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|Cimarrone Golf Club has water on 16 holes, much of it lateral. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Cimarrone Golf Club is one of those golf courses that manages to preserve its aesthetics while on the verge of being overwhelmed by the sheer number of houses crowded around its fairways.
Cimarrone is about 10 minutes from World Golf Village, roughly halfway between Jacksonville and St. Augustine off Interstate-95. This is prime real estate in St. Johns County, where the wealthy dwell and most every square inch of the golf course perimeter seems to be occupado.
Still, this is a very picturesque course. Why? How? Well, to start with, the architect, David Postlethwait, put together a well-designed course with balanced flourishes, a well-manicured layout with beautiful, though subtle, landscaping that will hold your interest from start to finish.
In other words, you may be having so much fun, you won't notice the development.
"It's a fun course," said Head Professional Mike Rich. "There's water on 16 holes but not to carry."
That's technically true but a trifle misleading. There is water, water everywhere, and though all of it doesn't lie directly in your path, there are more than a few carries. Still, none of the caries off the tee are too intimidating, though from the back tees they may be a little daunting for those who shouldn't be back there.
It's a blast to play if you're having a good day with your driver. Pretty much every hole demands you use your head before you swing the big stick. You have very few straightaway drives. You do have a lot of angles, corridors into sweet spots.
Where do I hit this one? If you pick your spots accurately, you can earn extra credit for hitting to certain areas on the fairways - say, that hill to the left that will kick your ball back to the center and give you 20 extra yards to boot.
"It's got some of the most interesting drives off the tee," said Stan Johnson of Macon, Ga., playing with his wife Beverly. "If you don't hit a good drive, you can get a high score."
True enough, though it is also possible to head north on your scorecard even with a resounding "thwack" off the tee. That's because Postlethwait got busy with his bulldozer, particularly around the green complexes.
The greens at Cimarrone drop off to deep swales and grass bunkers, some of them so deep you can't see the flagstick. The greens are also fairly small, with some good slope and undulation.
"Give me one flat putt today," Johnson said. "Just one."
Cimarrone means "The Wild One" in Spanish, which is the club's motto. Another connotation is "renegade," and historians believe this is where the word "Seminole" comes from.
The course is hardly in the wilds, but for green fees in the $60 range - less with coupons - this is an excellent play, better than some other, higher-priced courses at higher rates.
Having said all of the above, Cimaronne is still a very playable course, especially with the fine conditioning. The length isn't overwhelming; it's less than 6,900 yards from the championship tees.
If you can avoid the water off the tee and can hit lofted shots into the greens, you can score well here.
There are some nice risk/reward opportunities and an excellent variety of holes; you won't get bored here, even after repeat play.
The Ponte Vedra Inn and Club is an old-time, Jacksonville-area resort that has managed to hang on to its lofty prestige since its opening in the Roaring '20s, 1928.
The Washington Post named it one of the 20 most romantic resorts in North America, and it's hard to argue when you stay in one of the resort's 250 guest rooms or suites with the ocean waves crashing right outside your private patio, not to mention the four-poster beds and ceiling fans.
It's a 300-acre oceanfront resort that uses the ocean as a dramatic backdrop and its two golf courses as a playground.
Aside from the two golf courses, there is tennis, four heated swimming pools, bicycling, boating, fishing and an oceanfront fitness center.
For the shoppers, there are 10 boutiques and shops. For the eaters and drinkers, there are four restaurants and three lounges and 24-hour room service, my personal favorite.
For the women, there is a 30,000-square-foot spa, offering such exotic treatments as the Lomi Lomi massage.
For the business types, the resort has more than 17,000 square feet of meeting facilities, including a grand ballroom.
March 24, 2008
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.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
The Club at Chatham Hills is a private, Pete Dye design with a plum location just north of Indianapolis. Weaving over an idyllic landscape of beautiful topography, this new course is truly a bright spot in American golf.
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