Rees Jones didn't waste the canvas at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort's Burnt Pine golf course
DESTIN, Fla. -- There are four golf courses at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort. While all of them are pretty good, there are a couple that stand above the rest, and they were both designed by architects named Jones.
Robert Trent Jones Jr. did The Raven Course, which is open to the public and is many visitors' favorite play in the area. The other premium experience is Burnt Pine Golf Club, designed by brother Rees Jones. It's open to resort guests but not the general public. It also has a private membership and a separate clubhouse from the other courses.
Comparing the two courses is a natural, of course, if not for brotherly rivalry alone. But really, they couldn't be more different. The Raven, which once hosted a Champions Tour event, is a par 71 that plays nearly 7,000 yards. Burnt Pine is similar length (but a par 72), but that's where most of the similarities end because of the topography and the atmosphere.
While The Raven features numerous lakes and ponds, Burnt Pine takes advantage of Choctawhatchee Bay, where the back nine rolls along the wetlands. In truth, Rees may have had more to work with than his brother, and he didn't disappoint.
Burnt Pine also does far fewer rounds than the other three courses at the resort, so you're less likely to run into other players.
Sandestin's Burnt Pine Golf Club: Nature walk
Rees' creation has a gentle feel to it. It starts out with a serene-looking par 5 around water, and by the time you get to the back nine, you feel like you're communing with nature with plenty of birds, deer and other wildlife to keep you company. Both sides are good, but the back nine is especially scenic.
Opened in 1994, the course is arguably the best manicured of the four courses at the resort as well, though there certainly isn't much drop-off with the Raven. The biggest difference is that Burnt Pine is over-seeded in the winter time, one of the few on the Emerald Coast to do so. And it isn't just cosmetic. The rate of seed is similar to what you might see on an Arizona desert course, so Burnt Pine is an excellent choice during the winter time.
As for the holes, there are plenty of good ones. The fifth is a terrific risk-reward par 5 that runs along the right side of a large lake. The par-4 ninth also has water down the entire left side, including the green. The back nine features one great hole after another, but the most memorable may be the par-3 14th. It has one of the best views of the bay and from the back tee, plays around 200 yards, all carry over a marsh. Fortunately, the green is large, but you can't miss it, or you're heading to the drop area.
Burnt Pine Golf Club at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort: The verdict
Burnt Pine Golf Club has a high-end private club feel to it in every way, and it's arguably among the top two or three courses on the Emerald Coast. Conditioning, layout and scenery are all top notch. And with four sets of tees, anybody can enjoy it.
The club also has extensive practice facilities, including a great short-game area and practice putting green. For those who need a little help with their game, lessons from the staff of PGA Professionals are also available. And inside the clubhouse, you'll find an award-winning golf shop and terrific restaurant offering everything from sandwiches and salads to seafood and other entrees.
June 6, 2013