Duffer Dan – March 2008

Duffer Dan and the Undercover Gang at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club

Our journey this month took us to the northern tip of St. John’s County just south of Jacksonville. The Ponte Vedra Inn & Club is the Crown Jewel of Northeast Florida. This magnificent 300 acre resort sets right on one of the most beautiful beaches on the Atlantic Ocean and has garnered the exclusive AAA FIVE DIAMOND Award 6 years in a row for excellence in hospitality and service. The Award has only been given to six Florida properties. Since 1928, the Inn & Club have been providing 5 star luxury and amenities to its guests and members.

They are celebrating 80 years of unmatched personalized service with some of the finest facilities found in the entire nation. The Tennis Club is ranked #1 in the country by Tennis Magazine. The 15 Har-Tru courts, elegant tennis pro shop and teaching staff, with director Michael Leach, are unmatched. Another unique feature is the fitness and workout area, which is completely free to the guests. It is the largest oceanfront fitness gymnasium in the United States and is tiered so those working out in the back have the same view as those up close to the all glass ocean view.

One of their most recent additions is north Florida’s largest and most sophisticated Spa, a 30,000 square foot state-of-the-art oasis, cradled between the Ocean and a golf course fairway, with over 22 treatment rooms, a restaurant, a barber shop, a full service salon, a spa boutique and an impressive selection of over 100 beauty, pampering and MedSpa treatments. The warm and exceptionally designed spa even has an outdoor relaxation patio overlooking a magnificent pool with 4 therapy grottos and a waterfall.

Dining at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club is a delicacy all to its own. If you stay at the Inn or Lodge for a week, you can enjoy a different dining experience every night. From the oceanfront Seahorse Grill where you can experience the unique fusion cuisine of Executive Chef Hermann Muller to High Tides, the open-air grill and bar next to the pool complex, the service and flavors are exceptional. If you are into enjoying the beach, catamarans, kayaks, surf & boogie boards are available to guests along with chairs and umbrellas. If one enjoys shopping, there are ten boutiques and shoppes on with a variety of merchandise.

The Inn has 250 elegantly appointed over sized guest rooms and suites. Many of the rooms are oceanfront but no matter where you stay on the property, one thing is for sure- service is primary to the 900 person staff. It is independently owned and operated and has been serving four generations of vacationing families. There is even a menu in the room to pick between 6 different types of pillows.

Golf at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club consists of two outstanding 18-hole championship courses, the Lagoon and Ocean. In 1928 British designer Herbert Bertram Strong built the Ocean Course, which has stood as the pinnacle of golf in Northeast Florida. In 1947, a young Robert Trent Jones redid the course and in 1998, Jacksonville Golf Course Architect, and longtime Club member, Bobby Weed, redesigned the course keeping Strong’s original concept in mind. The Ocean starts out with a 415-yard par 4 with water right and two deep bunkers protecting the left. The second shot needs to be carefully struck to avoid the false left front of this long and narrow green. The second hole is a shorter par 4 with a green that juts out into the water. The Gang realized early on that the mounding and large bunkers give the course its unique character and difficulty. The #1 handicap hole is the par 5, 3rd which has 8 fairway bunkers to maneuver through and then an elevated green (about 15 feet) that no one’s ball stayed on, particularly since the pin was placed all the way back in a little tight area. The Duffer had his most trouble on the beautiful 4th, a 467 par 4, that you need to hit a good long tee shot and then carry the second over water to a deceptive green. Our playing partner, Stephen, hit a fabulous drive but even his second shot came up short while I was using both hands to count my score. We played the long par 3, 5th well enough and were rolling down the par 5, 6th when we saw where some evil person put the pin. It was just off the left edge near the bulkhead, so we played safe to allow our balls to stay on the green and avoid the water. After two more fabulous par 4’s we found ourselves at their signature hole, the 9th, a par 3 island hole that I bet another designer named Dye probably got the idea for the 17th at the Tournament Players Club, which is just a few miles west of the Inn.

It was time for some driver fluid. So we all stocked up to give us the strength to carry on to the back nine. Everyone at the check in area was very friendly, and we saw the cart lady numerous times during our round. There are 5 sets of tees to enjoy both courses. The excellent staff of Jim Howard, Director of Golf is there to take care of all your needs. They have 4 exceptional teaching pros for private lessons and they give group clinics every afternoon. The practice range is right next to the 10th tee.

The back nine starts off with a short par 4 where we all put our drives in wedge distance to the green with Stephen a mere 20 yards from it. The next shots had all of us screaming and walking away shaking our heads with doubles or more. None of the chips stayed on the green. The greenside bunker on the par 3, 12th was perfectly in front of the pin so we all baled out to the middle and gladly walked away with pars & bogies. The greens are full of undulations and many have distinct levels, which is the case with the par 5, 13th- a straight 559 yard hole, followed by another 485 yard par 5. The short par 3, 16th, with an upfront pin placement gave us a fit from the tee, but when we actually got on the green, we did ok. The last two holes on the back are just great finishing holes. The 17th, a par 4 with an abyss of bunkers and an undulating fairway leaves you speechless when looking for the pin. The massive green is protected by 2 18ft. deep bunkers on the right and a collection area you can’t see on the left. This was my favorite hole. It really had a great deal of character and I was lucky to hit my third shot close for a saving par. It’s great to finish strong and 18 gives you that opportunity. At 359 from the back tees, your second shot should be a short iron. This day the hole was in the back and the Duffer was on the green below the hole while the Gang was practicing chips from either side of the green. The Ocean Course is a great test of golf with eighteen fabulous holes in superb condition.

If you want to experience ‘Grand Dame’, the finest Florida has to offer in a complete resort with exceptional service and amenities call (800) 234-7842 or email reservations@PVResorts.com.!