With four golf courses and plenty of entertainment for non-golfers, it’s not surprising that Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is popular.
Located just to the east of Destin, on Florida’s northwest Gulf coast, the Links was the first course to open at Sandestin, back in 1973. It’s Links by name only and not by nature, but it whetted the golfing appetite nonetheless and three other courses were subsequently laid out over the next twenty-seven years. Baytowne, Burnt Pine and Raven are all superior to the Links course and the Raven, which opened in 2000, is probably the best of the quartet.
“Robert Trent Jones Jr. has created a masterpiece at Sandestin.” Wrote Rob Armstrong in Golfing Florida’s Best. “His [Raven] design is original and contemporary, yet influenced by the great classical designers of the past, not least of whom is his father, Robert Trent Jones Sr. The subtle amalgamation of old and new creates a wonderful golfing experience. Jones offers golfers a variety of options for playing almost every hole.
His par 71 track is far from short – nearly 7,000 yards from the back tees and more than 5,000 yards for women playing the forward markers. The mix of holes, including five par threes, is satisfying and memorable. His par fives are all three-shot holes for everybody but people who hit the ball like Tiger Woods or John Daly. The course is actually made up of nineteen holes. Jones created a pair of par threes that are 16A and 16B. They are played alternatively, every other day.
Jones has constructed greens that require a variety of approach shots, from forced carries over water to bump-and-run shots. The greens, themselves, are a joy to play – fast, true and receptive. Jones favours extremes in green length and width, and he likes irregular shapes with lots of breaks and bends. His bunkers are well placed and reflect the thoughtful and deliberate character of the architect. Water is in play on thirteen of the holes.”
The Raven Golf Club at Sandestin was two-time host to the Boeing Championship, a PGA Champions Tour event. Bobby Wadkins was victorious in 2006 and Loren Roberts prevailed in 2007. These two events cemented the Raven’s reputation as one of northwest Florida’s must-play courses.
Sandestin's Raven course is one of the very best offerings in Destin, Florida's golf portfolio, where good courses have popped up in every which direction the last 25 years. A Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design, Raven should be played if in the area because of its solid conditioning and the fact that there are a number of noteworthy holes. I particularly enjoyed the 203-yard island green par three sixth, which would be an awesome match play hole; the green has some contours to it and there are bunkers left and right to scare you even more on the daunting looking tee shot. Two is a possibility here, but so is five. The next hole, a double dogleg par five, is incredibly frustrating for someone who has not walked these grounds yet. There is a major carry required over the water hazard, which for better or worse seems to be a little bit of a theme here. 14 and 15 are two high-risk, high-reward par fours. On the former, you can cut off as much as you'd like knowing full well there's water everywhere left; watching my ball barely clear the hazard and hit the fairway was the most exhilarating moment of my round at Raven. The 15th is drivable for the longest hitters but awfully penal if you don't hit it straight. There are a few holes on Sandestin's Raven that are really, really good but also a few forgettable. Another gripe I have is the missed opportunity to utilize bay views. Instead, there are houses on most of the holes and that can take away from the golfer's experience. The good outweigh the bad here, though. This is a really fine resort course, one that is not to be missed if you're in Destin.
RTJ JR never disappoints. A great layout where the driver gets good use. The course itself is fantastic, just maybe not the best in the area but I have not played all courses in the area. I thought Bay Point was just as nice. (home of FSU womens team. Good logo ball too). Raven was used as the NCAA sun coast conference championships, but not the home course of any schools. It was expensive but I had to play it to add to my list. It did host a pro tourny at one time so I can say I played where the pros play I guess.
Sandestin Raven is way over rated on this list. Nice but not the 57th best course in FL. It is a Robert Trent Jones, Jr design and has hosted a couple of PGA Champion events over ten years ago. The first hole is dogleg left. It is not a welcoming hole. From the back two tees you need to hit a drive a t least 220 and favor the right side to have a decent look at the green. There is also a BAB on the left elbow. You must successfully carry gunch to hit the green. The long par 4 dogleg left 2nd is downright hostile. There are two BABs on the left elbow. Stay right to give yourself a long approach shot to a redan green with a BAB protecting it on the right with a water hazard right of that. The par 5 dogleg right 3rd should give you a chance to exhale. There is a forced carry over water and water right of the green. However, three mediocre shots should give you a shot at birdie. The par 3 4th is a classic FL par 3 with carry over water. I wish I had patented this design, even though it is boring and predictable. The 5th is a good par 4. Water running all the way down the right hand side with a BAB protecting the green on the left. Pay attention to where the pin is, this green is about 50 yards long. The par 3 6th is the signature hole. It is an island green with a BAB on the left and a reasonable size bunker on the right. From the tips it is over 200 yards. If you are not playing the right tees on the par 5 7th, you ay have trouble getting a ball in play off the tee. The tee shot carry matches the hole, LONG. For those of you who do make it across, on your second shot stay as far left as possible. The green is tucked way right. There are large trees protecting the unwary who ended up on the right side of the fairway. This hole also has 3 BABs running across the fairway and protecting the green. The 9th is another tough long par 4. This time the water is down the left side. The green is tucked left, so just about any approach will have to carry water. Demanding hole.
The short par 4 10th is a birdie oppty. There is a large bunker complex right greenside. The 11th is a par5 dogleg left with water running down the left side. If you needed another reason to avoid the left there is a bunker on the left elbow. The landing area on your 2nd shot narrows considerably starting about 220 yards out and expanding back out around 120 yards. There is a BAB greenside right and a normal bunker left. The 13th is another dogleg right but you really need to favor the left side to have a decent shot at the green. Also, another BAB protecting the green on the right. I really like the par 4 dogleg left 14th. One interesting element is the tee box from the tips stretches a good 50 yards from one side to another. The result a more significant and demanding carry over the water hazard down the entire left side. A design feature I have not seen very often. The 15th is a fun short par four. Your drive should go right over The Raven’s interpretation of church pew bunkers, but be careful. There is a BAB on the right and from the 2nd tee it is about 250 yards. Of course, there is also a water hazard left and a greenside bunker as well. The Raven also has 2 options for the par 3 16th. Ingeniously, identified as 16a and 16b.16B is a 200+ yard beast and 16b is much more benign. The par 5 17th is a shot makers par 5. You can reach the bunker right, don’t know why you would want to. Be left of the tee. This will leave you with a second shot with about 300 yards to go. I highly recommend staying left as if you get right you will probably be blocked out. There is a BAB left along with a water hazard. My recommendation would be hit your 150 yard shot short of the bunker left which will leave about 150 into the green of hit 180—200 a bit further right to give you a flip wedge to the green. The 18th looks really tight off the tee and it is. Water down 2/3 of the right with a bunker complex in the landing zone on the left. Overall a good course.