It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone that I started out 2015 on the course! My parents live in The Villages and I’ve visited them a couple times already without playing many nearby courses. I just think that Florida has so many options to choose from that it leaves even a course nut (like me!) a bit lost when picking courses to play. Orlando is an hour away from The Villages and there are plenty of courses out towards Tampa so the Ocala area is completely new to me. As you will read in this post and the next couple, I’ve found some nice courses in this part of the state.
My dad doesn’t play much golf, but he actually sent me a link to Juliette Falls when they first moved to The Villages. Juliette Falls opened in 2007 and immediately received some fanfare as it was ranked as one of the best new courses in 2008. The course seems to be well known locally and it can get ranked as one of the better public courses in Florida. This meant, at least on paper, that I picked a good one to start out my year!
Juliette Falls is in Dunnellon which is about 20 minutes off of I-75. Dunnellon is out in the country about halfway between Ocala and the Gulf Coast. There are signs of some development, but for the most part it is a rural area. The course is located in a community that pops up out of nowhere off a two lane highway. The crazy thing is that much of the community itself is undeveloped. I think that the community’s remote location and the recession a few years ago hurt its development. There are plenty of empty lots and the clubhouse is actually a fancy home at the end of a court! The clubhouse is nicely done, but in all my golfing days I don’t recall seeing a single family residence converted into a clubhouse. If you ask me, it is a pretty genius idea to free up funds for other things.
I used the nice practice facility to warm up and darted off the 1st tee a few minutes before my 11:15am time. The group in front was about an hour ahead and the course started to fill up behind me. Therefore, I enjoyed a leisurely pace of 3 hours golfing as a single. The course didn’t have any trouble with my dad riding along and charged us just the cart fee of $25. My green fee of $44 through Golfnow wasn’t much more and I’d highly recommend playing the course for that price!
Even though Juliette Falls is a newer course, it doesn’t have the stretched out feel that many newer courses have. It isn’t one of those places where after every hole you drive across a street or around two or three homes to get to the next tee. In fact, the front nine even seems a little squished together! The front features some perimeter holes, but just about every hole runs parallel to another one. Tees are close to the greens and it is the type of nine that would be easy to walk after a day at work. Most holes on the front are separated by dunes, waste areas, and trees so the other fairways shouldn’t come into play. However, it did seem that the other groups on the front were noticeable because of the routing. The back nine is more spread out and features some secluded holes as it works its way across a couple roads. The back is more typical of a community course but the homes were only noticeable on a couple holes so they weren’t a distraction.
I played the blue tees which play 6729/72.6/139 and I enjoyed the course from tee to green. There is a nice mix of doglegs and holes of various distances so I was able to hit different clubs off the tee. Bunkers and waste areas guarded fairways which led to an open feel off the tee, but also placed an emphasis on picking lines and shaping shots. Water hazards featuring waterfalls were introduced as the course went along which added to the difficulty and beauty. Except for the water hazards I wasn’t too worried about losing a ball after an average shot which was nice. Besides picking lines off the tee, the biggest challenge that I faced was the temptation to try to work the ball against the slopes in the fairway. I had a couple shots where I tried to hit a draw from a fade lie and a fade from a draw lie. I didn’t execute those very well so next time playing here I’d try to hit the shot that the slope encourages.
The slopes from the fairways continue up onto and around the greens. The greens are larger and playing here a couple times is going to help because someone needs to be able to use the slopes to feed the ball into certain spots on the greens. I’m undecided if I like the creativity that the greens offer or if they might be a bit unfair because it seems some luck is involved to get a couple approaches close. Being in control of your short game is going to help because chips need to be hit the correct height and with the right spin to release over the ridges in the greens. I think I’d have to play the course a couple more times to give a verdict on the green complexes.
The course played firm and fast which can be fun if a course is designed properly. That was the case and there was some room to run a low shot onto many of the greens or try to hit a higher, softer landing one. The fairways were cut tight which meant that I had some options when chipping around the greens. I could play a wedge, a bump and run, or a use the putter. I had a nice lie for my full shots in the fairways and there were just a few divots to worry about. The smooth greens rolled quickly so I couldn’t get too aggressive. Overall, the maintenance was great for the price and the only concern were some sanded patches around the edges of the greens.
I think Juliette Falls is definitely more interesting than the average course in Florida! I was impressed that it had multiple signature holes and plenty of landscaping. Its location is decent too as it isn’t far from the interstate so it would be a good place to stop on a golf trip to or from Tampa or Orlando. It isn’t very far from the courses at World Woods and I think it would make for another solid option if playing there.
#1 (344 yard par 4):
The 1st is one of the shorter par 4’s on the course and a somewhat relaxing way to begin the round. The tee shot should favor the right side of the fairway for a kick towards the center. I hit a hybrid off the tee and my ball ended up in a section of fairway that was shaped like bowl so it isn’t the hardest fairway to hit. The approach was a short iron into an elevated, semi-blind green.
#2 (507 yard par 5):
The 2nd is a potentially reachable par 5 if someone can carry the fairway bunker on the right. I did just that and had to try to hit a fade from a draw lie to get it near the green in two. There is a waste bunker that starts up down the right side which can catch wayward layups and some shots up near the green. If someone is going to miss the green I’d suggest missing it short which will leave a chip to a green with a ridge in the middle of it. Make sure not to go right or long of the green because it slopes off those sides.
#3 (220 yard par 3):
The 3rd is a long par 3 where someone can get creative and end up on the green. There is some slope left of the green and an opening to run the ball onto it. I tried to hit it low and left in hopes of running it onto the green and came up just short. There is a ridge in the middle of the green which makes it difficult to get the distance right on a full shot or a chip to a back pin. I tried to land my chip into an uphill slope and stop it just over the ridge to let it fall down the slope.
#4 (425 yard par 4):
The 4th hole requires a decision about how many bunkers, if any, that someone is going to carry off the tee. The hole moves to the left which is going to tempt someone to cut off as much as possible. I played out at that lone pine tree (over the bunker straight ahead) and that was the perfect line for my game. There is a waste area short of the green but there is a few yards of fairway to chip from which is nice.
#5 (397 yard par 4):
The 5th hole plays in the opposite direction of the 4th so it moves back to the right. The fairway is large, but most of the landing area isn’t visible from the tee which had me worried. After hitting the tee shot I’d suggest favoring the right side of the fairway for the best view of the green and because the fairway slopes to the left. I ended up about a yard left of the fairway after I pulled my tee shot and had a blind shot into the narrow green. If the pin is over on the right side then someone can use the green’s left to right slope to get an approach close to the hole.
#6 (530 yard par 5):
I think that the 6th is a pretty good par 5. I think it is a three shot hole (except for the longest hitters) but there is still some pressure to hit good shots. The tee shot plays out over a rise in the fairway to a blind landing area between a tree on the right and a waste area on the left. The waste area actually can come into play on the layup as it zigzags its way up the left side of the hole and pinches the fairway for the layup. Therefore, I couldn’t just casually swing away at the layup and needed to play to a certain distance. The green was blind for my third and its overall slope is from right to left.
#7 (191 yard par 3):
The 7th is probably one of the signature holes on the course! It is a pretty par 3 with a waterfall, but I found it terrifying to play. The water wraps around short, right, and behind the green. I was tried to hit a big cut to the left edge of the green but missed it left. I had no trouble finding my ball but was left with a chip from a tight lie to a green that sloped away from me towards the water. I’m pretty good around the greens but I was concerned about chipping it in the water. I decided to play a bump and run into the rough and was happy to get out of here with a bogey.
#8 (424 yard par 4):
The tee shot, and the hole in general, is pretty similar to the 4th. Someone can flirt with the fairway bunker on the left to leave a shorter approach into the green or take a more conservative line out to the right. Make sure not to miss it right of the green because there is a deep hole with some natural vegetation that could result in a lost ball.
#9 (320 yard par 4):
The 9th is the shortest par 4 on the course and one where the bigger hitters might be able to knock a drive up near the green. I hit a layup club off the tee and had a wedge into the green. The main concern is going to be avoiding the fairway bunker on the left side of the fairway. Someone should try to end up short, right, or long of it. That will leave a short iron into a green guarded by water short and left.
#10 (368 yard par 4):
The back nine starts out with a mid-length par 4. The fairway looks narrower than it really is and I think that’s because it plays at an angle from the tee. I hit a driver to carry the water, but I like par 4’s of this distance to offer a few more options off the tee. If I hit a driver, I like to bring potential trouble into play, not take it away. My approach played about a club uphill and I couldn’t see the green’s surface from the fairway. There is a section of green out to the right which I think would be intimidating to play to.
#11 (502 yard par 5):
The 11th is one of the easiest holes on the course so make sure to take advantage of it! If someone can carry the fairway bunker on the right (maybe 220 or 230 yards from these tees) then the shot should pick up a few extra yards of roll and feed to the left. That would be a good spot to go for the green in two. It would be a blind shot, but there isn’t much trouble around the green. There are just a few bunkers, and a small false front on the green. If laying it up I’d favor the left side to avoid a bunker to the right.
#12 (408 yard par 4):
The 12th is one of my favorite par 4’s on the course. Its design isn’t anything flashy as it plays uphill and slides to the right. However, it seems to reward good shots and it is separated from homes and the other holes on the course. The fairway gets narrower the farther that someone hits it, but there is still some room to track down an offline tee shot. I’d favor the left side of the fairway in hopes for a kick to the right. The green angles from front left to back right and slopes from back to front so it should be receptive to a fade.
#13 (168 yard par 3):
The 13th could be considered the signature hole at Juliette Falls. The concept for this par 3 is similar to the 7th, only it is shorter and the water is to the left. The only safe spot to play from is right because the water wraps around the back of the green near the waterfall. Once on the green, it isn’t an easy par. I hit it about 30 feet short and right of the back flag and had a putt that broke close to 5 feet.
#14 (574 yard par 5):
The 14th is the #4 handicap and that’s because it is a long par 5. The fairway is elevated and falls off on each side into waste areas with trees growing in them. I think that looks neat, but I didn’t have to play around them! The layup should favor the left side of the fairway or someone might have to go around or over the group of trees in my second picture.
#15 (338 yard par 4):
This is the shortest par 4 on the back nine but it plays longer because it is uphill. A draw is the best shot to find the fairway because of the angle and the waste area to the left. I think the perfect club off the tee is one that keeps the ball short of the right fairway bunker. The green has a back tier and slopes from back to front so someone might have to be careful with the spin on the approach.
#16 (194 yard par 3):
The 16th is similar to the 3rd, only it is a bit shorter. There is some slope to the left of the green which can be used to feed the ball onto it. The green has some humps and bumps so getting it pin high might need a bit of luck.
#17 (375 yard par 4):
The 17th is a mid-length par 4 that has a split fairway. A tee shot to the right needs to be carried farther, but it leaves a better angle into the green. If someone can get it over the tongue of the waste area that divides the fairway then it is turns into a pretty wide fairway! On the green, the pin was located just over a ridge on a little perch. I had a wedge into the green, but I felt like I had to try to create a shot to get it close. This green complex is too severe for my liking.
#18 (444 yard par 4):
The closing hole at Juliette Falls is a long par 4. It plays downhill and I got a bit of run off the tee so I only had a mid iron into the green. I started my tee shot out towards that tree just left of the fairway and it got a nice bounce to the right. If someone hits it too far then the fairway narrows so the long ball hitters will need to keep that in mind. The slope in the fairway encourages a fade into the green which is guarded by water long and right.