John’s Island Club is located on the Atlantic east coast of Florida, a few miles to the south of Palm Bay. John's Island itself is a huge 3,000-acre Intracoastal Waterway barrier island, situated within the quaint town of Indian River Shores in Vero Beach. The private and exclusive John’s Island Club is home to a unique Tom Fazio design called John’s Island West and opened for play in the early 1990s. Additionally there are two other 18-hole courses (North and South) designed by Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus.
Unfortunately few people will get the opportunity to appreciate the West course at John’s Island but it’s worth doing your very best to befriend a member. The golf course is routed across delightful terrain with tall sand ridges which rise up some fifty feet or so from the property. Many tees and greens have been thoughtfully placed on the higher ground and the fairways routed across the flatter areas of the property. This technique was used extensively in the Golden Age of golf course design and has stood the test of time from the perspective of both playability and aesthetics.
The opening hole at the 6,819-yard John’s Island West gently breaks you in before the stern golfing examination that follows. Avoid the lonesome pine on the right side of the fairway and the solitary bunker on the left side of the green and walk off with a par or better on the 1st. Then brace yourself for a thrilling strategic test of golf where sand traps and pine-flanked fairways focus the mind. The par five 4th is a great example, playing through trees and acres of sand to a high green perched atop one of the several sand ridges that make John’s Island West such an enjoyable and unique Floridian golfing experience.
Arguably the most underrated Tom Fazio course in Florida. Many put it up there with Seminole. Dramatic changes in elevation and direction, with second to none playing conditions. This private club maintains the highest standards across the board ensuring a very memorable experience. I would look to raise the ranking of this course in the state of Florida and it was of no surprise that the USGA selected it for the 2015 US Mid-Amateur championship.
The only bizarre hole is the par five 17th. When you get to the fairway, you’re faced with the inexplicable scenario of playing over an elevated forested area to go for the green, or chipping the ball 70 yards down the left hand side of the fairway towards a gap that leads you towards the green. I hope to meet Tom someday to ask about this hole. Otherwise, the course is very demanding with perched greens and rolling terrain.