Duffer Dan at Juliette Falls
We took a gallop north to the horse country of Marion County, just over an hour from downtown Orlando, to experience a thoroughbred, Juliette Falls Golf and Spa Community. The gated golf club is located between the towns of Ocala and Dunellon on Highway 40 west of exit 352 off Interstate 75. Our host for the day was Tom Cioffi, Director of Operations, who showed us around the well-appointed Phase 1 Clubhouse and explained all the unique attributes of the community, and the ASGCA John Sanford designed golf course. The track has only been opened since October 2007 and has already garnered a ‘Top 10 in the Nation’ award from Golf Magazine, and by the time you read this, they will have been certified an Audubon Silver Signature Sanctuary. A celebrity golf tournament was held after their initial opening and PGA professionals such as Fred Funk, John Huston, Bruce Fleisher and Scott Hoch all raved about the layout.
After leaving the clubhouse which is complete with a pro shop, a handsome full service sports bar and Romeo’s restaurant, we proceeded to the 10 acre practice complex which includes north and south tee areas with target greens, two short game areas, and two large putting surfaces. If these excellent facilities aren’t enough to help you with your game, Head Professional Travis Daniels is available for personalized instruction by appointment. The course has five sets of tees, so it is playable for the high handicappers as well as the Vikings, which happens to be the name for the back tees at 7236 yards. You don’t have to be a Norseman to conquer this land.
The first hole is a relatively easy dogleg right, par 4 at 388 yards and is called “Deception”. Well it didn’t take long to get in the thick of things with the 2nd, a 530 yard par 5 called “All In”. No gambling and stay out of the bunkers on this double dogleg and you will be looking at birdie. The third is the longest of the par threes at 239, but the second easiest hole on the course, and par is a good score. The service on the course was often and pleasant from cart lady Jenny, plus there are water, ice and bathroom facilities on both sides. The next two par 4’s are surely challenging and each hole has its own personality. Next is the shear beauty of Juliette Falls; the #1 handicap hole, the 6th, a par 5 at 575 yards with a “Reflection Lake” between you and the fairway. The good thing is that once you hit over it, it’s all downhill so you get a good roll, but then all uphill to the green. If that view didn’t make you say “Wow”, then step up to the tee on the par 3, 7th and just take in the magnificent “Oasis” at this 210 yard birdie opportunity.
A little history about Juliette; the first English speaking settlement in western Marion county, founded in 1854 because of the phosphate (dinosaur remains) in the area. Hole # 8, is called “The Pit” because it is where the mining was done and provides a totally unique look for this 446 yard par 4 that the Duffer birdied. I seem to be using the word “unique” often, but the course is really one of a kind. Once you climb out of The Pit, you find yourself overlooking the water complex of the 9th and 18th greens, which is simply unbelievable. Designer Sanford and the development team truly outdid themselves here. Nine is a short par 4, and birdie is possible. The front nine is a contiguous stretch of land bordered by 136 acres of nature preserve. Amazingly, because of the saving of the many trees surrounding the course, it looks like it has been here far longer than eight months. Former Isleworth Golf Course Superintendent, Steve Keller, has the grounds in perfect condition and it is a complement to him and his staff for getting the course to its early maturation.
Before we ventured out to the back side, we decided to enjoy an afternoon repast at Romeo’s. If you don’t like golf and love to eat gourmet delicacies prepared fresh with dining upstairs, downstairs and outside overlooking the tenth fairway, I highly recommend Chef Rich Alabaugh’s menu for fine dining or a spectacular lunch, which we really enjoyed. It isn’t often that a golf course community can boast about a distinctive gastronomical experience, but I would drive here just to enjoy the exquisite offerings of Romeo’s.
We ‘Re-Teed’ on the par 4, #10 to continue our round of rolling hills and elevation changes that give the players just remarkable landscape pictures of golf beauty. The 11th, a double dogleg par 5 gave the Duffer the most trouble, but he came right back at 12 and ‘Knocked Out’ a par 4 and birdied the par 3, 13th, which is a remarkably stunning piece of golf course artwork called ‘The Falls’. All of the stone around the water holes is Alabama fieldstone which really sets them apart from anything I’ve experienced. The last par 5 is the longest at 595 yards from the Viking tees and the #2 handicap hole. Just hit ‘em long and straight and be happy with bogie, which I was. The 15th, a 374 yard uphill par 4 with a ‘Meadow View’ is parable along with easiest hole on the course, #16, a par 3. The last 2 holes are both challenging par 4s with #18, the longest of all them playing downhill to the water complex and a great finishing hole. I laid up to insure an accurate shot to the pin which paid off with a par. There are only 540 homesites available and all the homes are Arthur Rutenberg Custom Built. There are plans for a Spa & Fitness Center, a Tennis Complex, and land was being readied for the start of their 52,000 square foot Club House.
To learn more you can visit www.JulietteFalls.com or for tee times call 352-522-0309. W FGCM •