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|No. 7 at the Club at Hidden Creek has a water carry off the tee. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
Club at Hidden Creek is a Pensacola-area golf course between Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola, designed by Florida architect Ron Garl, with fast greens and a very playable layout.
NAVARRE, Fla. - The Club at Hidden Creek isn't exactly hidden. It's located inside the Holley by the Sea subdivision about halfway between two golfing hotspots, Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola, about 20 minutes from each.
Hidden Creek was designed by Ron Garl, a popular, well-known Florida golf course architect, who laid out 6,862 yards from the back tees. It's a very playable course, as evidenced by its fairway mounding and slope rating of 129. There are no forced carries, and most of the water is lateral.
The semi-private facility opened in 1988 and has hosted qualifying rounds for the U.S. Open, as well as earning a 4 1/2 star rating from Golf Digest. It's a fairly open layout, with scattered pines and plenty of room off the tee.
Garl added movement on the flat terrain by pushing up moguls, especially around the greens. Most are slightly elevated, making for some tricky up-and-downs.
One of the best things about the course is its greens, which are relatively flat but fast and true. The excellent greens, combined with the playability, attracts quite a few golfers.
"I like this course, I played it last week when they had a two-for-one special," said Dick Dolan of Quebec. "I don't really have a favorite course. I just go where they have specials."
The Club at Hidden Creek is playable but has a number of holes that will keep your interest. No. 3 has a series of moguls in the right-center fairway, and the green at the par-3 fourth drops off in front to a bunker.
No. 8 is a demanding par 5 with reachable water off the tee and a fairway that narrows considerably the closer you get to the green.
The facility has one of the better clubhouses in the area: A new building that replaced the old one destroyed by Hurricane Ivan. The building overlooks the ninth and 18th greens. It also has an excellent restaurant, the Tuscan Grille.
It's operated by the Meadowbrook Golf Group, and green fees are $60.
Portofino Island Resort & Spa looms above the waters surrounding Pensacola Beach, with far away, dazzling views of the Gulf of Mexico and Santa Rosa Sound.
It's a huge, $250 million resort spread out over 28 acres, bordering the Gulf Islands National Seashore nature preserve. The resort has 300 luxury accommodations, including two- and three-bedroom "sky homes." All have beautiful views, wrap-around verandas, floor-to-ceiling views of the Sound and Gulf, domed entryways, arched ceilings and whirlpool baths.
The resort has all sorts of amenities including my favorite - free movies - and each of the five towers has its own underground parking garage.
There is an eight-mile stretch of open beach, away from the crowded development at the other end of the island. There are also eight pools and spas, including a heated, Olympic-size pool overlooking the bay.
The resort has its own "outdoors adventure" company that offers kayaking, fishing, surfing, sailing dolphin excursions and banana boat rides.
March 4, 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.
There are many stay-and-play options in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C region, but none can match the combination of upscale amenities at a reasonable price, the private-course conditions, the diversity of courses and the Interstate convenience of Turf Valley in Ellicott City, Md.
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