Duffer Dan and The Conservatory at Ginn Hammock Beach Resort
December we had the opportunity to play the extraordinary design by 5 time British Open Champion Tom Watson, The Conservatory, which is part of the Ginn Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Florida. On your drive into the property you will see new model homes and the clubhouse, which is a magnificent glass domed building resembling a turn of the century palace. According to Marketing Manager, Peter Coleman, it should be ready about March of 2008 with a British West Indies theme.
Other than these few structures, the property is as pristine as one could imagine and our round brought us as if we were 4 with nature. There are over 76 acres of man made lakes throughout the course and 140 coquina and pure white sand bunkers interlacing the holes, Watson paid a great deal of attention to detail. After getting the royal treatment with our bags and directions from the player assistant, we made our way to the practice area, which is adjacent to the new clubhouse. The large driving range can be utilized from both ends and there is a specific teaching area for long ball work, chipping, sand wedge and putting. Head Golf Professional, Paul Trettner, and his staff are available for lessons.
At the first tee we were met by the starter Bill, who gave us the lay of the land and wished us well on our journey. The first hole is a 444-yard par 4, dogleg right, and by playing all our drives to the left we had a good look at par. The trouble is we needed Bill on the other 17 holes. There are six sets of tees to choose from, so the almost 7800 yards won’t be too intimidating. Did I say 7800 big ones? Yes! It is the longest course in Florida. The second hole is another plus 400 par 4, where the second shot, or third, will contend with a false front, a sod faced bunker, two large bunkers on the left, and a swale on the right. I guess my point here is ‘put it on the green’ or else.
This part of Florida is about as flat as a pancake, but you would never know it playing The Conservatory. There is more undulation in the fairways and greens than I have ever seen. To top it off, Mr. Watson used vegetative natural buffers on many of the holes to give them better form, but if you land on them you have some very awkward stances. The par three 3rd is another hole where accuracy to the green is crucial. The Duffer made easy work of this hole while the Gang had their challenges. The 613-yard par 5 fourth had all calling “my dear Watson” or something about Tom, particularly when our approaches to the green found the drink. After 3 long par fours we came upon the signature hole, a 199-yard par 3 over water, to an island green. Take enough club. I didn’t. It was time for the drink. Fortunately, our favorite part of the round was here. You’ve heard of Chanel #5. We had Chanel # 1 as our cart lady. She made sure we had enough libations to drown our sorrows and made sure during the day we had ample opportunities to refuel.
There is a creek that reminds me of western Carolina between 7 & 8, and a waterfall that serves as a natural water treatment system, both of which provide some great aesthetic beauty to the course. The ninth hole is an easy par 5 that brings you back to the namesake of The Conservatory, and 10, the # 1 handicap hole, is also a par 5 that will have you screaming for help. My biggest problem was on # 13. It is a long par 4 dogleg left that seemed every time I walked up to my ball I was standing either below or above it, and then my approach to the elevated green found the left where I could have used an elevator to get down to the ball. I had some redemption on the next four holes where I played well. Number 18 is a great finishing par 5, around a lake at 602 yards, with an opportunity to make par. That was not the case this day with some errant drives from the whole Gang. One thing about The Conservatory is the sheer beauty of the place. As far as playing it better; I would say a second time or third would make you more aware of where not to be. To learn more about the resort go to www.Hammock- Beach.com and to make reservations for golf call 386-246-6710.