love, I couldn’t sleep from the anticipation of my second date. Promptly, again at 8:20, I launched my first drive into the middle of the fairway, I just wish it was the DSCF1296correct one! Day 2 at the Bandon Dunes Resort was a job-like test of my love for golf. I think I made one par, and lost about a trillion strokes on the fast greens and tight fairways. I got my first taste of the deep, numerous bunkers at Pacific Dunes as well, and it certainly wouldn’t be my last.

DSCF1288Pacific Dunes could be the most difficult course I played at the resort, but it was also the most beautiful. Nearly every hole is on the ocean, offering breathtaking sights. That’s why I played so poorly! The golf gods wanted me to spend more time taking in the course. At least, that’s what I told myself.

After the round, I left my clubs in the car (which is something I consider sacrilegious), went straight to my hotel room and collapsed on the bed. There’s something about golf where a dreadful performance completely takes the wind out of your sails. Later that evening, I resolved to get some pick-me-ups. I headed into the Bandon Dunes pro-shop near The Lodge. Souvenirs were aplenty in the building, with all manner of name brand logo merchandise from cigars, books, apparel, to golf equipment. You name it. They had it. All sporting the Bandon Dunes puffin logo. I walked out carrying a new shirt and a puffin head-cover, and went right into the bar. The Tufted Puffin is the Lodge’s restaurant, and was my haunt of choice when I wasn’t on the course. The food was great, the drinks were superb, and the staff was kind. After some retail and culinary therapy, I was feeling a little bit better as my head hit the pillow.

 Day 3–Bandon Trails

My alarm blared at 6:30 the next morning. I lay in bed staring at the ceiling thinking,  Do I really need to punish myself again adding insult to injury? Haven’t I had enough?  Every golfer knows about the Herculean effort needed to go out and play after a particularly bad round. I walked onto the tees of Bandon Trails hesitant and untrusting of my game. DSCF1304Fortunately, I was able to keep it together.  Trails is the most unique course at the resort. With 70% forest, only a handful of holes run along the ocean. It’s beautiful and my personal favorite. The grass in the fairways is tight, but seemed a little more forgiving. The forested layout and the surroundings are almost out-of-place. As I walked among the trees on the seventh hole (I admit it, looking for an errant ball), I couldn’t tell whether I was a quarter-mile away from the ocean-from the edge of the continent-or one thousand miles away. Numerous elevation changes throughout the track make each hole unique, inviting, and enjoyable. The logo of Trails is a butterfly, and it’s appropriate. I felt light as a feather the whole round, even more in love with the Bandon experience.

Day 4–Old Mac

DSCF1334Old Macdonald, is the wildcard, and the youngest of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort courses. I was joined by my friend/colleague/mentor Cliff, for a DSCF1350round of golf where every characteristic of the resort’s courses are distilled into an 18-hole endurance test. It truly was golf turned up to an eleven. Every fairway at the first three courses rolls and undulates. DSCF1364At Old Mac, they turn mounds into hills and dips into valleys. I was dwarfed in bunkers, and I’m not afraid to admit I broke out the hand-wedge a couple of times. The greens at Trails and both Dunes courses are fast, but Old DSCF1338Mac’s are downright sinister. If an outsider was watching us putt, they’d come to believe that “Oh my god, are you kidding me?” is a required utterance after each putt. After our handshake on the 18th green, we shared the mutual thought as we added up our scores, Cliff & Colin–0, Old Macdonald–1. We played golf, and golf won.

End Result

So, there I am sitting in my car staring at myself in the visor mirror. My shoulders hurt, my right hand had blisters, and my left hand was noticeably paler than its counterpart. I had to get on the road soon. I had a long drive ahead of me. I turned the key and my car sprang to life. After fastening my seat belt and choosing the right CD for the trip, my eyes returned to the mirror. I could see the fatigue in his eyes and feel it in mine. I smiled. He smiled. And then we said, in unison, “I love golf.”