Windsor Parke Golf Club: Easy on the eyes and scorecard
"It's a typical Arthur Hills golf course," said Assistant Professional Chris Cazalas. "It's not very long, but it certainly places a premium on accuracy."
Even if you miss, Hills will take care of you in many instances. Windsor Parke has a lot of water, but most of it is to the left, off the tee, which bodes well for your average slice-prone mid- to high-handicapper. If you overcompensate, those mounds on the other side of the fairways - another Hills trait - will help keep you out of trouble.
That isn't to say Windsor Parke is a carefree stroll down easy street. It's substantially more difficult than its sister course, Champions Club at Julington Creek. At a benign 6,765 yards from the tips, Windsor Parke has a slope rating of 138. You'll be maneuvering around water, negotiating slithering fairways with moderate elevation and coming into some tricky greens.
"The greens are small and well-guarded with water, trees, bunkers and other hazards," Cazalas said. "You miss the greens on some of these holes and it's a tough up-and-down."
The course has other Hills traits. It's imaginatively laid out and requires a good variety of shots to get around. Combine that with excellent conditioning and you have a golf course well worth playing, one that has won its share of accolades: Zagat called it "Jacksonville's best public play," and Golf News ranked it in the top 100 Florida courses, putting it in the top 10 percent in a state awash in quality courses.
"I'd say overall, it's pretty good," said Bill O'Malley of New Jersey. "I've spent a whole lot more money down here and played worse courses. It ain't no Seminole, but for some of the resort and private courses I've played, its right up there. The price is more than right."
With green fees of $30-$40, this is one of the better bargains in Jacksonville. Being a residential course (in the well-to-do neighborhood of Windsor Parke - it even sounds ritzy), it has more than its share of homes around it, but not as many as some. The course advertises its elevation changes, but they're nothing like you will find further north and elsewhere in the state's more hilly areas.
There are some very challenging holes, like the 544-yard eighth, a par-5. You're actually hitting over the right side of the lake. The fairway narrows as you get closer to the hole, and the water intrudes in the fairway on the left, reaching almost all the way to the green. It's an impressive hole, even with the three-story condo building looming over it.
This is also a good course for neophytes, certified as beginner-friendly by the National Golf Course Owners Association.
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.
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.
Windsor Parke has hosted qualifying events for the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, U.S. Publinks and the U.S. Senior Amateur.
January 20, 2006