Country Club of Orange Park: A slice of calm amid the clamor
ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- The Country Club of Orange Park is a friendly, warm refuge from the hustle and bustle of nearby Jacksonville. The clubhouse is richly decorated, the pro shop is well stocked and the staff is very welcoming.
The golf course itself, which opened in 1989, is in great shape and makes it clear pretty quickly that its favored hazard is water. As you make your way around, you'll find only four holes without water. Your primary job is to keep your golf balls accounted for and relatively dry.
The lush course offers six brightly colored tee sets that give it a hint of the big top or romper room, with orange markers beckoning you to the 7,048-yard tips, yellow dialing it down to 4,692 yards, and blue, white, green and red livening up the middle.
Country Club of Orange Park: A watery tale
Hope you don't mind water and marsh carries, because there are a lot of them, starting with a first hole that is interrupted about 120 yards from the green with a 50-yard marsh. Don't let it intimidate you. There is plenty of landing room on the far side before you have to hike up to the large, elevated green.
The Country Club of Orange Park's par-5 second hole starts out generously, but it pulls in tight for an approach pinched between two ponds with a turf-covered bridge serving as a run-up between them.
The fourth has another water carry in front of the green, with a bunker waiting for anything short.
The mood changes a little at No. 10, a dogleg right around water with trees in between for good measure and some rather aggressive mounds in the fairway to rule out an even lie or stop a ball in its tracks.
No. 12, a par 5, throws a lot at you, from sharp undulations in the fairway to water that appears, disappears and appears again on the right side of the dogleg right. There's also a ditch you have to cross after navigating all the other variables.
On No. 13, the peril is anything but subtle. There's a large tree right in the middle of the fairway. The smarter play is to the right, where there's more room and it likely won't require a punch shot.
The golf course closes with three great holes building to the 18th, which has a trail of bunkers on the right and water all along with left. To get to the green on the final hole, you have to clear a pond and skirt mega-sized bunkers.
"It's a competitive course and friendly -- you have both aspects," Country Club of Orange Park member Mike Knafak said.
The last hole is his favorite.
"It's a hole that has water hazards and sand traps. You have to have two good shots," Knafak said. "It makes you or breaks you."
The fourth hole has a similar tempo, but with a more overt water carry.
Knafak also likes No. 7, a par 5, especially after they added a pond in front of the green to the right, pairing it with a bunker on the left.
Jim Ehnow is a nine-year Country Club of Orange Park employee. He plays from the back tees and said the par 3s are long and the par 5s are a challenge to get there in two.
"Some of those tees are tight," Ehnow said.
He likes No. 7, too.
"I've hit all the numbers on that one," he said.
The well maintained course is a good value.
"We've been pretty sensible with the economy," said Assistant Professional David Ven Vertoh.
Country Club of Orange Park: The verdict
The Country Club at Orange Park is creative and its tempo changes keep it fresh. The nines also have distinct personalities. The first nine goes easy on the mounds and contours in the fairways, relying more on water and distance to give you some things to think about. On the second nine, the bulldozer kicked into high gear, so there are lots of uneven lies and unexpected bounces.
The stars of the course are the par 4s. It is on those holes that one has to make tough choices to go for it, or take your medicine. The last three holes really stand out. Holes 16 and 17 wander off on their own into an area seemingly uninhabited. It's a delightful little getaway, with some great golf as well. You won't forget No. 18, either, with the danger of water on the left and lots of sand right. It's a fitting conclusion to a golf course you'll be glad you played.