Hammock Beach Ocean Course Re-Emerges PDF Print E-mail


By Jason Bruno

Just south of historic St.Augustine, Florida is the city of Palm Coast - the home to

Hammock Beach Resort and its renowned Ocean Course. When Hurricane Matthew

came thru the area in October 2016 it's storm surge and salt water intrusion caused

such significant damage to the Jack Nicklaus signature layout that a decision had

to be made by the resort's owners - Lupert-Adler and its management team from

Salamander Resorts. Options ranged from: repair the damage and re-open as soon

as possible, close down operation permanently or completely renovate the Ocean

Course. Luckily, they chose the latter. The renovation included a complete re-grassing

of the entire routing using Platinum Paspalum (a salt tolerant dense short bladed turf

that thrives in all seasons), this resulted not only in improved playing conditions, but

provides a much needed sustainability for several decades to come. On November

2nd, 2017 the Ocean course re-emerged better than ever with the slogan "New Turf,

Same Surf".




Known for its six shorline holes, the Ocean Course and its closing stretch called

the "Bear Claw", underwent an extensive 13 month restoration that not only

included the re-grassing of the entire Nicklaus design, but also the reconstruction

of every bunker, tee box and green complex. When Hurricane Irma blew into the

area in September, the new surfaces were put to the test, but held up really well

(the re-grand opening was delayed by only a few weeks). Along with the new

upgrades is the idea of one length turf from tee to green. The only existing rough

now is the slopes and surrounds of tee boxes and bunker collars. This speeds up

resort play and allows for much greater shot making. More importantly, the lack

of rough and firmer surfaces allowed the ground game to again be a factor on the

Ocean Course. When you consider the persistent winds that influence ball flight on

seaside layouts, bringing the ground contours into play creates better playability

and enjoyment for players of all ability levels (The most brilliant designs we've

featured in 2017 - Sand Valley and Streamsong Black are perfect examples of

this no rough philosophy). The newest edition of the Ocean Course garnered

unanimous superlatives from the media that was on hand for the flawless fall

day at Hammock Beach Resort.









The Ocean Course driving range and resort accommodations in the background.

The restoration of the course is just one of the many enhancements to Hammock

Beach Resort, recently renovating its grand lobby, 15,000 square feet of indoor

meeting space and its boutique hotel experience. The lodge also re-opened its

signature restaurant, The Atlantic Grille.




Brad Hauer - Director of Golf at Hammock Beach Resort who was an integral

part of the re-emergence of the Ocean Course gave his insight to what was

accomplished after Hurricane Matthew, "By replacing Bermuda grass with salt-

tolerant Platinum Paspalum, we now offer golfers one of the purest surfaces in

the game. In addition to improved playing conditions for golfers of all levels,

the views of the Atlantic Ocean are simply incredible."









The 508 yard par 5 second hole provides an opportunity to get home in two,

for those laying up, the left side is the best angle to avoid the majestic slash

pine (pictured above) that guards an approach from the right side.











The 164 yard eighth ticks all the boxes of an iconic coastline par 3. Scenic

ocean views, fresh seaside breezes, and a bold design that challenges you to

pull off the big shot. This is our pick for the best one-shotter on the Ocean











The view from the tee on the 468 yard par 4 ninth, easily the handicap 1 hole

on the Ocean Course as well as being one of the toughest holes anywhere in

Florida, but not in a typical sense. So Why is it so tough? Considering that

Nicklaus provides a super wide fairway and the prevailing wind usually is helping

off the right. Three factors, the first is obvious - length. Even 3 tees forward from

the tips it's still 402 yards (from our tee it was 452 yards). Second (which often

works in tandem with the first factor) - the wind tends to shift here and can

come from any direction at anytime. For instance, when we played the wind

was coming from the north (a crisp steady 15 mph straight in your face), so from

our box it played more like 480. Third - Nicklaus provides plenty of real estate

to bail left off the tee (which leaves a much tougher angle for the approach)

but the narrow elevated green is easily the toughest to hit in regulation on the

course. Only your two best knocks have a prayer on the ninth.










The reverse view of the ninth shows the new Paspalum green surrounds and

the elevated putting surface. Any approach shot that lands short or has the

incorrect shot shape will be repelled to a tight lie well below the green. The

steep turf wall that fronts the bunker snags shots that roll off the green, and

believe me when I say you'd prefer to be in the sand. The 4" tall Paspalum

rough grabs the ball like a catchers mitt - thick gnarly stuff. I'd like to see all

of greenside bunker collars also be cut to fairway height. Just sayin . . .











The routing on the Ocean Course remains essentially as Nicklaus presented

it at the opening in April of 2000, the 450 yard par 4 fifteenth plays to a severe

uphill green that overlooks the Atlantic. The two fairway bunkers (right center)

are a good line to start a slight draw tee shot.








This plaque that greets you as you enter the seaside "Bear Claw" commemorates

the Ocean Course's restoration.










The back right pin on the 17th was 165 yards, but with the breeze blowing into,

it played a good club and half longer. This view is a links postcard.











The Ocean Course's dune line which has been restored, is over a mile long and

perhaps is only matched in Florida by famed Seminole Golf Club's 14th tee

(some 230 miles south) in Juno Beach. Unlike exclusive Seminole, Hammock

Beach Resort is accessible, offering unparalleled views along the "First Coast".

The seventeenth green, eighteenth hole and clubhouse in the background.



With tees ranging from 4261 to 7201 yards, the Ocean Course will challenge

the best players, but also provides links fun for all golfers. Kudos to resort

owners Lupert-Adler and Salamander Resorts for making the bold decision

to make something that was special into something spectacular. Not merely

repairing the storm damage, but to give the Ocean Course the investment

and treatment it deserves as one of Florida's very finest golf designs in a

setting that's as good as it gets. A no-brainer vote for 2017 restoration of

the year.



To learn more about Hammock Beach Resort and the Ocean Course: