St. Johns Golf Club near St. Augustine: Honest price for an honest day's play
There are some very well-known and expensive golf courses around Ponte Vedra Beach and St. Augustine. If you're looking for green fees for a more modest budget, Check out St. Johns Golf Club.
ELKTON, Fla. - St. Johns County in Florida sets a pretty high bar when it comes to Cadillacs and golf courses. You have the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass, of course, Marsh Landing Country Club, the ritzy Ponte Vedra Inn and Club and, a little further south down I-95, the superb King and Bear course and Slammer and Squire course at World Golf Village.
Those are all pretty high-end facilities. That's all well and good; the median household income in the county is well above the state average - take a drive down Ponte Vedra Boulevard sometime and gawk at the soaring beach houses - so it isn't as if St. Johns County residents can't afford the green fees.
But, where do the working stiffs play?
That's where the St. Johns Golf Club comes into play.
"That's where I go to play when I come down here because I ain't no millionaire," said Tom "Bump" Walker, visiting from Georgia. "Let the Ponte Vedra swells have those other places."
As it turns out, the working men and women of the area have a pretty good course that lets them play and not mortgage their futures.
The municipal course, designed by Robert Walker, is a 27-hole facility in Elkton, known to locals as potato farm country, a few minutes drive out of downtown St. Augustine.
You won't find the sort of finely-tuned conditioning here, or scampering ball boys aggressively washing down your clubs, like you will at some of the other upscale courses, but you will find a good layout that throws a lot of variety at you, along with a substantial amount of water.
The golf course plays through a middle-class development, Cypress Lakes, but there is enough nature around to prompt officials to plant alligator and snake warning signs. But it isn't as if the place is overrun with critters; one couple from Iceland, of all places, said they had been looking in vain for an alligator for three weeks.
St. Johns Golf Club: The verdict
St. Johns Golf Club is a good value for the price. It has mounded fairways, to keep you away from the reptiles, and greens and the conditioning is pretty good. In fact, the day I played, only one green could be said to be in rough shape; all of the others were in very good condition, if a little slow.
The course has a good set of par-3s and some fine risk/reward options, especially No. 6 on the East nine. It's a 335-yard par-4 that flat out dares you to carry the lake that stretches almost all the way to the green. If you dare, there's also a little pot bunker that fronts the elevated green.
No. 9 on St. Johns Golf Club's North course is a par-5 in which a long water carry must be attempted if you want to reach in two.
It's easy for low handicappers to make this course hard: Play the North-East 18 from the gold tees, with its 140 slope rating if you want a serious challenge.
Green fees range from $17 to $46 for county residents, and only slightly more for Florida residents and out of towners.
St. Johns Golf Club is a good walking course, which can't always be said about the more upscale places. The course also has good practice facilities, a driving range, two-tiered chipping green and separate practice putting green.
St. Augustine hotels
St. Augustine is a great place to play both the Ponte Vedra golf courses - just a short drive away down scenic A1A - as well as the St. Johns County courses at the World Golf Village. And if you're going to stay in America's oldest city, why not stay in a bed and breakfast in one of the city's old houses?
Casa de Solana (www.casadesolana.com), dating back to circa, has an air of Spanish and English mystery and charm, from the Minorcan Suite with fireplace to the Segui Room. The inn has a landscaped, walled courtyard on brick-paved Aviles Street. Each of the 10 rooms and suites are spacious and authentically part of St. Augustine's Minorcan history. A distinctive landmark that prides itself on warm hospitality, elegance and homemade Southern breakfasts, it's one of the oldest residences in St. Augustine with contemporary amenities.
The St. Francis Inn (www.stfrancisinn.com) dates back to the 1700s, an attractive pairing of old world charm and modern. Built by Senor Gaspar Garcia, the house is made of native coquina shells with a private courtyard and pool. It's located in the shady historic district, with its narrow, brick streets and still within easy walking distance of shopping, dining and the pleasures of St. Augustine.
August 14, 2008