TPC Sawgrass is often showcased for its introduction of the island green to PGA play, however it’s hardly the first course to feature such a par three. In fact, it’s not even the first course in the greater Jacksonville area to host such a hole! That honor belongs to the Ocean Course at Ponte Vedra, with Herbert Strong being the architect responsible.
The origins of the hole have a very similar story as Sawgrass’s, however. Pete and Alice Dye were looking to create a white-knuckle ride for PGA professionals, and Strong intended to do the same when creating Ponte Vedra during 1928. Bobby Jones himself called it a “course to challenge professionals.”
Unlike its famous neighbor, Ponte Vedra has not attempted to keep up with the intense slope ratings of modern courses. Bobby Weed was the most recent architect to conduct a renovation at Ocean, focusing on bringing back Strong’s original vision. Now, at its longest, the course measures out to 6,700 yards, a less daunting sum with modern technology. Still, winds off of the Atlantic — as well as the inevitable anxiety that comes with an island target — can still make Ocean a minor monster.
Home of the original Island Green! Great option if you're in the area. Another 36 hole facility.
The Ponte Vedra Inn & Club is one of the top resorts in the country. Per my wife, Beth, it has the best spa she has ever been to. The lap pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean is pretty cool, too. Ponte Vefra has two courses and the Ocean Course was opened in 1928. Paradoxically, The Lagoon course is closer to the ocean. The course was scheduled to host the 1939 Ryder Cup, but was cancelled due to World War II. On a historical note, on June 16, 1942 four Germans, who had spent a considerable time in the United Sates prior to World War II, came ashore from a German submarine on Ponte Vedra Beach. They caught a bus to Jacksonville and then took trains to Chicago, Cincinnati and New York. All four were caught before they could cause any damage and were ultimately executed.
To the course, the first hole is very welcoming with plenty of room for wayward shots. Several years ago I was wearing my Loudmouth Gator shorts. As we were teeing off, someone hollered out, “Nice pants.” I quickly retorted, “Are you checking out my ass?” He got the last laugh when he said, “Do you work out?” The 2nd is a short par 4 and a good birdie oppty, however the water on the right near the green can provide a challenge. The 3rd is a long par 5. Aim over the middle fairway bunker off of the tee. There are a myriad of bunkers in this fairway and I would recommend taking an extra club on the uphill approach shot. The par 4 4th is deceptively tricky. It is recognized as one of the toughest par 4s in northern Florida. Depending upon the tees you are playing and the wind you may drive through the fairway into the water hazard. The approach is over water and slightly uphill. When we were last there they were removing a 10 foot gator from the water hazard. The par 4 7th has one of the more generous fairways, however, be aware of the false front. You may want to take an extra club. The par 4 8th is a dogleg right with a bunker on the inside elbow. Left of center off the tee is best. Which brings us to the par 3 9th . While legend has it that Pete Dye’s wife, Alice, had a flash of inspiration to make the 17th hole at Sawgrass The Island Green, Ponte Vedra Inn has the original island green. Not a long hole, from the tips it is 144 yards, it has back to front sloping green and is surrounded by 7 bunkers. Several times we stayed at the inn and had rooms overlooking the green from the north side. We enjoyed hitting balls to green from “our backyard” and wagering on how many balls the next group would splash.
The back is much shorter. The short par 4 10th is the number 18 handicap and as tempting it is to hit driver, this green is a peninsula. A better play is right of the fairway bunker and give yourself your favorite yardage to go pin seeking. Eleven is a long demanding par 4. The par three 12th plays uphill. The 13th and 14th are back to back par 5s. Play the 13th as a 3 shot hole. The 14th is much shorter and is definitely reachable but the pond along the right side squeezes the fairway about 50 yards from the green. Also, this green is one of the most undulating on the course. The dogleg left 15th is best played along the left tree line. Anything hit right of center will probably end up in the rough. The 16th is a neat short par three over water with very little room for error to a multi-tiered green The18th is a short par four with a narrow fairway and a large green.
A fun course, I highly recommend it. I think it should be ranked much higher.
You’ve certainly put it around in the sunshine state Colin!
What might a list of your Top 10 Florida public access courses look like?
Would find that very helpful.
I am going to cheat in my response in that several of these are resorts with multiple courses:
TPC Sawgrass – when I was there in October they were looking for $500
Ponte Vedra Inn
Orange County National
Crandon Golf @ Key Biscayne
PGA Wanamaker (Port St. Lucie)
I’ve played a grand total of zero of these courses, so had better get busy...
I wholeheartedly agree with the top 3 on that list.