Golf in the Florida Panhandle typically conjures up images of 36-hole-a-day resort properties with a strong emphasis on quantity and little attention to quality. The St. JOE-owned WaterColor Inn and & Resort and its exclusive “golf collection” are bucking this reputation by providing exclusive entry to two of the best private golf courses in the state.
Guests of the 60-room boutique inn situated between Panama City Beach and Destin on the Gulf of Mexico, and the luxury homes in WaterColor’s rental pool, have access to tee times at Camp Creek and Shark’s Tooth Golf Clubs.
Camp Creek, a Tom Fazio design that opened in 2001, is just 10 minutes from the WaterColor Inn. The layout is vintage private course Fazio, with massive, undulating green complexes, ornate bunkering and incredible vistas from the tee boxes.
Featuring a unique “dunescape” appearance, the course sports eye candy galore ranging from windswept dunes and native grasses to tranquil wetlands and towering green complexes that provide complete views of landing areas and hazards.
A frequent host of USGA qualifier events, and with a slope topping 150 from the tips, Camp Creek also doubles as one of the most demanding tests of golf in the Southeastern U.S.
The hole most golfers are talking about post-round is the par-4, 352-yard 13th. This two-shotter features a daunting tee shot to a sliver of landing area and a knee-knocking approach to a “wedding cake” green built some 30 feet above the playing surface.
Shark’s Tooth, purchased by St. JOE in the summer of 07, is the yin to Camp Creek’s yang. Whereas Camp Creek is built above the natural grade of the land, Shark’s Tooth blends seamlessly into its setting along bucolic Lake Powell.
Tee boxes and green complexes are raised ever so slightly over fairway elevations, creating a true minimalist golf experience in keeping with the traditions of the game.
A handful of holes play right along the banks of the lake and feature views than extend nearly to the Gulf. The 460-yard par-4 18th, one of the best finishing holes in the region, is capped by one of the country’s top rated clubhouses where both members and guests can enjoy a full-service grill and locker room.
The WaterColor Inn and Resort was recently rated as the No. 1 Family Friendly Hotel in North America by T+L Family Magazine, and one of the Top 25 Golf Resorts for Families by Golf for Women magazine. In keeping with this commitment to multi-generational recreation, St. JOE opened the Origins Course in 2006.
Designed by Davis Love III 2006, the Origins Course is a unique, six-hole “concept” course wrought specifically for families and beginners. It also plays as a nine-hole executive and 10-hole par 3 layout through the use of alternate tee boxes and auxiliary greens. Love Golf Design crafted Origins with the traditional Scottish “short course” concept at its core. The mission: make golf more fun, accessible and attractive to families, beginners and casual golfers. Via its non-penal design and manageable distance (approximately 1,800 yards) it caters to both novices and veteran players.
Golfers with extended stay capability can end – or even begin – a trip to the Emerald Coast with a stay-and-play sojourn to SouthWood Golf Club in Tallahassee, 2.5 hours east of the WaterColor Inn and Resort.
Opened in 2002 and the home course of Florida State University’s men’s and women’s golf teams, the Gene Bates/Fred Couples design oozes Southern charm. The layout is framed by towering live oaks draped in Spanish moss, and bobs and weaves its way through the gently rolling hills of the Capital region.
The 459-yard par-4 9th hole is one of the stoutest two-shotters on property. Giant oak trees flank each side of the fairway landing area, and hitting the right side of the fairway is a must to have an unobstructed look at the green.
Golfers can recharge with a night’s stay in one of five cottages located on the hill just two minutes from the course. Each are equipped with gas fireplaces, mini-kitchens, cable TV and Antebellum style front porches with rockers.
Flights into Panama City/Bay County International Airport (PFN) or Okaloosa Regional Airport (VPS) are available on Delta, Northwest and most major carriers. Airport transportation can be arranged through the WaterColor Inn. Delta and other major carriers fly to Tallahassee (TLH).
When to Go
The courses are in full-swing year-round. Fall and spring are peak golf seasons, with high temps in the 70s and 80s and lows in the 50s and 60s. Summer is the peak season for the Inn, so plan accordingly. Winter is down right bearable, with highs in the 60s.
For More Information
Camp Creek, Origins Course
SouthWood Golf Club
Golfers who like St. JOE’s Emerald Coast collection should also check out Victoria Hills in DeLand, Florida. Situated about 30 minutes north of Orlando and 20 minutes south of Daytona Beach, the Ron Garl design sets up perfectly for a quick getaway round of golf for Disney goers, NASCAR fans or beach bums.
Victoria Hills is anything but your ordinary, pancake flat Florida layout. Many holes feature up to 60-feet of elevation change, and Garl’s bunkering styles vary from hole to hole and include many flashed-up, Australian Sand Belt style traps. In lieu of palm trees, golfers are treated to towering live oaks draped in Spanish moss.
Post round, a full-service menu and bar is available at Mulligan’s Tavern and Grille. For more information, www.victoriahillsgolfclub.com