Category Archives: Florida Golf Blog

Florida Golf Blog

Pelican’s Nest Golf Club – Members Delight in 36-Holes of Newly Renovated Golf by Tom Fazio

Over the past two years, one thing has been constant at Pelican’s Nest Golf Club: change. During that time, both The Gator Course and The Hurricane Course, have been completely renovated, from tee to green. The results will amaze you.

Back in 1995, world-renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio was asked to design an 18-hole golf inside the gates of the Pelican Landing community. The primary goal at the time was to provide guests of two local resorts, The Registry and the Ritz Carlton, a place to play golf during the busy winter season. The course was an immediate hit and was ranked as the country’s “#3 Best Public Golf Course” by Golf Digest, giving Fazio his first appearance on the publication’s prestigious lists. Pelican’s Nest has also been recognized by Audubon International as a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” every year since 2001, a crowning achievement for both the club and its members.

During the next 10 years, Fazio was called on to build a second course. Eighteen holes were added in phases, and, with each new phase there was some rerouting involved. Several years later, after several holes were taken from the original design and many new ones were added, Pelican’s Nest or, “The Nest,” as it is affectionately referred to, is the 36-hole facility that it is today. Rest assured, both courses are always in pristine condition.

One of the biggest concerns during the renovation projects of the last two years, was how to best use reclaimed water and become more environmentally friendly. Golf course architect Jan Bel Jan, who oversaw the original construction of the courses, and installed over 1.25 miles of HDPE pipe that takes the reclaimed water to an irrigation pump station where well water is blended with reclaimed water in an effort to manage salts in real time and reduce water use, improving water and power efficiency.

From the back tees, the par-72 Hurricane Course plays 6,808 yards, with a course rating of 73.6 and a slope of 139. Most golfers will find that Tee IV at 6,075 yards will give them all the golf they can handle and still leave with a little dignity intact.  There are 7 sets of tees available for men, women and juniors. The bottom line is that whether you’re a seasoned golf professional or are just picking up a club for the very first time, there’s a set of tees that will help you enjoy your round. As your game improves, you can take on more of the course.

In renovating The Nest Bel Jan created a “course within a course.” These “scoring tees” eliminate a lot of the fairway hazards and make each course a lot easier to manage and navigate your way around. While the championship tees are identified with Roman numerals, the scoring tees are identified with an “S” and have their own scorecard. Many members use them on a regular basis and comment on “how much more fun the game has become” since they started incorporating them into their weekly rounds. After all, lower scores mean happy members!

Although the slope rating doesn’t reflect it, most members consider The Hurricane Course the more difficult of the two. Hurricane winds its way around Spring Creek and the boundaries on the back nine are dictated by brackish marshes and natural thickets of mangroves along the Gulf estuary. You’ll also encounter groves of native Florida oaks and pine trees as you make your way around the layout.

Memorable Holes: The Hurricane Course features several memorable holes, but nothing more memorable than the last two holes on each side. Number 8 (Temptation) is a par 5 that plays 488 yards from Tee III and offers two ways to play the hole. Option A is the riskier of the two and requires a tee shot down the right side of the fairway, bringing the water into play if you push your shot too far right. A good drive down the right side will give you an opportunity to get home in two. The bunker that used to come into play on the right side and run about 200 yards up to the green has been replaced by three smaller bunkers, which makes the hole less difficult. Playing down the left side makes this a three-shot hole for most players and takes a lot of the hazard out of play. Regardless of the direction you choose, you’ll need an accurate approach to the green if you want to score well.Hurricane 18 - Par 5 - 504yards - #4

Number 9 (Moonscape) is a lengthy par 4 (408 yards from Tee III) around a lake. The third bunker on the left side of the fairway is a good aiming point off the tee; if you can fade it, even better. Most players will be faced with a long iron or hybrid into the elevated green that is protected on the left by a large trap and on the right by the lake. This hole was given its name by Gary Player, who said the humps and hollows of the hole reminded him of the surface of the moon.

The first of two challenging finishing holes, Number 17 (Spring Creek) is a short Par 4. At a mere 332 yards, the trick here is to keep your tee shot in play. The fairway is guarded by hazards on either side.  Consider leaving the driver in the bag, and hit something that will find the fairway. This will leave a short chip shot into an open green protected by a lone bunker on the right. A great opportunity to make birdie!                           Hurricane 17 - Par 4 - 358yards - #4

Number 18 (Teaser) is a par 5 that plays 498 yards (Tee III) and is one of the best finishing holes of golf in southwest Florida; in fact, it’s rather scenic standing on the tee.  It’s one of those holes that yields as many birdies and eagles as it does the dreaded “others,” and presents yet another risk/reward opportunity at The Nest. The hole is a dogleg right around a lake with a narrow landing area.  The water on the right can come into play for longer hitters. A good drive down the right side will present a good opportunity to go for the green in two. It’s about a 220 yard carry over water to a relatively flat green. If you play it as a three-shot hole, be sure to avoid the sand that protects the green on either side. This hole provides a fitting end to a great round of golf.

Also of note is the first hole; after all, how many times do you start your round out with a par 3?

The Nest also boasts some pretty impressive practice facilities including a full length driving range where you can hit every club in the bag; trust me, you’ll need them all. There’s a short game area complete with practice bunker in a separate area near the 18th green as well as a good size practice putting green. The driving range is conveniently located a short walk from the clubhouse.

After your round, be sure to visit the Thirsty Pelican Lounge & Grill Room or have a drink on the veranda, which offers an expansive view of Spring Creek and the finishing hole on the Gator Course. Either venue will provide a great opportunity to unwind after a round or to visit with friends over cocktails and dinner. The view at sunset is breathtaking.

If you’re one of the many prospective club members that judges a country club by its dining facilities and menu, then look no further than The Nest. Whether you’re looking for a quiet dinner with friends or dancing the night away at one of the club’s themed event nights, the newly redecorated Main Dining Room is a perfect venue. In fact, The Nest boasts two private dining rooms and can accommodate events large or small; it’s perfect for corporate events, weddings and private wine dinners. Chef Cameron Hord and the culinary staff at The Nest offer a wide variety of culinary delicacies featuring signature seafood dishes and other delights.

The daily menu features many entrees you don’t often see, such as Wonton Pork Belly Tacos, Roasted Pear and Gorgonzola Salad and Blackened Grouper Tacos, served with a mango salsa and chipotle aioli. They are simply delicious. Dinner features dishes such as a Duck and Bacon Wonton appetizer, Crazy Shrimp and Magnificent Meatballs. There are also themed nights during the week such as Pasta Night on Wednesday, Seafood Buffet Night every Friday and Prime Rib Night, every second Thursday.

Although The Nest features 36 holes of spectacular golf, members need more than just a great golf course. The Nest delivers by putting together a very active social calendar for their members full of programs and the events that are unrivaled by any other country club in the area. Each event has a well thought out theme; many are centered around special days such as Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day.

One program that has become very popular among the membership is “Tuesday Talks,” a series of presentations designed to capture, engage, educate and entertain.  Upcoming topics include media matters, Southwest Florida’s natural environment and how to build and sustain a great baseball club, presented by a representative from the Boston Red Sox.

The Tea Time Book Club is also very popular at The Nest and already has a full schedule of events set up through the middle of next year. New members who are avid readers will want to check this out.

These are just a few of the ongoing happenings at The Nest Golf Club. For more information or to inquire about becoming a member, contact A. J. Szymanski – Director of Membership Sales at (239) 992-7782.  You can also visit them online at www.nestgolf.com.

Bay Point Golf Club – Panama City Golf at Its Best

Over the past several years, the Panama City Beach area has really cleaned up its act. No longer is it college’s spring destination for uninhibited college kids. The real estate market is booming, area businesses are rebounding nicely, and the hotel industry is once again beginning to flourish. All is good in Florida’s panhandle.

And all is good at the Sheraton Bay Point Resort – Panama City Beach’s premier golf destination.  The resort is situated on historic St. Andrews Bay and is a perfect getaway destination for couples, families and golfers. Yes, golfers. The property, which is home to 36 holes of bay front golf including the panhandle’s only Nicklaus design, recently underwent a complete remodel of the lodging, restaurants and golf clubhouse and the final results are nothing short of amazing. Sheraton Bay Point is the only AAA 4-Diamond franchise hotel along the Emerald Coast, with 320 sharply appointed guest rooms, 65 of which are one-bedroom suites.  Located about a 7-iron away from the main hotel and on the fairway of the Nicklaus Course’s 3rd and 6th holes is a collection of golf villas that feature both hotel style rooms as well as one-bedroom suites that can sleep up to four golfers comfortably.

Sheraton Bay Point also features several dining options, including the ultra-casual Flip-Flops Pool Bar, where you can enjoy custom crafted cocktails and craft beers while dining on Mahi Mahi Tacos and Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches. If you’re looking for something more upscale, Tides Restaurant offers spectacular views of St. Andrews Bay, which are only outdone by the culinary staff’s creativity. They’ve recently added a Chop House menu, which includes cuts of high-end beef such as the Wagyu Filet and a 26-oz. porterhouse steak. Another great choice for breakfast or lunch is Bar 72, located at the golf course clubhouse. Bar 72 is a little more than your typical burgers and dogs clubhouse fare. Try the shepherd’s pie or the meatloaf stack and you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

On property and a short cart ride away from the hotel are two of northwest Florida’s finest golf courses: The Willard Byrd designed Meadows Course and the Nicklaus Course. The Nicklaus Course is the crown jewel at Bay Point and plays 7,152 yards from the back tees with a rating of 74.3 and a slope of 143. Most golfers will be challenged from Tee 2 (6,430/70.7/132) and still leave with a little dignity intact. Ladies will be tested from a distance of 4,974 yards, yet still enjoy themselves.

The first five holes of the Nicklaus Course set the tone for your round. The first hole showcases the water that can become your nemesis on 17 of the next 18 holes. It’s a dogleg right around a lake that requires an accurate shot off the tee up around the 150-yard marker. From there, you’ll have a slightly uphill approach to a green protected in the front by two deep bunkers. Number 2 is a tough par 3 that plays 171 yards (Tee 2) over water to a green protected on the left by water and front right by a large deep bunker. The water on Number 3 shouldn’t come into play; if it does, check with the pro shop about getting a lesson. It’s a modest par 4, dogleg left with the most dramatic false-fronted green I have ever seen; it has to be at least a 6-foot drop.              The green features a lot of undulation and a two-putt or better is a good thing.

Number 4 is a par 4, that plays 384 yards (Tee 2) and features a green abutted by water on the left. All of this leads up to Number 5, the most scenic and demanding hole on the course and by far the most interesting. Play your tee shot about 225 yards over wetlands to an “island” fairway. From there’ you’ll have a long iron shot over more wetlands to a long narrow green with not much room behind it. Par is a good score here.

Two of the three remaining par 3s require you to choose the right club and trust your distance; knowing the pin position is also critical. Numbers 7 and 17 are both fairly long with blind shots into the green. Choose the right club, hit your best shot and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

The back nine also features several intriguing holes including the drivable Number 13 which plays 281 yards from Tee 2. Beware of the small grove of pine trees if you push your drive right; the green is protected by water to the left and a deep bunker to the right. Number 14 is the course’s #1 handicapped hole; a long dogleg right that plays over water and sand off the tee. Your approach shot plays over a lake which also guards the right side of the green. There’s a bunker back left that catches anything long. This hole takes four solid shots to make par.

Number 18 is a great finishing hole and is almost the mirror image of the opening hole. It requires a forced carry over water that plays all the way down the left side, with more of the wet stuff short and right of the green. A tee shot over the water and slightly left of the fairway bunker will leave a short pitch shot into an elevated triangular green protected on all three sides by sand.  A great end to a great round.

The Meadows Course dates back to 1965 and uses the original 328 Bermuda pushup greens. They’re still in great shape, a lasting testament to a good grounds crew. The Meadows plays 6,913 yards from the back tees. Tee 2 plays about 550 yards shorter and is still a challenge for most. This course has stood the test of time and can play tough – especially if you tend to spray the ball. Case in point is Number 4, a narrow par 4 (372 yards from Tee 2), slight dogleg right that is the course’s #1 handicap. Center or just left of center off the tee is the preferred shot, just be sure to avoid the fairway bunker on the left. From there, trust your club selection into a small, elevated, triangular green protected on all sides by sand.

Number 5 is the course’s first par 5 (480 yards from Tee 2) and is also a narrow driving hole, however, with a good tee shot, it is reachable on two. Water comes into play on the left side about 250 yards off the tee, so favor the right. For most players, it’s a three-shot hole and an approach from the left side takes a few of the infringing pines on the right side out of play. The green is small and well protected. Number 9 (509 yards from Tee 2) is the second par 5 on the outward 9 and this double dogleg is a good test of your shotmaking ability. Water short and left of the green sees a lot of action and the elevated green is large and may require an extra club, depending on pin position.

Number 10 is a long par 4 (409 yards from Tee 2) with water on the right off the tee that creeps into the fairway and catches unsuspecting players. Most players will need to hit a long approach shot into a shallow green. Par is a good score here. Number 13 is the most picturesque hole on the course, a short par 3 (132 yards from Tee 2) over water into a well-protected green. Choose the right club off the tee and a low score is possible.

The Meadows also finishes with one of the layout’s most memorable holes, a 384-yard (Tee 2) dogleg right par 4 with bunkers on either side off the tee right at the bend. A good drive will leave a mid to long iron into a small green protected on the right with water and sand on either side. Another strong finishing hole.

The winter months are a great time to visit the resort and take advantage of everything Bay Point has to offer. And, since Northwest Florida’s seasonality peaks in the summer, a great value can be had between January and March.

If you’re coming down from the northern states during the winter to play golf, here’s something to consider. Yes, you can get about 5 degrees warmer in February if you go down to the Orlando area, but is 6 hours of drive time each way worth it? Go to Panama City and you can use that 12 hours of windshield time and get in two or three extra rounds of golf. Couple that with the money you’ll be saving on a round of golf and the decision is easy.

For more information on either Sheraton Bay Point Resort or Bay Point Golf Club and to see their current offers, visit their websites: http://www.sheratonbaypoint.com/; http://www.baypointgolf.com/

The Reserve Course – Orange Lake’s Oldest and Newest Course

A lot of families that visit the Orlando area are familiar with Orange Lake Resort and their upscale condominium style accommodations, villas and time share units. The resort also features a full array of amenities including swimming pools, tennis courts, mini golf, a workout facility, meeting/conference areas and multiple dining options.

But what they may not be aware of is that Orange Lake Resort also boasts two of the area’s best conditioned and challenging championship golf courses: The Legends Course and The Reserve Course. Best of all, you don’t have to be a resort guest to play here, these courses are open to the public.

The Reserve Course could be considered both the oldest and the newest course at the resort. It was originally designed by Joe Lee in 1982, 16 years before Arnold Palmer and company designed the Legends Course. In 2005, golf course architect Mike Dasher completely redesigned the layout, adding new water features and more sand, as well as rerouting and redesigning seven holes. The result is one of the more challenging courses in the Orlando area.

There are only three sets of tees on the Reserve Course, but not to worry, they’re suitable for just about everyone. From the tips (Blue Tees), Orange Lake measures 6,505 yards with a course rating of 71.8 and a slope of 137. Most players will find the White Tees (6,031 yards/69.4/118) quite challenging, while Ladies and Seniors will find the Yellow Tees (5,119 yards/68.3/1) an enjoyable distance to play from.

The Reserve Course plays to a par of 71. As you make your way around the course, you’ll see pristine wetlands around many of the green complexes. You’ll also see a wide variety of Florida plants and wildlife. As mentioned earlier, Dasher added several water hazards and a lot more sand, in the form of both bunkers and waste areas. There’s a fair amount of roll and undulation in the fairways as well as on the new MiniVerde putting surfaces.

Most Memorable Hole: Number 10. Par 5, 504 yards (White Tees). Number 10 is undoubtedly the most interesting hole on the course. This long dogleg left starts out with a tee shot over a lake to a fairway that features a trio of bunkers straight away. Short of the bunkers is good, left, not so much. The right side of the fairway should be avoided too; there’s a stream that runs down the right side and then cuts across the fairway to another lake on the left that needs to be navigated on your approach shot. Plan on favoring the right side of the fairway with your layup shot, just be warned, it’s a narrow landing area. Then. play your approach shot over the second lake to a well-elevated green protected on the right by a large deep bunker. Make a par – or better – and consider the round a success!

Favorite Par 3: Number 5. Par 3, 171 yards. A long par 3 with a bailout area – if you need it. From the tee, it’s all carry over the marsh. Even if you bail out to the right, you’re still going to have to get over the marsh area off the tee. Bailing out is no sure thing either; there’s a large bunker over there that makes up and down extremely difficult. Once you get on the green, pay close attention, there are a lot of subtle little breaks.

Favorite Par 4: Number 18, 36 yards (White Tees). A fitting end to a great round. This dogleg left features a cluster of bunkers in the landing area and a wall of trees to the left. The good news is that the tree line can be carried off the tee, the bad news is you’ll have to land the ball between a large pond and the cluster of bunkers. A good drive will leave a mid to short-iron approach shot to a large green with some subtle undulations.

Favorite Par 5: Number 4, 531 yards. Should you succeed, this long, demanding par 4 is a well-earned par. The tee shot requires a forced carry over a marshland to a fairly large landing area with bunkers and condos on the right side. Because of the length and shape of the hole, most players play this as a three-shot hole. The landing area for your layup shot is narrow with a large bunker on the right side. The large green is fronted by a large bunker and features a lot of undulation. This is another hole where par is a well-earned score.

Last Word: This Mike Dasher design has a lot to offer golfers of all abilities. It’s definitely not the longest course in the area and is certainly not going to overpower anyone. What it will require is that you think your way around the course, especially on holes like the par 5, 10th, which takes accuracy, length and brains. Another interesting hole is the par-3 12th hole, which requires an accurate shot off the tee in order to have a shot at par. It may be the course’s shortest hole, but it is also one of the most difficult too, with two deep bunkers surrounding the green to the left and water hazards on the right. Miss the green and par is a tough score to make.

The Reserve Course shares a clubhouse with the newly renovated Cranes Bend, an executive style nine-hole course. The clubhouse features a well-stocked pro shop plus a restaurant/lounge. Also on property is Legends Walk, a lit par three nine-hole course that takes tee times until 9 PM. There’s plenty of room to tune up your game and includes a spacious driving range nearby that is open late. The practice facilities also include a large practice putting green. Although a fair amount of The Reserve Course winds through the resort community, many of the holes have nothing but nature around them and are very secluded. If your goal is to find a golf course in the Disney area that will challenge your golf game and don’t want to break the bank to do it, pay a visit to the Reserve Course at Orange Lake Resort. For more information or to book your next round, visit their website at www.orangelakegolf.com.