Tee Time

The Dream 18
Take a Swing at the Emerald Coast’s Sweetest Rounds

By Scott Jackson | Photo by Scott Holstein

Were it not for the shimmering, emerald-green waters along the coastline, you could easily place the Emerald Coast moniker on the lush green fairways and greens dotting the coastal area. There are certainly enough to choose from. In fact, if you walked off the yardage of all the courses in the coastal region, you would trudge a distance equivalent to walking from Navarre Beach to Panama City Beach.

These lushly manicured and exquisitely maintained courses are a veritable labyrinth of challenge, exercise and breathtaking scenery woven in harmony with the natural coastal landscape. A few of the holes are worth mentioning – if not for their playability, then for their simple ability to wash over your senses with their beauty.

Eighteen holes define the experience of golfing in the Emerald Coast. But to play them, you need to do your homework. While these holes provide a wonderful experience, they give no quarter to those who are intoxicated by their elegance and beauty.

1. Sandestin – The Links Course No. 9, Par 5
What a view. Choctawhatchee Bay runs wide and stunning all along the left side, with nothing between the course and the incoming tide but bulkhead. Intermittent bunkers, mounds and palm trees down the right side of the fairway keep errant shots from straying too far right. Golfers on this par 5 had better not gaze at the vista too long, however, because solid shots are required on a hole where players may face three forced carries – one over the bay, one over the marsh and another over a small beach. With a fairway that is almost 100 yards wide in some places, a smart play can take all three forced carries out of the equation. Another generous green, shaped like a cross, ensures widely varying pin placements from day to day.

2. Sandestin – Baytowne Golf Club No. 16, Par 4
A rare elevated tee box provides an eye-popping view of the par 4 hole, which has a wide fairway landing area that invites golfers to swing away for a big drive. The approach is a little more demanding, as the fairway narrows quickly to a green that is surrounded on the left and back by water. A line of bunkers covers the right side of the fairway, and players who leave the ball too far left bring the green-side lake into play. A deep, demanding green-side pot bunker on the right can catch missed approaches and leaves a nervy bunker shot that must be aimed directly toward the water.

3. Sandestin – Burnt Pine Golf Club No. 14, Par 3
Perhaps the most memorable hole in Northwest Florida, this par 3 is carved skillfully but treacherously from a prime piece of coastal paradise. Players face a daunting yet inviting task: They must ignore the incredible view of Choctawhatchee Bay, battle a prevailing bay breeze and then strike a crisp shot to a sloped green that is encircled by marshlands. The peninsula green is guarded completely by marsh in the front, can provide as many as 200 yards of carry over the bay, but is large enough to hold with a 3 wood and far enough away to encourage hitting that club as well. A small stand of pines and the glorious expanse of the bay just steps from the tee box highlight a hole that words do not seem to do justice. For the faint of heart, or for those who just don’t have enough club, a drop area is provided left of the green, making bogey a much easier task.

4. Sandestin – Raven Golf Club No. 18, Par 4
Quite possibly the best finishing hole in the area, and the most difficult hole on the 2006 PGA Champions Tour, this appears to be a par 5 from the tee – but it’s not. This outstanding home hole features a narrow landing area framed by two large bunkers left and a diagonal pond that consumes much of the right side. A fairway sloped left to right feeds into the water, but a well-placed shot will reward deserving golfers. The fantastic finish requires a long-iron approach to a green set into an alcove flanked by a pristine marsh on the left, a stand of imposing oak trees on the right, bunkers short left and back right, and scrub all around. Players walk a footbridge to the slick green, where putting can be treacherous but the ambiance is pure joy. What a finish!

5. Regatta Bay – No. 5, Par 5
Our longest par 5 boasts a generous landing area for the tee shot and sweeping elevation changes. Since it is almost impossible to reach this green in two, a well-placed second shot that leaves a 100-yard approach is the best play. Beware of the bunker guarding the front of the green. Many personal bests have been shattered here.

6. Regatta Bay – No. 7, Par 4
Bring out your lumber for this drive! Your blind tee shot must carry uphill over an enormous bunker to a plateau fairway, leaving a long to mid-iron approach. The approach is downhill to a green guarded by bunkers, palm trees and water. Winds off the Gulf make club selection tricky. Be content if you survive with a par.

7. Regatta Bay – No. 12, Par 5
A “ho-hum” par 5 when played with three relatively short but accurate shots to the green. Longer hitters can play a tee shot over the fairway bunkers bordering the right side of the fairway, leaving a long iron or fairway wood to the green. To get home in two, both shots must flirt with water and sand. It’s either feast or famine.

8. Kelly Plantation Golf Club – No. 7, Par 4
Hit your tee shot down the left side of the fairway. Getting up and down from the left side can be difficult, but if you miss the green to the right, you will be wet. Hole No. 7 has a double green. The elongated green has a pot bunker that separates the putting surfaces for Hole No. 7 and Hole No. 11.

9. Kelly Plantation Golf Club – No. 18, Par 5
The wide landing area allows you to “tee it high and let it fly!” You may want to think twice before playing your second shot aggressively. An accurate second shot toward the green will be rewarded if you have the length. A lay-up played well left of the water will leave you with a short wedge into the green. This is a great stage for 18th-hole drama.

10. Indian Bayou Golf Club – Creek Course No. 2, Par 4
A dogleg right that works directly back into the prevailing wind, this is one of the most beautiful and challenging holes at Indian Bayou. This course offers views of nature at its best and puts you to the test with its natural hazards. Water is to the left and right off the tee. Out-of-bounds long behind a long two-tiered green.

11. Indian Bayou Golf Club – Creek Course No. 6, Par 4
Welcome to the swamp. The marsh bisects this fairway in one place, also running down both sides of the fairway. The green is very deep. When you are playing in the swamp, par is a very good score.

12. Emerald Bay Golf Club – No. 10, Par 4
This is as tough as it gets. Aim just right of the fairway bunkers off the tee and play down the right side to avoid the lateral water. Avoid the green-side bunkers at all costs. Shoot to the middle of the green and accept a two-putt par.

13. Emerald Bay Golf Club – No. 13, Par 5
How far can you hit it? This is a full three-shot hole for the better-than-average player. Do not attempt a shot over the sand at the 150-yard area or at the green unless you are sure you can carry them. The green is small and slopes from front to back. It is impossible to hold the green with a long iron.

14. Windswept Dunes Golf Club – No. 15, Par 4
This hole is a dogleg left with a hazard down the left side and three fairway bunkers guarding the landing area. You can cut the dogleg if you’re long enough; if not, play down the right center of the fairway. The green is kidney-shaped and elevated with a deep bunker front right; getting the ball on the proper level is a must on this green.

15. Santa Rosa Golf and Beach Club – No. 8, Par 3
A medium-length par 3 that will have you holding your breath until the ball reaches the green safely. Playing 180 yards over water to a bulkheaded green, this hole can change the momentum of your round for better or worse. Pay close attention to the wind, as it will swirl among the many trees framing this hole.

16. Santa Rosa Golf and Beach Club – No. 5, Par 5
An innocent-looking par 5 with a breathtaking view of the Gulf of Mexico. A tee shot that favors the right-hand side is required to attack the green in two. The green is guarded by two bunkers on each side, leaving a narrow approach to a front hole location. The putting surface will provide quite a challenge, with slopes running left to right and back to front.

17. Camp Creek Golf Club – No. 18, Par 4
This hole offers a dramatic view off of the tee, where you can see the ridges of the entire golf course. The hole plays alongside a lake on the right. You might want to favor the left side slightly to avoid the lake and to get the best shot into the green. The green is bunkered left and right, and a back-left pin placement can be very tough.

18. Shalimar Pointe Country Club – No. 11, Par 3
This hole is as challenging as it is beautiful. This is a two-tier green, and the only bail-out area is to the right of the green. It is banked by a voracious grass bunker and a lake to the right, along with a precipitous down-slope.




Emerald Coast Courses Are World Class

Golf is one of the few sports in which not only are the competitors feted but the field of play is prominently acknowledged as well. No other professional sport attaches as much significance to the design and playability of its venue as golf, due to its unique design challenges. Tennis, hockey, football and baseball all must comply with strict league and organizational guidelines that inhibit creativity. Not so with golf. Course architects and designers contend with factors including topography, blending with the natural landscape, playability, challenge, environmental sensitivity and adjoining amenities.

Several renowned designers and architects have sculpted the golf landscape along the Emerald Coast. The legendary Robert Trent Jones Jr. and his son Rees Jones built Raven Golf Club and Burnt Pine. Tom Fazio built the newly opened and Audubon-certified Camp Creek, while active PGA golfer Fred Couples built Kelly Plantation. Robert Cupp was the former chief designer for Jack Nicklaus and applied his craft to Emerald Bay. Robert Walker, former lead architect for Arnold Palmer, built Regatta Bay.

Golf organizations and publications regularly confer awards to these courses, based in great part on the work of these designers. The Emerald Coast has garnered its share of them:

Sandestin – Each of the four courses has consistently won accolades from national and regional golf publications, most notably awards as one of the top 75 Best Golf Resorts in North America by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine. Sandestin’s cachet as a world-class golf destination led it to become the host for the Emerald Coast’s first PGA-sanctioned event: the 2006 and 2007 Boeing Championship at Sandestin, an official PGA Champions Tour Event.

Camp Creek – Recognized for its environmental stewardship through designation as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System (ACSS). An international program administered by Audubon International and sponsored in part by the United States Golf Association, ACSS requires courses to adhere to stringent standards designed to help preserve and enhance the environmental quality of their land.

Regatta Bay – Florida Golf News voted the course “the No. 1 Favorite Golf Course in Northwest Florida.” In addition, Golf Digest ranked the course among its “Top 200 Places to Play in North America,” as well as one of the top 15 courses in Florida.

Emerald Bay – Acclaimed by Golfweek as one of the “50 Most Distinctive Development Courses in the Southeast,” it presents gentle, undulating greens and towering pine-lined fairways in a medley of short and long holes, all affected by surrounding bay breezes.

Santa Rosa – Golf Magazine has called it “The Purest Golf on the Panhandle” in part for its aesthetically appealing path through the pure white sands, pristine ponds and lush vegetation of the Santa Rosa Beach area.

Shalimar Pointe – Heralded by Links Magazine as having “Two of the Hardest Holes on the Emerald Coast” (11th and 17th).

Windswept Dunes – The United States Golf Association declared it to be longest course in the state of Florida. Voted No. 5 in the “Top Ten Courses You Can Play” by Golf Magazine.

No matter where you choose to play along the Emerald Coast, you can be assured a unique and memorable experience embodying world-class design, a multitude of amenities and the finest scenery anywhere.




Emerald Coast Golf Courses*

Sandestin Golf AND Beach Resort
Phone: (850) 267-8000
Address: 9300 Emerald Coast Parkway West, Destin
Amenities: Four courses: Burnt Pine, Raven, The Links and Baytowne. Full-service retail golf shop, the Hank Johnson School of Golf for all your instructional needs, exceptional practice facilities, rental clubs and a sports bar. Children under 12 play free and receive free kids’ rental clubs and kids’ yardage guides at Baytowne Golf Club when accompanied by an adult.
Fees: Raven, $135; Burnt Pine, $155; Baytowne, $105; The Links, $89.
Hours: First tee time every day at Raven and Burnt Pine is 7 a.m. First tee time at The Links and Baytowne is 7:30 a.m. each day. Closed as business dictates, but typically around 6 p.m. in season.
Web site: sandestin.com
Public, private or semi-private:  Burnt Pine is semi-private. Sandestin resort guest times are available before 8 a.m. and after 1 p.m. every day. All others public.
Reservations: Online tee time booking available via Web site (except Burnt Pine).
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort guests may book tee times up to six months in advance. Golfers not staying at Sandestin and Club Members have up to 14 days in advance to book their tee times.

Regatta Bay Golf & Country Club
Phone: (850) 337-8080
Address: 465 Regatta Bay Blvd., Destin
Amenities: Full-service club house and golf shop. Practice facilities. PGA-certified instruction offered for all ages and groups of any size. Kids’ camps and clinics are available on request. State-of-the-art par view available with Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which provides the golfer with a clear visual of each hole and yardage. On-course circulating beverage carts. Chilled apples on the first and 10th tees. Mango-scented iced towels. Rutherfords 465 Restaurant is open daily for lunch, brunch and catered events.
Fees: $129 from 6 a.m. to noon; $89 from noon to 3 p.m.; $59 after 3 p.m.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Web site: regattabay.com
Public, private or semi-private: Semi-private.
Reservations: Tee times may be reserved three months in advance by phone or online.

Emerald Bay Golf Club
Phone: (850) 837-5197
Address: 4781 Clubhouse Drive, Destin
Amenities: Golf school, guest house, golf shop, practice areas.
Fees: Seasonal; check with golf shop. Before 11 a.m., $104; after 11 a.m., $85; after 3 p.m., $57.
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Web site: emeraldbaygolfclub.com
Public, private or semi-private: Semi-private.
Reservations: By phone. Advance reservations available.

Kelly Plantation Golf Club
Phone: (850) 650-7600
Address: 307 Kelly Plantation Drive, Destin
Amenities: Clubhouse and pro shop. Golf carts equipped with Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which provides the golfer with a clear visual of each hole and yardage. Extensive practice area complete with a driving range with target greens, an ample chipping green with practice bunkers, and a 10,000-square-foot practice putting green. Chilled apples served on the first and 10th tee boxes. Catering packages for special events.
Fees: Range from $62 to $134 plus tax.
Hours: 7 a.m. to sunset except Tuesdays (7:30 a.m. to sunset).
Web site: kellyplantationgolf.com
Public, private or semi-private: Semi-private.
Reservations: Phone or online. Can book online 24 hours a day, seven days a week and up to 30 days in advance.

Indian Bayou Golf Club
Phone: (850) 837-6191
Address: 1 Country Club Drive East, Destin
Amenities: Three nine-hole courses, practice facilities, golf lessons, clubhouse, full-service pro shop, restaurant/lounge.
Fees: 18 holes, $70; twilight fee starting at 1 p.m., $59; nine holes, $35; juniors, $55
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to sunset.
Web site: indianbayougolf.com
Public, private or semi-private: Semi-private.
Reservations: Tee times by phone or online.

Windswept Dunes Golf Club
Phone: (850) 835-1847
Address: 11 Club House Drive, Freeport
Amenities: 18 holes, practice facilities, pro shop.
Fees: $65 before 3 p.m.; $56 after 3 p.m. (includes cart). Fees for online bookings: $45
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Web site: windsweptdunes.com
Public, private or semi-private: Semi-private.
Reservations: Phone or online through lastminutegolfer.com.

Bluewater Bay Resort
Phone: (850) 897-3241
Address: 2000 Bluewater Blvd., Niceville
Amenities: 36 holes.
Fees: $75 and discounted after 11 a.m. or noon depending upon time of year.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (6 p.m. Daylight Savings Time).
Web site: bwbresort.com
Public, private or semi-private: Semi-private.
Reservations: Phone or send an e-mail to golf@bwbresort.com

Camp Creek golf club
Phone: (850) 231-7600
Address: 684 Fazio Drive, WaterSound
Amenities: 18-hole par 72; clubhouse; pro shop; large practice facility.
Fees: $150 all-inclusive for members and resort guests at WaterColor and WaterSound
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Web site: campcreekgolfclub.com
Public, private or semi-private: Private.
Reservations: By phone.

Shalimar Pointe Golf and Country Club
Phone: (850) 651-4300
Address: 302 Country Club Drive, Shalimar
Amenities: 18-hole, comprehensive practice facility featuring a spacious driving range, putting green and chipping green. Pro shop, lessons, clubhouse.
Fees: $59 from 7 a.m. to noon; $45 from noon to 3 p.m.; $35 from 3 to 5 p.m.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Web site: shalimarpointe.com
Public, private or semi-private: Semi-private.
Reservations: Online or phone.

Seascape Golf Beach and Tennis Resort
Phone: (800) 874-9106
Address: 100 Seascape Drive, Destin
Amenities:  18-hole, par 71. Clubhouse, restaurant and fully stocked pro shop. 7,200-square-foot practice facility includes driving-range practice green and a putting and chipping green. Club rentals. Golf instruction available by appointment.
Fees: Before noon, $79 (juniors, $45); after noon, $59; after 2 p.m., $49.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Web site: seascape-resort.com
Public, private or semi-private: Public; memberships available.
Reservations: By phone.

Fort Walton Beach Golf Club
Phone: (850) 833-9664
Address: 1955 Lewis Turner Blvd., Fort Walton Beach
Amenities:  Two 18-hole, par 72 golf courses. Restaurant, pro shop, driving range, clubs and cart rentals.
Fees: Without cart: $25 for 18 (nonmembers), $15 (member). Discounts for membership, twilight and juniors.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., seven days a week.
Web Site: fwb.org
Public, private or semi-private: Public; memberships available.
Reservations: Phone or online. Tee times may be booked online three to six days in advance.

Santa Rosa golf & Beach Club
Phone: (850) 267-2229
Address: 334 Golf Club Drive, Santa Rosa Beach
Amenities: 18-hole par 72, pro shop, restaurant, PGA-certified instruction.
Fees: Non-member fees for 18 holes with cart are $95 from 7 a.m. to noon; $75 after noon. Nine holes, $65 from 7 a.m. to noon; $50 after noon.
Hours: First tee time is 7 a.m. Hours vary depending upon season, normally closing at dusk.
Web site: santarosaclub.com
Public, private or semi-private: Public; memberships available.
Reservations: By phone. Nonmembers may book up to three days in advance.