Bent Creek Golf Course: A municipal? Are you kidding me?
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As you make your way around Jacksonville's Bent Creek Golf Course, you'll have to keep pinching yourself that it's a municipal course.
It's the best of all worlds: It's affordable, and it's a designer course crafted by Bobby Weed and expertly managed by Billy Casper Golf.
It's in fantastic shape and feels like a resort course. Every city in the country should come to the place once called the Golf Club of Jacksonville to be schooled in how to offer top-notch service to tax-paying golfers.
As for the golf course itself, which opened in 1989, Bent Creek is alive with swales, mounds, drop-offs and other contour changes that will affect your drive, second shots and approaches. Fortunately, Weed toned that down on the greens. There you'll find large, sloped greens but no crazy undulations.
You'll also remember the water, which frequently appears along fairways and a few marsh carries off the tee or across to the green.
Bent Creek Golf Course: The holes
Each hole has its own personality. There are short par 4s and long ones, lengthy par 3s and reachable-in-two par 5s. Diversity is the theme of this course.
First assistant Corey Morris said what makes this course stand apart is the tree-lined fairways and subtle trouble: "You can't just hit it 300 yards. If there's water on the right, everything funnels right."
It's not overly long -- 6,606 from the tips -- but it offers three other options, down to 4,861 at the front tees.
The first hole is a warm up, a par-5 bend to the right around trees with just one bunker to thwart your approach from the right. The green is skinny and long, requiring a deft touch.
The fifth hole, a short par 4, is a bear, with bunkers right in your face off the tee, more beyond it on the left and water all along the right, which is where the fairway slopes. Insert expletive here.
You really have to tread carefully on the par-4 12th hole, with bunkers in your face off the tee, water left and more bunkers right. Risk-reward is written all over this hole.
The par-5 15th hole has a lot of trouble waiting if you're not careful. It's a double carry, once off the green, again about 100 yards from the green. Added to those challenges are water all along the right and an assortment of bunkers. If you're playing forward tees, you have a blind drive over a bunker while skirting some trees on the left. It's the only par 5 on the back, making the course a par 71.
A lot of people talk about that hole and the risk-reward it offers. People either love No. 15 or hate it.
Robert Nuss is in the don't-like-15 camp. "That hole and I don't get along," Nuss said. "I can hit a drive, but I can't hit a third shot."
The par-3 16th is just a wee little thing -- 142 yards from the tips -- but it's tougher than it appears. If you miscalculate the distance because you're not used to such short endeavors, you could end up in a kidney-shaped bunker that wraps around a turf bowl. Extracting yourself from that little predicament could make your heart beat a little faster. A mound on the left side could bounce a shot into that mess, too. When you think about it, that hole isn't so little after all.
Bent Creek Golf Course: The verdict
"There's a different set of conditions on every hole," said golfer Marsha Bochenek. She said the course challenges all players, not just those who play from the tips. "They have holes that are tough and some you can score well."
Sharon Bailey appreciates the fact that the course staff works so hard to make her, a physically challenged player, feel welcome. "It's an accessible course. It's perfect for someone who is older and disabled."
"It's a fair course for average players," said Mike Mickler, who was playing the course. "It's well-groomed, has a great range and one of the best practice facilities around."
Bent Creek can hold its own against any resort or club course out there. It's in great shape, the design is fresh and challenging.
It is an Aububon Cooperative Sanctuary and has a lighted practice facility, part of the Bent Creek Golf Academy.
Jacksonville should be proud of its course and every resident and visitor should take advantage of it.