Eagle Harbor: take away the homes and you have a great course

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

ORANGE PARK, Fla. - Eagle Harbor Golf Club is one of those good Jacksonville-area golf courses that could be great, if not for all the houses that crowd the layout. That's the main complaint you get from golfers who play this course, even as they take care to praise the layout and conditioning.

Eagle Harbor Golf Club
There's water, water everywhere - or at least every hole - at Eagle Harbor.
Eagle Harbor Golf ClubA Clyde Johnston designNo. 8 Hole at Eagle Harbor
If you go

Of course, over development is a sore subject just about everywhere in Florida, so it may be unfair to single out one golf course. It's just that everything else about the course is so enjoyable that the one thing that isn't tends to stand out.

"We play other courses when they have tournaments and such here, but we always say they're not as nice as Eagle Harbor," said member Dick Will.

"I'd call it a Florida golf course - flat, a lot of water and homes along the way," said Assistant Professional Lee Dion. "Aesthetically, it's beautiful, fair and challenging, and we have a reputation for always being in good condition, 12 months a year."

Indeed, on a recent early-winter day the course was in full flower, even after some severe weather had passed through. Course staffers overseed wall to wall; the fairways were lush and inviting and, to be fair, the homes have more protection around them than at some other residential courses in the area.

There is certainly challenge here, especially from the back of the train, which is 6,840 yards long with a slope rating of 141. The tree-lined fairways are tight, and water awaits at every hole in some way, shape or form. The landscaping is well-done, with some nice pampas grass.

The greens have moderate slope and not much undulation, and there is some subtle mounding and a lot of palmettos. This is good course for women, juniors and beginners, with the five sets of tees. Nothing tricky, nothing unseen.

"Pretty much everything out here is going to be in front of you where you can see it," Will said.

Eagle Harbor is a Clyde Johnston design. Johnston, who operates out of Hilton Head, is a familiar name in Myrtle Beach, responsible for Heather Glen Golf Links, Ocean Harbour Golf Links and, with John Daly, Wicked Stick Golf Links, to name a few. On Florida's First Coast he is also represented by the well-regarded Jacksonville Golf & Country Club.

The Verdict

With green fees in the $50-$60 range, Eagle Harbor is one of the better deals in the Jacksonville area. Golf Digest thought enough of it to give it a 4-star rating twice. There are some holes that will definitely get your attention, especially from the back and even from the middle tees.

The front nine poses more of a battle than the back nine. No. 8 is a par-4 with water the length of the hole and a small creek to carry to reach the green. The next hole is also a barrel of fun, another mid-length par-4 with deep woods left and right off the tee and a bunker backed by water wrapped around the green.

On the back nine, No. 8 is tough, as is the closing hole, a 554-yard par-5 with water along most of the right side of the hole; the fairway narrows considerably and a series of high-lipped bunkers guard the green.

Stay and Play

The Hilton Garden Inn is a good, centrally located place in Jacksonville, geographically the largest city in the country. The Hilton is right off Butler Boulevard, which will whisk you to the beaches or downtown. It has a business center; free, in-room, high-speed Internet; a whirlpool and a fitness center. The rooms have microwaves and small refrigerators.

Dining Out

The Hilton's Great American Grill serves breakfast. Restaurants within walking distance include the Seven Bridges Brewery, Don Pablo's, Tony Roma's, Jacksonville Ale House, Jason's Deli, Copeland's and the Gallery Bistro.

Fast Fact

You know all about island greens, right? Eagle Harbor has an island putting green.

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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