Duffer Dan – April 2009

Our friends at Hampton Golf invited us to Palm Coast to experience the Jack Nicklaus designed Grand Haven Golf Club. The Club is tucked away inside a lovely gated haven of designer homes and condominiums just a few miles off of I-95. The 1478-acre development has numerous amenities including the Creekside Athletic Center at its north gate and the Village Center, both of which have a full array of activities for their residents. Driving along the tree-lined roadway, you feel like you are in a very special community with plenty of natural areas for leisure walks, and places to enjoy the flora and fauna of the east coast of Florida.

When we arrived at the ‘Grand’ clubhouse our golf bags were quickly removed from the car and placed on waiting golf cars. All of the Gang received their own personalized bag tag- a nice touch. As the Dufferess was purchasing her latest ensemble from the great sale in the pro shop, Dane Winger, the Assistant Pro, gave me a tour of the well-appointed 17,000 square foot clubhouse. Grand Haven members and guests were enjoying a Sunday Buffet in the large dining area with an equally large patio overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway that also borders 3 of the holes on the Nicklaus Signature golf course.

Opened in 1998, the club celebrated their tenth year by totally redoing all the greens on the 7069-yard stunning par 72 layout. As we were finding our way to the first tee, we came upon the large double-sided practice driving range with short game facilities on either end. One of the player assistants made sure the Duffer was aware that they especially cleaned all the practice balls for the Gang’s time on the range. Thank you. Dane and Head Pro Chris Duquette are available for lessons to insure a grand day at the ‘Haven’. There are 5 sets of tees so the whole family can enjoy playing the course. After getting some local knowledge from the starter, we were off on our journey, beginning with a 406-yard straightaway par 4. The landing areas are generous, but Jack made sure the tree line was available for wayward shots and bunkers were placed on the edge of the fairways to give all the holes that grand eye appeal. The shortest of the par 5’s is #2, the 500-yard hole has a lake all along the left side and the green is tucked to the left at the water’s edge. I could have used a boat to get to the green, if you know what I mean. The next hole is the #1 handicap, the par 4, 436 yard 3rd that can be shortened by driving over a natural buffer area if you got game. I took the long route but still came away with an acceptable bogey. We had our way with the next two holes but then were confronted by the uphill, 575 yard 7th, which took the wind out of our sails. The prettiest hole on the course was the par 3, 8th where the tee box looks down to a peninsula green. While some of the Gang went swimming, I was making par. After we completed the par four ninth, our thirst buds took over. Luckily, the halfway house is right there to get that quick bite or quencher to sustain duffers through the back nine.

Another very picturesque hole is the par 4 10th that doglegs right around a lake that can be challenged even by a duffer for a decent score. The 11th is a par 5 similar to the second with water lingering all the way down the left, however this time I stayed dry and didn’t have to use as many fingers to keep score. I spoke about the greens being true and new, plus the powdery white sand in the bunkers was a nice touch when we erred on the wrong side of the greens. There is a real relaxing feel when playing here. The homes are set back substantially from the course and many of the holes do not have any on them. The next two par 4’s were more to my liking because they were getting me closer to the Gang. I scored my third par in a row on 14, a par 3. The par 4, 430 yard 15th is the #2 handicap hole, and this time I played like my name, and was using both hands to count my score. Despite one big number, the back nine played easier for me than the front. The finishing hole is a real challenge. It is a par 5 that bears left with 525 yards. Local knowledge is key here. When looking at the green from the fairway, there is a group of large oak trees protecting the green on the left. The smart shot is right of them into a receptive green and hope for the best. To learn more about this legendary golf experience and serene coastal lifestyle at Grand Haven, you can call 386-445-2327 or go to www.GrandHavenfla.com.