The Hawk’s Nest course is one of two 18-hole courses operated by the Moorings Yacht & Country Club near Vero Beach. Pete Dye’s Moorings course is a short layout (with nine par threes) offering a fun-packed, friendly game of golf, while Jim Fazio’s Hawk’s Nest is a far meatier challenge, extending to just over 7,000 yards from the back markers.
Unusual for Florida, there’s quite a bit of movement in the landscape here, with many of the undulating holes flanked by large sandy waste areas. Water hazards only come into play at a couple of holes on the longer front nine, which occupies the southern portion of the property.
Author Daniel Wexler, in his book The American Private Golf Club Guide, cites the par fours at the 5th, 6th and 8th as the pick of the holes on the outward half. He then says: “The back nine, whose holes are more tightly squeezed together, is highlighted by the 507-yard 14th (an undulating dogleg left around open sand) and the 406-yard 18th, a sandy dogleg left played to a narrow, tightly-bunkered green.”
Without question The Moorings at Hawk’s Nest is the best course in Florida I had never heard of. I was shocked at what a solid and balanced test of golf this wonderful Florida course represents. Jim Fazio is a humble, low key architect who does not seem to get nearly the credit he deserves as he knocked it out of the park at The Moorings at Hawk’s Nest.
The elevation changes and use of the land is excellent. The green complexes are perfectly fitting for the length and difficulty of the holes. The par-5 greens in particular represent the true definition of risk/reward and they are angled and on the smaller side ensuring that while reachable you have to hit a spot on shot to wind up on the putting surface for a realistic eagle chance for those longer hitters who want to give it a go. The bunkering and use of coquina areas create great playability even if you spray the ball a bit on the course. Many include judging the par-3s as a big factor in how much they enjoy a course. The par 3’s here are spectacular. The 2nd hole is both majestic and challenging over a water hazard that stares you down. Then you arrive at the 7th and the narrow green and long shot can intimidate even a tour player, no water here, just a small target that is well protected by mounding and perfectly placed bunkering. The 11th is the toughest one shotter on the course where I had to hit a full 5 iron into the wind knowing any bailout would lead to a bogey or worse. Water surrounds the entire shot and left side of the green while the right side miss leaves a brutally tough but fair recovery option. Finally, the 15th is an uphill beauty that has a plenty ample green but requires a full carry and another mid-iron shot that doesn’t allow for you to get away with a poor strike as you are looking at about a 5-rion shot that doesn’t give you room to hide. Recoveries are possible but you have to work hard for it here.
A few other holes stand out as special including the opener that optically makes you think there is little margin for error yet it’s one of the most forgiving tee shots on the course. Almost all the tee shots are playable and allow you to miss with a chance for recovery. However, the green complexes are so well designed that you need to need to hit precise shots to wind up on the greens and have a realistic birdie opportunity.
The 18th hole is an exciting finishing hole – at only 406 yards it’s not overly long but accuracy is hugely important as you must come at this green from the fairway to hold this green, especially in the narrow front section. This hole is designed to create excitement with plenty of elevation change and beauty to match, you had better hit two quality shots here or you will likely be looking at a bogey or worse, the front pin position is by far most challenging as the green looks like just a bottle shape in the front, the back section is substantially more spacious.
As I said in the opening paragraph, what makes Hawk’s Nest special is that it has outstanding balance throughout the round yet it marries championship caliber and playability brilliantly. Kudos to Jim Fazio on a job well done and lucky for us at Top 100 Golf Courses, we have finally discovered a course that surely has not received it’s just due in the rankings until now. As I say often in my reviews, a big part of what makes a golf course great is how much you yearn to play it again. Immediately after walking off the 18th hole, in spite of the 25 MPH wind I played in, I wished I could have headed to the 1st tee to play another round now that I knew how to navigate this gem.