Deercreek Country Club requires more than a ground game

By Lisa Allen, Contributor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - You have to have some guts to play Deercreek Country Club. Timid shots will end up in marsh, never to be seen again.

18 Holes | Private | Par: 72 | 6702 yards
Deercreek Country Club - No. 3
The par-3 third hole at Deercreek Country Club includes a sharp false front that will reject anything short.
Deercreek Country Club - No. 3Deercreek Country Club - No. 5Deercreek Country Club in Jacksonville - No. 9Deercreek C.C. golf course - hole 14

Take, for example, the second hole with a marsh carry about 70 yards in front of the green. Or the ninth, which requires a water carry off the tee and another at the green, but the vegetation blocks your view. See the tip of the pin? Aim in that general direction and hope for the best.

"There is a lot of marsh and a lot of carry," said John Townsend, the head professional at Deercreek Country Club.

What would he like the golf course to be known for?

"The toughest course in Jacksonville," he answered.

Designed by Robert Miller, the Deercreek Country Club carries a 73.1 rating and 141 slope from the gold tees, which stretch over 6,684 yards on the par-71 layout. At the front tees, the slope is 117 and there are three other tees in between. Bite off all you can chew.

"It's a very fair course," Townsend said. "You just have to hit it straight."

You can see everything that's ahead from the tees, minus a few nuances, like what's on the backside of mounds off to the sides on a few fairways. Is there a hazard back there, or a fairway cutout or thick rough? That knowledge comes from experience.

But overall, the golf course is an exercise in careful calculations. Is it worth cutting that corner? Should I lay up before the midway marsh carry or go for it? Risk and reward. There's a lot of that at Deercreek Country Club.

Some visual tricks are the false fronts to greens that are often steeper than they appear. Club up accordingly. For example, anything short on the par-3 third hole probably isn't going to get there. No, it definitely won't get there. The front of the green is more like a wall than a hill.

Miller also worked hard to keep his par 4s interesting. For example, the fourth hole has a gully mid-fairway and the left half of the approach disappears down an embankment to a water hazard.

No. 7 is a dogleg right that entices you to try to fly your drive over a tree or two and a bunker to leave a short iron to the elevated green. It's almost irresistible.

The ninth hole is one of the toughest, with a nearly blind shot over a marsh to the green. One can see only a glimpse of the pin.

The par 5s also employ some calculations, decisions and execution.

Deercreek Country Club's 10th hole is an S-shaped par 5 that requires precise shots to navigate the bunkers fore and marsh area aft to put the ball on the green in regulation. It's not a long par 5 but strategic. Grip it and rip it doesn't work on this hole, or on several others on the golf course.

Looking at my notes, I see that I deemed many holes on this golf course as "interesting," a label few holes get on any golf course, rare for so many on one. Like the approach on the par-4 14th, which includes a sharp drop-off left of the green, bunkers front and back and a huge green with wicked slopes that are hard to see.

No. 16 is another noteworthy hole, with elevated tees over a marsh carry, to a lay-up area for another launch over marsh to the green. It's another hole in which it's an act of faith, because you can't see where the ball lands if barely past the hazard.

The golf course wraps up with a great closing hole, a par 5 that includes a marsh carry at the green to a wide, but narrow green.

Deercreek Country Club members Ron Jackson and Danny Edwards both remarked on the number of marsh carries on the golf course, particularly at the greens.

"It's a challenging course that rewards good shots and punishes bad ones," said Jackson, a 9-handicap player.

"It's a pretty hard course," said Edwards, an 18-handicap player. "If you get off course here, your ball is just simply lost."

Deercreek Country Club: The verdict:

This is an impressive golf course that shows creativity in its design, which, in turn, demands creativity in your game. Someday, Townsend might just get his wish. Deercreek Country Club, one of the toughest golf courses in Jacksonville.

Lisa AllenLisa Allen, Contributor

Lisa Allen is a golf, travel and business writer based in Beaufort, S.C. She has edited newspapers, magazines and books in Michigan, Indiana and South Carolina. Follow her on Twitter @LAllenSC.

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