A Florida Favorite
New Looks At Hammock Beach Golf Resort & Spa
Any bias aside, Watson is not wrong. And it’s nowadays looking even better, which can also be said about the resort itself two years after new ownership purchased the 600-plus acre property.
Located along the Atlantic Ocean in Palm Coast, an hour south of Jacksonville and 90 minutes northeast of Orlando, the resort sits on a barrier island. In addition to Watson’s course, which is set 10 minutes inland from the seafront, members and guests staying on-site can play the Ocean Course, designed by none other than Watson’s old friend and rival Jack Nicklaus.
As proud as Watson was of his work on the Conservatory Course, both he and KREIF, the new ownership group led by Dr. Kiran Patel, as well as KDG Capital which oversees the asset on his behalf, felt that the layout’s 187 bunkers needed redoing. So, Watson, his design firm partner Bob Gibbons, Troon Senior Vice President, Golf Course Development, Ron Despain, and the Hammock Beach team worked on a $1.2 million renovation plan. Ultimately, more than 40 bunkers were removed, a Capillary Concrete lining system was installed in all remaining greenside bunkers, and a reduction of 200,000 square feet of slopes was implemented throughout the course both to improve access on holes and reduce maintenance time.
“I think the course was looking good before, but it has a real classy look and feel to it now,” said Hauer of the project, which was started and finished last year. “We took some large bunkers and redesigned those with smaller bunkers within the same complex. Before there was more of an intimidating look because some of the mounding of the bunkers was so high up. That’s not the case any longer.”
The Ocean Course, a Nicklaus Signature Design opened in 2000, possesses six holes (and a driving range) overlooking the Atlantic. That group includes the sixth, eighth and ninth, plus the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th. “They’re all tremendous and each one is a very good golf hole,” said Hauer. None though are as foreboding as the 174-yard eighth, which usually plays into the wind and features an elevated green with a steep drop-off on the right side where a deep bunker awaits.
The course, which hosted a Champions Tour event in 2007 and 2008, and a PGA Tour event in 2008, has hosted the Big Ten Conference Men’s Match Play Championship for almost a decade. “We’ve not changed anything there after we put the course back together following Hurricane Matthew six years ago,” said Hauer. “But the bunkers will be getting the same Capillary Concrete lining used on the Conservatory Course within the next two years.”
One question not to ask Hauer, who has worked at Hammock Beach since 2005, is which of the two courses he prefers. “That’s like asking which child do you love the most!” he said. “From a shot-makers standpoint, I think Conservatory probably has a little bit of an edge, but both are just good fun tests of golf. This is not your typical 36-hole facility where every hole looks the same. You have different looks on both layouts.”
The main resort has 285 rooms in a rental program, ranging from one-bedroom suites to multi-bedroom units. A Fantasy Pool Complex has a Lazy River, pools for kids and adults, a poolside bar, and a hot tub. The Hammock Beach Spa, with 10 treatment rooms, is adjacent to the Hammock Beach Fitness Center. A Marina with slips for 200 boats and eight lit Har-Tru clay tennis courts are also available. Weddings and corporate events can be held at two ballrooms or outdoors on a 15,000-square-foot Grand Event Lawn overlooking the 18th hole of the Ocean Course.
Equally as fun are the recently elevated dining experiences at the resort. Three restaurants — Loggerheads Sports Pub, Stix Authentic Sushi, and Delfinos Italian Chophouse — have received a total of $2.5 million in renovations, an amount reflected both in the enhanced aesthetics and high quality of offerings. “Our Food & Beverage Director, Tony Porcellini, is outstanding,” said Hauer. “He and his team have done a fantastic job.”
Ownership isn’t done yet with changes off the course, either. In the near future, plans call for the existing Lodge at Hammock Beach, currently home to 20 boutique-style rooms and the Atlantic Grille, to be demolished and replaced by a 209-room hotel in two side-by-side buildings divided by an infinity pool.
“Dr. Patel and his group are very committed to making Hammock Beach one of the finest resorts not only on the East Coast, but in the entire country,” said Hauer. ▪