Situated within a beautifully forested site that backs onto the St Johns River, the course at Timuquana Country Club is a 1923 Donald Ross layout that has been extensively altered over the last nine decades, first by Robert Trent Jones Snr, then by George Cobb, followed by David Gordon.
It wasn’t until Bobby Weed was called in to restore the course to its former glory during the mid-1990s that the layout assumed much of its intended classical style. Weed had no blueprints to refer to; indeed he had only a World War II aerial photograph from the adjacent Jacksonville Naval Station to guide him.
Much of his remedial work involved clearing back bush and felling trees which, over time, had encroached onto the fairways, greatly narrowing the playing corridors. Once holes had been widened, golfers were once again able to play the angles on the layout as originally envisaged.
The course hosted the 2002 USGA Senior Amateur Championships, an event won by Greg Reynolds when he defeated Mark Bemowski 4&3 in the Final match.In Ocotober 2011, after months of renovations, which included re-turfing greens, tees and approaches, Timuquana Country Club course re-opened for play.
As I walked around the clubhouse prior to the round, admiring the views from both the large swimming pool area as well as the rear of the clubhouse across a wide expanse of the St. Johns River to view the downtown skyline of Jacksonville perhaps four miles away, I had an instant thought of another course built by Donald Ross in Massachusetts. After playing Timuquana the parallels to Oyster Harbors Club were many.
Both courses/clubs offer outstanding views of the water from the clubhouse. In the case of Oyster Harbors Club on Cape Code it is of Cotuit Bay and Handy Point. At both clubs, the best land was kept for the location of the clubhouse. Both courses sit near water, yet neither course has any views of the water or has any holes that sit against the water. In the case of Oyster Harbors Club that was an intentional decision for homeowners to have boating access to the water. As for Timuquana, which opened in 1923, it appears that land would have been available to do so, but perhaps the wealthiest members of the time also wanted the access to the water. In both cases, the golf course is the lesser for these decisions.
Both courses are essentially on flat land although Oyster Harbors has a bit more movement on five holes which provides more interest.
Both Oyster Harbors and Timuquana were designed by Donald Ross and have the characteristics of his courses, although they are muted. The false fronts are not quite as high, the greenside bunkers are not quite as deep. The greens are not quite as sloped or have significant tiers and swales. The movement of most of the greens is from an obvious slope.
Both courses do not have an extensive use of water with only a few holes where water is in play which is a common feature of a design by Mr. Ross. I admit to this being a very nice feature for a course in Florida where water is overly used as a means of defense.
Timuquana has been worked on by numerous architects through the years, although it has a goal of maintaining the Ross ethos on golf design. What one will find are slightly raised greens with a back to front tilt. Our group found there to be much more difficulty in a recovery shot from going over the green than if one was trying to get up-and-down from the front of the green complex.
Timuquana is not a course that will frighten you. There are not many shots where one has to make a decision or has an obstacle that has to be avoided. This is a course designed to be playable to provide fun. Because of the flatness of the land, it is very much a course where one walks and will enjoy the course.
There are approximately 100 bunkers on the course. The bunkers are very much in play both off the tee and at the green location. The course is also tree-lined although most holes have wide playing corridors.
The course plays to 6949 yards from the Green tees, par 72 rated 73.3/129. From the Blue tees, which we played, the course is 6556 yards, rated 71.5/125. There are three sets of lesser tees.
There is no “wow” holes here but there are several very good holes as well as some design features that stand out.
1. Par 4 – 406/395. A straight hole with a generous fairway featuring two fairway bunkers left and flanking bunkers at the large green which is large and raised back to front. It is a nice starting hole.
2. Par 4 – 436/385. This hole bends to the right with a long bunker on the right followed by trees that can block the view of the right half of the green. The left side of the fairway has two bunkers easily in reach for the longer hitters. There is an early bunker right of the green about 20 yards short as well as two large flanking bunkers on the front corners. I liked how the front right bunker cut into the green a bit more. The front of the green has somewhat of a bowl effect.
3. Par 4 – 346/336. This hole is a fish-hook dogleg right with two bunkers nearly built into the tree line on the outer corner. There are flanking bunkers fronting the green which is small at only 24 yards and narrow at the front neck to provide some difficulty for this short hole. Surprisingly, this short hole is rated #11 which is likely due to the difficulty of the raised green and those fronting bunkers.
4. Par 5 – 528/503. Three bunkers pinch in from the left almost acting as cross bunkers. About 100 yards from the green three bunkers are in a line on the right. It looked as though there used to be three bunkers on the left that were removed. The green complex is a good one with two bunkers placed off to the right, a long bunker down the left and a central front bunker. On that right side it looked as though three bunkers placed well off the green had also been removed. The green has a decent fall-off at the rear.
5. Par 3 – 201/191. The tee shot must carry water but it is not really in play. More in play is that the water stretches down the left side halfway into the green. Our tee box was set up on the left side which brought the water more into play. The green has two bunkers on the left side with the first one placed between the pond and the green. The green has a fall-off at the rear, a tier and a hump on the left. The right front also has a bunker. If one does not hit it into the water, there is a decent chance of recovery on this hole although one might have to hole a ten feet putt.
6. Par 5 – 512/481. You hit over the pond but it is early and not really in play. More in play are two bunkers on the right set inside the line of the fairway. The left side is heavy with trees. Bigger hitters will try to fly those bunkers. The hole then has a pond on the left side cutting in front of the green where the pond begins about 160 yards out. Any ball hit close to the edge of the pond will go in given the shape of the land towards the water. The smart play is down the right side for average length players while longer hitters will have a go at the green given there is a lot of room behind the green. The green has a large bunker on the right front/back which I thought was too large as well as a smaller bunker at the left of the green. The green tilts towards the water with an inner large swale. While this hole seems like it should be a birdie opportunity due to its short length, that pond comes into play and if one pushes their ball too far right to avoid it, they could find themselves inside the tree line on the right. It is a better hole than I thought when I stepped on the tee as evidenced by it being the number one index on the course.
7. Par 4- 440/415. This hole bends left with no fairway bunkers and only one large bunker on the left side of the green. The green is angled to the left making that front left bunker very much in play. We had a left middle pin position and for those who went over the green they had to face a green sloping quickly away from them.
8. Par 3 – 156/146. From a visual standpoint, this hole stands out due to the elevated green with three surrounding bunkers after an early bunker not in play. If one goes over this green the ball will go as much as thirty yards away.
9. Par 4 – 435/399. This hole is a dogleg left with an early cross bunker and then a bunker on the right. The left side has three staggered bunkers. It looked as though more bunkers had been removed from the right side. The green is raised back to front with two bunkers right and one on the left. This green seemed to have a tier. Going long over the green will likely result in one ending on one of the putting greens, an odd location given the putting green in front of the clubhouse.
10. Par 4 – 408/397. This dogleg left has a heavy tree line down the right side with two raised bunkers on the left only in play for the longest of players. The green is placed off to the right with offsetting bunkers. We had a front pin which I felt to be the most difficult on the hole given the limited space between those fronting bunkers.
11. Par 4 – 341/330. The third hole on the course to feature water. The tree line is very thick down the right while the left side has two staggered bunkers with the second one having a third small bunker placed next to it. The green sits behind a pond with a right side and rear bunker. The green is shallow at only 23 yards and the back bunker likely catches a lot of balls. It is a decent hole but did not remind me of a hole that Donald Ross would design.
12. Par 5 – 544/534. The longest hole on the course goes off to the right before straightening out. The hole has three bunkers on the right which again did not remind me of something that Mr. Ross would do as it seemed overkill. There are no real bunkers in play for the second shot. The green has a central bunker and then flanking bunkers. For the length of the hole the green is somewhat small at only 28 yards. However, this green seemed to have the highest number of swales in it.
13. Par 3 – 224/201. The longest par 3 on the course with two early bunkers on the left and then flanking bunkers. It is a nice hole although I found it to be the lesser of the par 3’s on the course from a visual perspective. However, the green has a definite spine in it and is one of the better greens on the course.
14. Par 4 – 378/352. Probably the least exciting hole on the course as you play to the farthest point from the clubhouse. There are two bunkers left off the tee that forces the longer hitters to play left. These are not difficult bunkers if one is in them. Nearer the green are two bunkers placed short followed by two on the right side. This is the number sixteen index which makes sense given it is not a long hole and the green is easily read.
15. Par 5 – 520/492. The final par 5 bends to the right as you make your turn back to the clubhouse. The two bunkers on the right can be cleared by the longer hitters while shorter hitters have ample room to go left of them. Farther up are two bunkers on the left and one on the right about 30 yards ahead. One can still get to the green by laying short of these three bunkers. The green has a bunker set away from the green on the left front and another set away on the right front.. The green is shallow and raised at its front with a bit of a ridge and has a sizeable fall-off at the rear. This is the number two index on the course which I found to be surprising.
16. Par 3 – 171/163. Although I think the eighth to be more visually pleasing, the sixteenth is a better hole. It offers three bunkers short right of the green that is raised with substantial fall-offs on all sides, probably the highest on the course. This is a fun hole to play.
17. Par 4 – 480/445. The longest par 4 on the course bends left with three bunkers on the inner side. There is ample room down the right. The bigger issue is a center-line bunker about 50 yards from the green and flanking front bunkers that block nearly all of the front of the green. Given its length and bunkering, I was again surprised at the index of the hole, number eight as I certainly thought it was more difficult than the eleventh and twelfth. Perhaps the rating is because the green is easy to read once on it.
18. Par 4 – 423/390. You play back to the front of the clubhouse, although the view of it is not as good as from the ninth green where the trees do not block one’s view. This straight hole has three bunkers lined up down the right but with ample room down the left. The green has a bunker short of the green on the left and one at the right front. Again I saw evidence of bunkers that had been removed. If playing down the left one has to navigate the bunker short of the green. There is a knob behind that bunker before the green and a mound on the left side. I hit a poor second shot leaving myself 156 feet from the pin on the middle left. As my two-ball partner had a birdie chance from 25 feet, I decided on a lark to putt from 50 yards short of the green. With some of our competitors who had finished watching me and jeering at me, I silenced them as it went in for a three. The caddie immediately measured it with his yardage finder. This exceeded the 128 feet putt I made on the Old course at St. Andrews.
Timuquana is a fun course. It is not necessarily one would go out of their way to play unless they were playing the Stadium/Players course at TPC and wanted to play a second round. However, the combination of a very pleasant round on a course that certainly feels like a Donald Ross, even though the characteristics are softened/lessened here, as well as looking at the view of the skyline following the round, is one that will create a very lasting memory. The members have a jewel here, even if I wanted some of the holes to be on the water and to have more of the fairway bunkers be raised. It is a course where one could score very well but even if they do not, they will enjoy it.
What a golf club. Perfection. I played Timuquana this past Thursday and it is without question the best golf course that I have played in Florida, and I've played a couple ranked in the top 10 and many others over the years. The classic clubhouse and the perfect routing made this a memorable experience for me. Outside of Holston HIlls in Knoxville, I cannot think of a better routed Ross (that I have played).
The first hole starts out with a welcoming par 4. I kind of toe bombed one up the left side and still got out of there with a stress free par. They say Ross like to start his rounds with a gentle handshake. Timuquana is a perfect example of that. From there the course was like a symphony of great holes building up to the ninth which takes you back to the clubhouse.
The members I played with spoke to me about the thousands of trees that had been removed on this course over the years. Its funny because there are still thousands left. Most of the holes are tree lined. But I did not find it to play incredibly narrow., I played the entire round with the same ball and while I did hit a couple of pines, my ball either kicked back into the fairway or straight down into the rough.
It was very apparent to me by the course conditions and the work that has been put into the course over the years that the history of this club means something to its membership. It was a very special place. There were so many great golf holes, frankly there was not a weakness in my opinion. My two personal favorites were #9 and #18 coming back to the clubhouse. It also had arguably some of the best par threes I've played. They are simple but all unique in there own way.
Timuquana was a fantastic experience from start to finish. Never pass this up if you get the opportunity.
Timuquana Country Club is a hidden gem in Jacksonville that most folks have never heard of. Timuquana opened in 1923 and is a Donald Ross design. It’s storied past include Bobby Jones playing there during WWII as he was stationed at the Jax Airbase, David Duval growing up on the course, as his father was the head pro. The club has gone through multiple redesigns over the years and in the mid 1990s Bobby Weed, using old aerial pictures, did his best to make what is old new again. It starts with the drive in and seeing the classic old clubhouse situated on the banks of the St. Johns river with the Jacksonville skyline in the background.
One of the challenges over the years is that trees get bigger. This creates much tighter fairways and less than optimal grass growing conditions. Even with the redesigns, the thinning of the trees and hurricane damage, this course is tight. Additionally, you will be surprised how few water hazards there are. The most noticeable is probably the signature hole, par 3 5th. It is 192 yards carry over water to a miniscule green. This water feature was added by Robert Trent Jones, Sr in the 1950s.The greens at Timuquana are tiny. Another water hazard was added on 6th and change it from a par 4 to a par 5. Another hole of note is the par 5 12th. At 540+ yards, not easy to begin with but there is an optical illusion at work on the green. There is a pair of bunkers on the left that make you believe that the green slopes from the right front to the back left. It is completely the opposite, judge your approach appropriately. I would play Timuquana again
Given a long, narrow piece of land to work with, it would have been easy for an ordinary architect to fashion a course of straight, parallel holes. But Donald Ross was no ordinary architect and here he managed to route many doglegs and to set them at slight angles to one another so that there’s little sense of repetition.
He also makes sure that a properly placed tee shot is rewarded with a better angle to the green. Most of the challenge is avoiding the ubiquitous pines that line the fairways, giving the course a Carolina, rather than a Florida feel. Timuquana’s un-Florida vibe is also the result of its paucity of water hazards—only one comes into play. The greens are nicely contoured as well and most are sufficiently open in front to allow a variety of approach shots.