Well it seems December passed by very quickly and we are already a week into 2014. I was on the road to Florida to close out 2013 where I spent some time catching up with friends and family. I have made the drive from Charlottesville to Central Florida twice before and it works out to about 12 or 13 hours depending on how many stops I make. On previous trips I have broken up the drive headed south by stopping to golf and I ended up doing the same on this trip. After a thankfully uneventful drive on New Years Eve I stopped for a few hours of sleep at a cheap hotel in Hardeeville, SC. I got in about 1am and left at 6am for an early morning tee time at King and Prince Golf Course on the Georgia coast. Previously I had stopped at Crosswinds and Sanctuary Cove which both turned out to be good values and were in great shape. The prize course that I’ve wanted to play for a while now has been The Club at Savannah Harbor but I didn’t want to wait until the last minute to book the time. Savannah Harbor was on Golfnow for $75 but then dropped to $59 the day after I booked my round at King and Prince. I like to save some money when I can and didn’t want to lose out on a good deal at King and Prince so I jumped on the deal that I found. The course normally goes for $115 and there were some times after 8am on Golfnow that were going for that price. I found one of their “hot deals” for $25 and only ended up paying $15 with the coupon that I had.
King and Prince wasn’t high on my list of courses to play in the area mainly because it is about 30 minutes off of I-95 and it carries a high price. The course is located at the north end of St Simons Island and is near Sea Island, GA where some tour pros make their residence. I could see traffic in the summer making travel to and from the course difficult, but since I went in the off season and early in the morning, I didn’t have any delays getting there. In fact, the last third of the drive from I-95 runs through some undeveloped land so there weren’t many folks to bother me there. I got the course right around my starting time and there were just a few cars in the parking lot. I was given the option to hit a few balls and take my time to get going so I went off about 8:15am.
The course plays through a housing community for most of the holes with the exception of the signature four holes on the back nine. Even with trees separating the homes from the course, they were still too close for my liking. There is some out of bounds that comes into play with an errant shot and some greens kick the ball towards the homes so they do come into play. If the homes weren’t there the setting would be beautiful with the mature, moss covered oak trees that dominate the area. I played the Old Ironside tees which play 71.7/140/6462. The course maxes out at these tees so it is a shorter course by the standards of modern golf. The best comparison I can think of for the course is Mountain Lake in Central Florida which I played years ago. I make that comparison because I remember Mountain Lake as a course that rewards the ability to shape shots and it had similar scenery. Like most courses in the area, King and Prince is flat but many of the holes stand out because of the beautiful bunkering and mounding. The course has bunkers in all the right places to generate a bit of strategy off the tee and to catch the ball before it gets into some trouble. Plus, I had a couple shots end up in the fairway but behind a bunker which partly blocked the view of the green. This stressed the importance of putting the ball on the correct side of the fairway and therefore knowing which way the slope in the fairway was going to feed the ball after it landed. I would say that the course is generous off the tee as it allowed me to get away with some poor swings, but it had smaller than average greens. The approaches into the greens needed to be accurate for a chance at a birdie or even a par. I struggled on multiple occasions to get my chip inside 10 feet after missing a green.
The course starts out with a stretch of holes that allow the opportunity for someone to get off to a hot start. The first five holes are not overly tight off the tee and, because two are par 5’s, allow for some short iron approaches. The 1st is a 363 yard par 4 that features a small green and a great chance for birdie to begin the round with a accurate iron. The 4th is a 561 yard par 5 that has a nice view of the marsh and gives a taste of what is to come on some from some of the holes on the back nine. The 5th is a 503 yard par 5 that could be reachable depending on the conditions, but it had a challenging green. I would consider the 6th through the 11th the next “group” of similar holes and many of them are mid length par 4’s that dogleg one way or the other. Some of these holes are made tougher with elevated greens. Elevated greens aren’t my favorite design feature as an approach tends to kick into more trouble and I struggle to visualize the trajectory and landing spot when chipping. The 9th is a 387 yard par 4 that moves left around a lake. The tee shot is played away from the green to find land before the approach is played over the edge of the water hazard so it struck me as an odd hole. The 11th is another big dogleg and it helps to hit it left to right or someone is forced to thread the needle along the tree line. The 12th through the 15th are the signature holes as they play on a strip of land that is out in the marsh. The 12th is a tricky little par 3 (120 yards) over a hazard to a green surrounded by trouble. I like a short a par 3 and don’t mind some trouble around the green on such a short hole. The 14th, a 454 yard par 5, is the weakest hole on the course in my opinion. It is a bit of a double dogleg that needs a tee shot over the edge of the marsh on the left but the line cannot be too aggressive or the water through the fairway comes into play. When I got up to my tee shot I felt that I was almost forced to go for the green in two because the layup area was so tiny. The green has water short and right and the marsh long and left so there aren’t many different ways to play it. It felt like the designer ran out of space which I think is true. After the 15th the cart path runs back by play on the 11th, 12th, and 13th holes so it could result in some delays during peak times. The 18th is a 504 yard par 5 and allows for a chance to end the day on a positive note with a good score.
The course was in very good shape except for a couple spots in the fairways. It looks like the course has had some issues with wild boars tearing up parts of the fairways and some fairways had standing water. Other than that, the maintenance is something that would be found at a highly ranked course. The greens were blemish free and cut very short which resulted in putts that rolled smooth and fast. I found the greens tough to read and couldn’t see much break with my eyes. I actually had to walk around the green to feel the break in my feet to figure out the severity of the break.
I’m not going to go on record and say that the design is my favorite because of a few odd holes and penal green complexes but I would say that the course is well worth $50 or $60. I can enjoy a layout that has everything I like or I can enjoy a great value so I don’t need both to have a good day. I found the course for an incredible price and therefore I don’t have any hesitation recommending that someone play it. After playing here, Coastal Georgia is quickly becoming one of my favorite golf destinations because of the great conditions and low prices.