Champions Club at Julington Creek: An everyman's golf course
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Champions Club at Julington Creek keeps to the basics. Lots of trees, bunkers where you don't want them and false fronts on the greens that will throw the brakes on shots left wanting.
It's a laid-back spot, with $1 Miller Lite either by can or draft, Monday through Thursday. There's some motivation for skipping out on work -- or going for early retirement.
The golf course starts gently, a dogleg right with ample fairway to keep your ball in play. The possible frustrations are subtle. For example, the rough that encroaches from the right at the bend to halt a few balls from seeing short grass, or the large, sloped green that will put your putting skills to the test.
Pin placement is simple: red, white or blue flags (for front, middle or back), but learning the angles is key on this golf course. For example, most greens have a roll-up area, but you have to power the ball there because of those false fronts. Also, some holes add shaved sides, sharp drop-offs and bunkers front or mid-green.
"The biggest challenge is the greens," said Randy Dorsey, a 4-handicap player who plays the golf course often. "They're slow, but sloped nicely."
Jim Reichert also said the course postpones its challenges until the greens.
"The rough is pretty tough around the greens," said Reichert, who disagreed that the greens are too slow. "They are medium to fast when they're done just right."
Dorsey agreed about the Champions Club at Julington Creek's thick rough. "That Bermuda is tough. But that's Florida."
With rare exception, there are few bunkers behind the greens, but a few steep collection areas instead. For example, the par-3 fourth hole is shaved behind the hole, so choose your club carefully for the tee shot that ranges in length from 119 to 176 yards, depending on which of the four tee boxes you're using.
In addition to the challenges at the greens, the Champions Club at Julington Creek mischievously adds a lone tree here or there that will give you trouble to one side of the fairway.
The par-3 holes, while not dramatic, throw in a lot of bunkers to punish errant iron shots. The sixth hole is purely high risk, high return, especially with the pin tucked behind huge bunkers that dominate the right two-thirds of the hole and water lurking farther right and front. The 13th hole, a par 3, is deceptively long. It says it's anywhere from 145 to 190 yards, but for some reason it plays even longer than that.
The golf course picks up a little more personality on the eighth hole, a par 5 that wraps about a waterway on the dogleg right. Another pesky tree gets in the way of shots that drift right, toward the water. The ninth hole has a lone tree to knock down tee shots from the back tees and a few gnarly bunkers on the right side, one possibly for your drive, and another for your approach shot.
I found the most memorable hole to be No. 14, an "S" shaped par 5 with a deep bunker on the inside elbow to threaten drives and a tough approach shot to a thin, deep green. The Champions Club at Julington Creek's 16th hole, a par 5, adds a creek across the fairway about 100 yards out that requires a bit of thought to navigate. Lay up? Hammer it home? You have to make those decisions on the tee.
The 15th hole entices you to try to drive the par 4 at 256 yards from the whites, but there are bunkers left and right and an odd little area to the far right that is a recessed piece of fairway.
Champions Club at Julington Creek: The verdict
This golf course mixes it up a lot, with a good variety of par 3s, creative par 5s and par 4s of various lengths to invite even shorter hitters to hit the green in regulation. At the tips, it's 6,908 yards, 5,049 at the front tees, and is rated a 73.4 at the tips, with a 132 slope rating. It's a very welcoming course that won't break your spirit, or your bank account. "The prices are good," said Reichert. "It's a good value."