Eagle Marsh Golf Club in Jensen Beach, Florida combines the allure of nature with a demanding Treasure Coast layout
JENSEN BEACH, Fla. -- The front of the scorecard states that Eagle Marsh Golf Club is "The Most Challenging Course on the Treasure Coast." From the tips, the par-72, 6,918-yard layout sports a course rating of 74.1 and a slope of 147, so those numbers certainly reflect the course's "challenge."
"We take that assertion very seriously," Head Professional Frank Dobbs said. "From the back tees, I believe we are the most difficult course from Vero Beach to Palm Beach, and from any of the other four sets of tees, Eagle Marsh is a real test, too."
While that phrase may be somewhat hyperbolic, much of the fun in playing Eagle Marsh is planning the strategy that will keep the ball in play and avoid all the trouble. The key to playing this course is not the need for length but the need for hitting the ball straight, because wetlands, lagoons, expansive sand traps and/or OB line every fairway.
No question that Eagle Marsh Golf Club is a tough track from tee to green and requires accuracy off the tee and from the fairway.
Once you get to the green, however, the Tifdwarf Bermudagrass sanction some stroke saving. The greens are relatively large and very receptive, have gentle undulations for the most part and roll around 10 on the Stimpmeter. They are quick and true and reward a deft touch.
Eagle Marsh: Tommy Fazio Signature Course
Architect Tommy Fazio created this challenge in 1997, and the course opened to rave reviews. During the construction process, Fazio purposefully planned the holes to safeguard both the natural beauty of the environment and the habitat of its wildlife.
"Every hole is by itself," Dobbs said. "Not one hole is side by side with any other. It's like you have the whole golf course to yourself because you can only see the hole you're playing."
The name Eagle Marsh is most appropriate. While the solitary bald eagle will occasionally soar above the course, the omnipresent marsh setting will frequently ensnare any misdirected golf ball. Part of the appeal of Eagle Marsh is the adventure of playing through the wetlands and viewing the extensive Florida flora and fauna.
The golf course has a private club feel to it from the moment you arrive at the bag drop. Dobbs and his staff are service oriented, and his pro shop is well stocked.
A large driving range and putting green provide the ideal warm-up area. Once the starter points you to the first tee, the "challenge" is on.
The first hole is a pleasant par 5 that alerts you to the upcoming journey. Your drive here prepares you for the tunnel vision approach that will be necessary on most tee shots. Should you miss the generous fairway, the impenetrable marsh/hazards await left and right. Your second shot over wetlands in the middle of the fairway also gives fair warning of what to expect. Finally, the green complex is well guarded by several sand traps.
I was enticed by three other holes. The fifth is a short, dogleg-left par 4. A lay-up shot off the tee leaves no more than 150 yards into the elevated, well bunkered green, or you can drive the corner sand traps and have a flip wedge left. The dogleg-right 11th is a sometimes reachable-in-two par-5, but H2O left off the tee and marsh right present the obstacles. Again, the green has gaping traps all around it.
The 17th is a long par 3 that is all carry over the wetlands to a green that has large sand traps before it.
Head pro's daily double
Dobbs' two favorite holes are the par-3 13th and the dual-green, par-4 18th. Thirteen is the longest par 3 on the golf course and almost totally over water. Depending on the wind, the choice of clubs can be low irons, hybrids or even the driver. The bail-out area is as tough to hit as the green.
The 18th is the signature hole. Those playing the more forward tees usually aim for the green straight ahead, about 330 yards away. For those who want the ultimate "challenge," the hole becomes a sharp dogleg right at around 440 yards. The second shot is nearly a 200-yard carry over the marsh to an elevated green. It is, as Dobbs said, "An incredible finishing hole."
After the round, refreshment and restoratives can be found in the Eagles Nest Restaurant. You'll undoubtedly need both after playing The Most Challenging Course on the Treasure Coast.