Golf Club of Amelia Island well suited to the well heeled

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. - Everything about the Golf Club of Amelia Island screams "resort golf course," from the impeccable conditioning to the well-dressed and manicured golfers, from the relative ease of the course to the backdrop of the Ritz-Carlton, flags waving in the ocean breeze.

Amelia Island Golf Club
Golf Club of Amelia Island has immaculate conditioning.
Amelia Island Golf ClubAerial View of Ritz-Carlton
If you go

It is a beautiful course, very much in ritzy harmony with the well-heeled community of summer beach at the south end of this resort island. The fairways are a deep green, lush as lush can be. Little pockets of bright flowers are interspersed throughout the course, another resort amenity for guests to ogle. Fountains flow from the lakes and ponds.

But the star of the show is completely natural: ancient gnarled oak trees, some of them so old they must have provided shade to the Timucuan Indians, much earlier residents of this island to the north of Jacksonville and a little south of the Georgia border. The golf course also makes good use of the marshes that lie between the ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway.

The course was designed by Gene Littler and Mark McCumber, a Jacksonville resident who has carved out a reputation for player-friendly layouts. McCumber's well-conceived bunkering is in evidence here, as is his trademark playability. The greens are relatively small and flat - no tricky slopes or undulations.

"It's fair for a resort golfer and challenging to the low-handicapper," said Assistant Professional Steven Tuft. "It's pretty straightforward. I tell people to check the GPS for tips on how to play the holes."

There is a bit of meanness to give resort guests the feeling they've been tested. The 490-yard 15th, for example, has a two-marsh carry, one short and one long. The green is very elevated - you have to hit over yet another marsh to reach it - and falls off sharply in front, to a deep pot bunker right.

No. 2 is another highlight, a dogleg left that can be cut by hitting over the trees, but there is water to the left as well. At 572 yards, it is tough to reach in two as water comes into play the front of the green; probably best to lay up here unless you're very accurate.

Golf Club of Amelia Island: The verdict

The golf course is semi-private, open to members and guests at the Ritz-Carlton. It compares favorably to the other resort golf courses on Amelia Island, and is well worth the effort for the views alone.

It features more than it share of dogleg lefts, so you'll have to ease off your power fade.

"There aren't many holes where you need to hit a cut off the tee," Tuft said.

"I really like that course up there," said Tommy Behn, an Ohioan who winters in Florida. "They always keep it in good shape. It really is a nice-looking layout."

Stay And Play

In spread-out Jacksonville, location is the key in lodging; it can be difficult getting around to the courses on the First Coast. There are a couple of good places to stay near Interstate 95, which will take you north or south, and Butler Boulevard, which heads east to the beaches. The Best Western is at the intersection of I-95 and Butler, eight miles from downtown and about 15 miles from the beaches. The six-story motel has in-room, high-speed Internet access, free continental breakfast, pool, fitness center and sauna. It also has meeting space that can handle 150 of you business types.

The Hilton Garden Inn is another good, centrally located place. It offers free in-room Internet, a business center, whirlpool and a fitness center. The rooms have microwaves and small refrigerators. There are any number of other accommodations in the area.

Dining Out

The Hilton has the Great American Grill restaurant, which serves breakfast, and there are a bunch of restaurants within walking distance. One of them, the Seven Bridges Brewery, provides room service to the hotel (try the flame-grilled meat loaf). Also nearby: Don Pablo's, Tony Roma's, Jacksonville Ale House, Jason's Deli, Copeland's and the Gallery Bistro.

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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