I wasn’t given a specific time for my afternoon round, but I didn’t have any trouble getting out right away on the Nicklaus course. It was all of about five minutes from when I walked off the green on the Palmer course to when I hit my tee shot to begin my next round! Amazingly, I had the whole course to myself and never saw another group in front of or behind me. The only play I saw was on the Palmer course! I took my time and again played in about 3 hours and 15 minutes. It really couldn’t have worked out any better.
Right away the Nicklaus course, which opened in 2006, hits you with a different feel. Starting on the 1st hole, and continuing throughout the round, there are waste areas with some domestic bushes in them that are in play. That style fits in nicely with the dunes holes on the front nine that run along the bay! Like the Palmer course, the front and back nines are on opposite sides of the clubhouse. The first few holes on the front head out towards the bay, the next couple play alongside it, and then the closing part of the front nine returns to the clubhouse. The back nine on the Nicklaus course gets closer to the bay than the Palmer course, but it still plays inland. In my opinion, the Nicklaus course has better views and a better routing. But, it seems Nicklaus got the better land.
The Nicklaus course is regarded as the tougher play. The numbers support that although it is a few yards shorter. Again, I played the blue tees which play 73.5/140/6789. There are some similarities between the courses with plenty of water and bunkers, but I actually found the Nicklaus course a bit easier. I didn’t have as much trouble figuring out where to miss it and the “bad” spots were easier to play to and from. I felt like my short game had a chance to be an important part of the score here.
The Nicklaus course is by no means easy but I found it to be the better course in regards to design, playability, and scenery. It had a Gulf Coast feel to me and I noticed that the yardages were mixed nicely for the 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s. The waste areas seemed to make the green grass “pop” and I loved hearing the water from the bay lapping up against the shore while teeing off on the 5th. I won’t go into detail about the maintenance and just say that the conditions were the same as the Palmer course. It was probably better because the fairways had fewer spots of winterkill.
If you have to pick just course here, I’d say go with the Nicklaus course. But, all things considered, both are worthy of their high rank in the state!
#1 (408 yard par 4):
The 1st hole on the Nicklaus course is fairly straightforward. Depending on the wind a decent drive should be able to carry the waste area on the left leaving a mid iron into the green. The green is surrounded by bunkers making the front and back right sections small targets.
#2 (428 yard par 4):
The 2nd is a tough par 4. The drive should be played in-between a waste area on the left and bunkers on the right. Bigger hitters might need to be careful of some water on the drive. From there it is a mid or long iron into a green that I think is very difficult to hit in regulation. If someone can draw the ball into the green then they will have a much better chance of putting for birdie! There is water in play left of the green and the right edge of it feeds off into a small chipping area. I wouldn’t have any problem missing the green short and/or right to let my short game try to save a par.
#3 (524 yard par 5):
The 3rd could be the most brilliant hole on the property. I am guessing that it normally plays downwind, as it did when I played. It playing downwind helped offset the uphill climb to the green and gave me some options. First thing first, make sure to keep it between the bunkers to find the fairway. After that I think the play is determined by the pin location. A pin on the left seems to make the traditional layup (to a favorite yardage) a good choice. A pin on the right however is more difficult because it is tucked back in the dunes on a very small section of green. Plus, the green slopes downhill so I didn’t think I could judge the distance very good from 100 yards. I decided to challenge some cross bunkers and left myself about 40 yards in a neck of fairway off to the right. I also could have tried to play just short or left of the green in two.
#4 (140 yard par 3):
The 4th was my favorite hole of the day. It has great views of the bay and the ships off in the distance! It was also fair and fun to play. It is a short par 3 that plays into another green surrounded by dunes. The view of the landing area is partially obstructed, but there is plenty of room to miss short and left. The green slopes from front to back so I would try to land it on the front third.
#5 (430 yard par 4):
The 5th is a long par 4 and it could be a scorecard disaster with a poor approach. The left side of the fairway leaves the best angle into the narrow green which is again surrounded by dunes. All these dunes can come into play if missing left, right, or long. If someone doesn’t have the perfect club for the second shot, then I’d recommend intentionally playing short of the green and trying to make par with the short game.
#6 (167 yard par 3):
Much like the last par 3, the view of the entire green is partially obstructed and the best places to miss are short and left. The flag in my picture is located on a ridge which separates the left and right sides. I wouldn’t mess with the right side (which is almost completely blind) unless you are feeling confident. This is the last hole right along the beach so make sure to enjoy it!
#7 (431 yard par 4):
The 7th is the longest par 4 on the front nine and water runs down the entire right side up to the green. I didn’t think the tee shot was too difficult because the fairway is pretty generous. The second shot is another one where missing the green, in the correct spot, is a great option. I didn’t even try to hit the green from ~200 yards. I was trying to play short and left of the green near a small bunker that guards the left side.
#8 (304 yard par 4):
The 8th is ranked as the hardest hole on the course, but I don’t really understand why. It is only ~300 yards so it is a layup club and short iron into the green. Obviously, don’t mess with the water to right and I’d be careful attacking a flag on the right side of the green. Depending on the wind, a drive that carries the left bunker can leave a better angle into the green. It should be a good chance for at least a par.
#9 (535 yard par 5):
The 9th played a lot tougher when I was there because it was into the wind. I chopped it around and still had a chance for a par so it isn’t too harsh. The green is straight ahead past past plenty of bunkers and a waste area to the right. The green has a swale in the middle and could be a popular place to putt from.
#10 (403 yard par 4):
The 10th, even though it is inland, fits in great with the beach holes because of a big waste bunker on the left. The fairway moves a little left around it before the approach plays into a green that angles from front left to back right. The green also slopes from back to front. I hit it into the left greenside bunker and tried to land my shot in the back fringe so it could roll right.
#11 (559 yard par 5):
The 11th is a long par 5 that requires two solidly struck shots just to leave a short iron for the third. Like so many of the water holes, make sure to avoid the right side at all costs. The layup should carry some fairway bunkers on the left and that should leave a chance to knock it close.
#12 (195 yard par 3):
The 12th is the longest par 3 on the course, but unless you short side it in one of the bunkers (like I did!) you can let your short game save a par. The green is large and there is plenty of room short of it which means even an average shot should carry the wetlands in front of the tee boxes. The large green makes lag putting important.
#13 (475 yard par 4):
The 13th is the longest par 4 on the course. It doglegs right over those pine trees, but the fairway is straight ahead over those bunkers. I couldn’t decide on a good line for my tee shot so I finally decided to aim in-between those bunkers and pine trees. That area is actually rough, but I think making it fairway would add some interest to the tee shot. The green is narrow, has a depression in the middle, and it is guarded by a waste area. Left is a lot better than right near the green.
#14 (334 yard par 4):
The 14th is a short par 4 with a sea of bunkers to make it challenging. Off the tee a bunker can pretty much come into play for multiple clubs, so make sure to take a look at the different distances to each. The approach plays into a smaller green with a false front. Hitting an accurate short iron is important here.
#15 (155 yard par 3):
The 15th is a shorter, bunkerless par 3. It should be easy then right? Of course, I’m joking because of all the water! It is all carry to the green and anything landing short or left should kick into the water. The green is two tiered and the pin was on a section of the back tier where putts seemed to break both ways. If you can draw the ball then that is the best play!
#16 (572 yard par 5):
The 16th is the longest hole on the course and, at 572 yards, it could be the longest hole at many courses. Sometimes I lose interest playing long par 5’s. It just seems like driver, long club and a mid iron without much thinking. That isn’t the case here as it a bit of a double dogleg. The tee shot moves left and from there the hole slides back to the right. I would play to the right of the left fairway bunkers but the bigger hitters could run through the fairway into a waste area. If someone doesn’t get it out to the right then there is a pine tree that will require a right to left layup. After a good drive it is possible to carry some cross bunkers and leave a good angle into the green.
#17 (331 yard par 4):
The 17th is a short par 4 that offers a chance for a good score. I hit my 210 club and ended up on the right side of the fairway as I was trying to avoid the waste area to the left. There are a couple bunkers down the right too. I was left with a short iron into a green that slopes from front to back and left to right. Any approach not hit with some spin has a good chance of running off the green into a chipping area. The chipping area didn’t look too bad to play from so I’d make sure to avoid the left side of the green.
#18 (398 yard par 4):
The closing hole is a tough one and I just had a short iron into the green. It moves right and a good line off the tee is over the fairway bunker in the center of my picture. Some slope will feed it right which should help. The water cuts in short of the green and guards it to the right. A cut lie, two greenside bunkers, and a wind from the right had me very uncomfortable playing my approach. Don’t mess with the right side as the ball can go sideways into the water once it lands.