Duffer Dan – May 2008

Duffer Dan at The Venetian Bay Golf Club

For almost a year I have been watching a new development on Highway 44, just west of the I-95 intersection in New Smyrna Beach. The folks at Kemper Sports, based in Northbrook, Illinois and managers of numerous upscale facilities throughout the country, invited us over to play Venetian Bay Golf Club.

The golf course is the cornerstone of an 1800 home, Mediterranean themed master planned community being developed by The Johnson group, one of Central Florida’s leading custom home builders.

It was a long wait but worth it. The Venetian Bay Clubhouse had just been completed and houses a full service golf shop, locker rooms, spacious meeting rooms and private dining areas. The clubhouse is fashioned after a Tuscan motif similar to the sprawling entry and the surrounding residential community. As we drove up, we were greeted by some fine gentlemen, Ed, Justin and Paul, who took care of our bags, showed us the way to the well stocked pro shop and gave us directions to the practice facilities which include a multiple green target range, practice bunker, chipping area and putting surface. In addition, David Buth, a Class A PGA Professional, the Venetian Bay General Manager and his staff will be available to assist the low handicapper as well as the new players to the this great game that seems to parallel life in so many ways.

It is always great to visit a new golf course before all the homes are built around it, but here no hole will have homes built on both sides of the fairways and some holes will not have any. So there will always be open space to give you that feeling of being one with nature. And for those of you, and you know who you are, that need a safe area to hit to because your ball seems to attract houses, there will be places to aim.

Our journey begins on #1, a great opening par 5 at 528 yards from the tips, with a nice wide fairway to give us that needed feeling of accomplishment. George Clifton, a member of the Florida based Clifton, Ezell & Clifton Golf Design Group, designed the 7072 yard private championship golf course. CEC has designed more Florida courses than anyone else in the golf course design business and have been together for over 21 years. Being local, the CEC team has a-hands-on approach to the ‘grow in’ and dirt work, so they are there to insure proper routings and a pleasurable golf experience. Venetian Bay is a true delight. The second hole is 447 yards and keeping the shots in the fairway will keep you from big numbers. Our first par 3 is #3 at 214 yards, with bunkers protecting the front of the green. Can you say bogey all around. We did. After another challenging par 4 we happened to the #1 handicap hole, a 533 yard par 5 that the Duffer decided to take the short way around this dogleg right. Flirting with some palm trees, he showed his shot making ability by putting his third shot on the green and making par. Now that wasn’t hard at all. I could already taste the cool victory libations. There are 114 bunkers on this course, but they are not as intimidating as the number. Good shot selection will have you in the short grass most of the time.

Now let’s talk # 9. This par 4, 358 yard is the real teaser. If you care to, you can attempt to take the corner on this left turn, over the cypress trees with a fair landing area, and a pitch to the green, or play it safe and have a mid-iron in. Just remember, everyone enjoying the fine fare at the clubhouse will be watching. They have a perfect view of the happenings coming into the ninth green. Well, the Duffer had to at least try. Can you say SWEET- 90 yards to the green! The rest of the Gang chose the safe way. If you want to take pictures of your game, this is the place. Johnson’s Pond frames the right side with massive oak trees overlooking an undulating green that could be considered a 3 ½ par if you take the Duffer’s short cut. I love Venetian Bay. Best 9 hole round in a long time.

The front nine plays more through a wooded section of the property while the back nine has a more links look to it. After a cool one at the clubhouse we were off to #10, where again we had an easy time of our beginning hole. The number 2 handicap, 11th is a 556 yard par 5, and full of confidence, the Duffer birdied it plus the 17th, also a par 5. The fairways play side by side on some of the back nine but the mounding and layout keep the integrity of the holes well defined. Our biggest challenge of the round was the finishing hole that has water all along the left side and a green sitting out in a lake. There are bunkers strategically placed near where your drive should land and it gave the whole Gang a fit. If you didn’t have enough sand at the golf club, you can visit the Beach & Swim Club with a lovely resort-style pool, tiki bar and restaurant, located just up the street. Venetian Bay is a private course, but they have many different membership plans including a non-resident package. To find out more contact dmeyers@kempersports.com and www.VenetianBayGolf.com to learn more about this fabulous golf club and community.