Emerald Bay is one of those Destin golf courses that knows how to use Choctawatchee Bay

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

DESTIN, Fla. - Emerald Bay is one of those pretty golf courses situated on the north side of U.S. 98 as you cruise through sunny Destin, with the Gulf of Mexico to the south and Choctawatchee Bay to the north.

Emerald Bay in Destin
Emerald Bay's back nine has lovely views of Choctawatchee Bay.
Emerald Bay in DestinEmerald Bay in DestinEmerald Bay in Destin
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Emerald Bay Golf Club

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Destin is recognized as a top golf destination, and no where is it better represented than at beautiful Emerald Bay. Designed by Bob Cupp, Emerald Bay is an 18-hole championship course believed by many to be one of northwest Florida's very best.

18 Holes | Semi-Private golf course | Par: 72 | 7050 yards | Book online | ... details »
 

Not all of these golf courses use the bay to the fullest scenic advantage; Emerald Bay does, with the closing holes opening up to both the views and breezes that come sweeping off the bay.

It's a semiprivate course designed by Bob Cupp, a well-respected architect who designs golf courses in Atlanta. Cupp is known for his work at Hawks Ridge in Ball Ground, Georgia, a course almost always mentioned when talking about the best golf courses in the Peach State. He also did Greystone, a golf course in Alabama and Palmetto Hall, a golf course in Hilton Head.

The golf course winds through the gated Emerald Bay development, a collection of golf course homes, condos and townhouses, and Cupp had to squeeze in the course around the development.

There are those who have praised him for the results; Golf Digest ranked Emerald Bay one of the top new courses in the country when it opened in 1992, and Golf Week voted it one of the top-50 real estate development courses in the Southeast.

Emerald Bay is one of those courses that grows on you as you make your way around the 6,802 yards from the back tees. The routing may seem a bit schizophrenic in that some holes feel positively hemmed in by the housing, while on other holes you may as well be out on some lonesome bayou.

The front nine does have some good holes. I liked the eminently drivable fourth, a par-4 with a long fingernail-shaped bunker short of the shallow, undulating green, and the long par-4 sixth's sharp dogleg around water. It's a great risk-reward option off the tee.

Still, the course seems to blossom on the back, starting with No. 10, the longest par-4 on the course, where an extremely accurate approach shot is required, and No. 11, which features an interesting set of fairway moguls short of the two-tiered green.

There is a 611-yard par-5 at No. 13. The fairway steps up 100 yards short of the green, and three fairway bunkers stretch across the fairway. As if that weren't enough, you're coming into a small green with a narrow opening, squeezed by bunkers on both sides.

No. 14 is a wild-looking imposing hole with a sizable marsh carry off the tee and a hidden lake, while the last few holes are the most scenic on the course.

Emerald Bay: The verdict

Emerald Bay is one of the better courses in Destin-Fort Walton Beach golf, a step below Regatta Bay and Kelly Plantation. The green fees, in the $100 range, reflect that.

In late April, the greens were in rough shape, but officials said they had just been verti-cut and that they planned to aerate them the following week. The course had also just finished hosting a tournament.

The course has a Medicus Golf School - home of the Medicus Dual Hinge trainer - on the premises.

Destin hotels

The Water's Edge condos on Okaloosa Island put you in a great spot for the golf courses of Destin as well as Fort Walton Beach.

And - I never thought I'd be saying this - one of the best features about the condos is the parking garage. It goes up four levels, and you can practically park in front of your Gulf-front condo. No more dragging your baggage up the elevator.

Of course, the Gulf view is pretty fine, too, seeing that the building is right on the sand. The condos are well-furnished, and the complex has two large swimming pools so close to the Gulf you can hear the waves lapping on shore.

It's also close to a variety of restaurants and nongolf options.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.


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