Arnold Palmer's Mill Cove Golf Club: A course for every man, woman and child
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Mill Cove Golf Club, designed by Arnold Palmer 20 years ago, offers variety, challenge and brain food. It's a compact golf course, without much development around it, but there's a busy airfield next door.
The golf course makes the best of the air traffic, incorporating it into the logo on the door to the pro shop, which depicts a plane swooping under the course name.
This is a working man's golf course, with excellent prices and a lighted driving range so one can work on one's game after, well, work.
"There are a lot of interesting par 4s," said Eddie Davis, head professional at Mill Cove Golf Club.
Indeed, from the signature sixth hole that descends from a blind drive to a marsh area in front of the green, to No. 14, a dogleg right over a wall of vegetation.
Mill Cove Golf Club also mixes up dimension in regard to either hitting onto an elevated green or down to another. "There is a lot of elevation changes for this area," Davis said.
There also are a lot of narrow, tree-lined fairways and rough-covered mounds in many fairways, which can punish a well executed drive.
The golf course is emerging from a rough summer. "All of our greens died (because of the cold winter followed by a wet spring)," Davis said.
The tifdwarf greens are starting to come back, so crews are concentrating now on the fairways, which are a bit scruffy because of a recent assault from mole crickets. Regardless, the golf course was bustling, with beginner golfers, those who are looking for a value and a couple with their three sons, ages 11 to 15, who are just learning the game.
It's a lot of golf course for not a lot of money, and it can accommodate golfers from beginners to experts. There are five tee sets with par 4s ranging in length from 410 yards to 319 from the mid-tees.
There is a need for a golf course like Mill Cove Golf Club, one that requires golfers of all abilities to think their way around the course and encounter a variety of holes, hazards and scoring opportunities.
Throughout the golf course, Palmer added mounds -- in front of the greens, beside them or in the fairway leading up to them. Then he covered them with thick Bermuda rough. The greens themselves, though, are forgiving, with gentle slopes.
There are a few surprises on the golf course, like bunkers that appear only too late and water hazards that lurk below one's view from the tee. Without a doubt, it's a golf course in which experience helps. On a couple of par 3s, one fires at a green that one gets only a glimpse of because of towering marsh vegetation.
The seventh hole, a dogleg right, gives one several options from the tee. Play it straight and drop your drive onto the fairway that turns sharply right, or try to play over the trees and a chance at nearly driving the green. The wooded area is well traveled by those whose plans didn't quite work out.
Mill Cove Golf Club concludes with a formidable par 5 that descends, much like No. 6, to a marsh in front of the green. What makes the hole memorable, though, is the offset green well guarded on seemingly every side with bunkers. But there is a safe landing area if one isn't quite confident of a mid-iron into the green.
Billy Jorgensen plays Mill Cove Golf Club because it's close to home and because it's challenging. "There are some long par 4s," he said. "It's also a great value."
Bruce Lee was there with his three sons. He stopped playing when his children were younger, but now he's teaching them all to play. "The course is very well-designed," Lee said. "It's challenging, but it's not too tough. The biggest challenge is learning when to go for it and when to hold back."
Mill Cove Golf Club: The verdict
Mill Cove Golf Club might be one of the best values in Jacksonville. It's a sophisticated course designed by one of golf's greatest players. Mill Cove welcomes families and beginners, as well as experienced golfers. The golf course is fraught with risk-reward opportunities and requires a well-thought-out plan from the tee to score well. There's nothing flashy about this golf course, and that's much of its charm.