Once called Ocean Hammock, the Ginn now seems to have been distilled and dropped in another re-branding exercise by Hammock Beach Resort, but this is the one and only beachfront property that lies on the Atlantic coast a few miles to the south of historic St Augustine.
The Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean was the first course to be laid out at Hammock Beach and it seems appropriate that Jack’s “duel in the sun” opponent should design the second course at the oceanfront resort.
The Conservatory course is certainly not elementary and Tom Watson’s Hammock Beach 7,746-yard inland monster may well have played host to the inaugural 2007 Ginn Tournament – one of the richest events on the Champions Tour – had the property owners not acquired the Ocean course a few months earlier. Nevertheless, the Conservatory course, a Watson signature design, is rather special in its own right.
Named after the British-styled glass domed clubhouse, the Conservatory course was built with a big budget where the landscaping alone topped $4m. The result is dramatic elevation changes, tree planting on a forestry commission scale and more than 70 acres of manmade lakes.
It seems strange that the architect, who, let’s face it, knows a think or two about links golf, should remark that his Conservatory design is: “My vision of a links-land golf experience, providing an impression similar to many courses I have enjoyed in the British Isles.” How many links courses do you know that feature manmade lakes and a signature, 170-yard par three that plunges down to an island green flanked by palm trees?Turnberry is perhaps the most scenic Open Championship venue and a course that Tom Watson knows rather well. His interpretation or impression here on Florida’s Palm Coast is an Atlantic Ocean apart from a real links experience but dreams are much bigger at Hammock Beach.